Horch offered both completed cars and rolling chassis to be bodied by Coachbuilders. Many bodies on the 853 A were highly regarded, and of them the sport cabriolets are some of the most beautifully styled cars of their era. But the real creme of the crop were the select handful of 'spezial' roadsters built by Ermann et Rossi in Berlin.
In early 1935, Horch began to consider the construction of a sporting car along the lines of the Special Roadsters being offered by Mercedes-Benz. Accordingly, a wooden model was constructed to assess the design concept; in due course a decision was made to build a car to the model. Construction was undertaken by the factory coachworks in Meerane, Germany. Although the car was shown briefly, it was initially not sold as consideration was being given to modifying the car with the addition of a supercharger. Ultimately, it was decided that the factory inline eight engine was sufficient, and plans for supercharging were abandoned. In the meantime, a second car was built to the wooden model, similar to the first car, this time by Erdmann & Rossi.
These first two cars may be considered the "first series" cars, in that they closely resemble the wooden model, and are virtually identical to each other. Both survive, one in Texas (Dr. Charles Key) and one in Germany (Horst Lautenschlager).
A subsequent series of cars were built (the "second series") which differed from the first in several respects. The coachwork was more modern, and featured pontoon shaped fenders and a one piece rear body (no separate fenders).
Five of these cars were built, three of which are known to survive today. The first example was built for Nazi Herman Goering; it was the only one built to bulletproof standards. At the same time, Mercedes-Benz was building a 540K Special Roadster for Goering. When both cars were completed, Goering chose the Mercedes-Benz, primarily because it featured bulletproof doors and door glass, while the Horch featured only a bulletproof windshield. This first Horch 853 Special Roadster was ordered to be dismantled, although parts of the car were used in the subsequent four Special Roadsters.
A second car remains unaccounted for, while the three surviving cars include two currently residing in Europe, and the silver-grey 1938 example, pictured below.
Although the grey 1938 car is one of the three surviving examples (of the five built), each car is different. Some have the "sweep panel" in the body sides; at least two were built with the beautiful louvred rear fender skirts, while others had no skirts at all. At least two cars had the blade style bumpers seen on the grey car, while others had traditional Horch 853 style bumpers. Similarly, at least three different interior patterns exist.
Sources: RM Auctions and others.
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