Pre-war Developments

The Club

On the 10th of July 1899 the German Automobile Club (DAC) was founded, in Hotel Bristol , Berlin . One of the reasons for this was that in France automobile sport was being encouraged and records were being made, one after the other. Over 62 mph had already been reached; whereby in Germany , according to the founders of the DAC, the development of this sport was lagging behind. So an aim of this club was laid down that the care of the automobile sport should be maintained.

First Patron of the club was the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

Duke Viktor von Ratibor was chosen as Chairman, for many years he held this position.

With a Cabinet Order His Majesty the Kaiser took over the patronage personally, on December 24th, 1905. The club was thereby renamed The Imperial Automobile Club (Kaiserlicher Automobil-Club KAC).

The Grand Duchess became Honorary Patron.

The club had its own march, as club-hymn. In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Club the march “Hurrah ! The Kaiser is Coming” had been composed by Siegfried Translateur. He was also the composer of the famous waltz “Wiener Praterleben”. Translateur, who, was a German Jew, was murdered in the concentration camp Theresienstadt in 1944.

The club also published an annual, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its foundation.

It was filled with road regulations, hotel recommendations, information about other clubs and had one of the first German roadmaps, which could be taken along on a journey.

Important things, for the early motorists. Beyond that, insurance contracts could be drawn up and international traffic regulations were made familiar.

Between all these social advantages, the annual also divulges that the club had 48 motorcars available at the beginning of 1910. These vehicles fulfilled military demands regarding mobility, in the case of war, and therefore gave a clear indication of the paramilitary character of this otherwise peacefully acting organisation.

Membership of this elite club, even as a driver, had an outstanding meaning in the time before the first World War.  The status of being a driver was awarded, it was not simply applied for through membership. A grand, extravagant  decorated certificate, issued on 27th July, 1911 makes this clear. Karl Saenger, a motorist with a flawless record as driver is entered in the Club Register of the KAC as an official driver. Naturally this was on request, and therefore with the full agreement of his superior, Count Holnstein.

His Highness Duke Viktor von Ratibor has signed this document as Club President. It is noteworthy that only one of his titles has been given, his complete name and title at that time was a little bit more lengthy: Viktor Amadeus of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, 2nd  Sovereign of Corvey, Prince Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst and 2nd Duke of Ratibor.

The presidency of this member of German aristocracy is further proof of how exclusive this club was.

Six Gordon Bennet automobile rallies were held between 1900 and 1905. These were so-named, as James Gordon Bennet, the owner of the New York Herald, was the founder of the Challenge Prize. These were high-class international rallies, which promised the driver and the maker of his car extremely high praise. The fourth Gordon-Bennet Rally in Ireland was won on the 2nd July, 1903 by a Belgian, Camille Jenatzky. For the first time this was in a German car, a Mercedes, with 60 hp. Also in the rally was a certain Frenchman named Henri Farmann, who achieved third place. Interestingly, he was an airplane constructer.

In 1904 in Taunus , Germany , the fifth Gordon Bennet International Rally was held for the first time in this country. It was a highlight, as at this time such sport was a much-marvelled and seldom event. Kaiser Wilhelm II himself decided, apparently, the course of this rally. More than a million visitors from Germany and Europe streamed into Homburg, where the best drivers showed their proficiency over a stretch of 342 miles and manufacturers like Opel or Mercedes could compare their technical prowess[1].

Alongside other rallies, from 1908 onwards the ’’Prince Heinrich Rally’’ came into being, organised by the KAC/IAC (Imperial Automobile Club). His Highness himself stood patron for the winners prize of this important German rally.

The club resided in Berlin , 16 Leipzig Square , in the Villa Bleichröder.

One hundred years later, and after two world wars, this club residence would arise again in the heart of Berlin

[1] Rudolf Krönke,“Das Gordon-Bennett-Rennen im Taunus 1904, Kaiser, Kurven und Karossen“, 2004

The German Imperial Automobile Corps and its daggers - By Vic Diehl and H.Hampe