Gräf & Stift Typ VK7 Limousine

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Gräf & Stift


Typ VK7 Limousine





Gräf & Stift was an Austrian manufacturer of automobiles, trucks, buses and trolleybuses, from 1902 until 2001, latterly as a subsidiary of MAN. Founded in 1902 by the brothers Franz, Heinrich and Karl Gräf, and the investor, Wilhelm Stift. Before the Second World War, the company was a well-known manufacturer of luxury automobiles, including the Double Phaeton that carried Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, when they were assassinated in Sarajevo in June 1914. By the 1930s Gräf & Stift had begun making trucks and buses, and it ceased car manufacturing in 1938. The company merged with Österreichische Automobil Fabriks-AG (ÖAF) in 1971, becoming ÖAF-Gräf & Stift AG, and later the same year was taken over by MAN AG.

The Gräf brothers started a bicycle service workshop in Vienna in 1893, quickly branching out into bicycle manufacturing. Their bicycles sold well, requiring the company to relocate to be able to increase capacity. While the bicycle business in Europe was booming, the brothers also saw potential in the fledgling automobile, and commissioned Josef Kainz to design one. The result was an unusual voiturette with a one-cylinder De Dion-Bouton engine fitted in front of the vehicle, driving the front axle, built sometime between 1895 and 1898, according to various sources. It was thus arguably the world's first front-wheel drive automobile, but it never saw mass production, with only one unit made, even though the technology was eventually patented in 1900. However, the voiturette remained in regular use until 1914 and was in working condition in the early 1970s.

In 1901, the brothers started cooperating with the Austrian businessman Wilhelm (Willy) Stift, an automobile importer who had already ventured into automobile manufacturing under the marque Celeritas. Celeritas automobiles were then assembled using French engines at the Gräf workshops, and in 1904 the gentlemen founded a joint company, named Gräf & Stift. Later, the company manufactured automobiles for the Spitz brand, owned by the automobile vendor Arnold Spitz. When Spitz went bankrupt in 1907, Gräf & Stift started building automobiles under their own brand.

The company concentrated on large, sophisticated and luxurious cars, which became popular with the Austrian aristocracy and even the Habsburg royal family.

As the war broke out, Gräf & Stift started manufacturing trucks in order to meet wartime demand, which, together with buses and special vehicles, became the company's main business and enabled it to flourish in a rather difficult time. Manufacturing of passenger cars was resumed only in 1920, with a 2-litre intermediate-size model, Typ VK. The VK remained in production until 1928 (since 1926 as the modernized VK 2), but already in 1921 Gräf & Stift returned to making luxury cars, with a range of large six-cylinder models available through the 1920s and early 1930s. It was not until 1920 that the civilian commuter movement was again dedicated to presenting for the first time a car for the middle class, the VK 7/20 PS. The has a side-mounted engine with 1847 cc and makes 20 hp. Braking is still on the rear wheels and on the cardan shaft. In contemporary advertising, one never tires of emphasizing that the "small city car" is nothing worse than its luxurious ancestors, just a little smaller. Already in the year after, Gräf & Stift draws on the solid again and returns to its roots in the luxury class. In 1930, the company presented its first eight-cylinder car, the sumptuous Typ Sp 8, in 1937 superseded by the Sp 9.

To boost sales, and therefore profits, Gräf & Stift also launched smaller models, badged G 35, G 36 and G 8, powered by a 4.6-litre eight-cylinder engine. To cater to the economy car segment of the market, the company entered an agreement with Citroën, assembling one of the French automaker's models as the MF 6 in 1935-36 (it had a 2.65-litre six-cylinder engine, with Gräf & Stift having had ceased the manufacturing of their own six-cylinders in 1935). Later, a joint-venture was started with Ford of Cologne, which provided for eight-cylinder Ford-licensed vehicles, badged Gräf-Ford V8, to be assembled by Gräf & Stift.

Neither of those ventures proved successful enough to assure the profitability of the passenger car business of Gräf & Stift, so the company decided to pull out of it. Its last own model was the rather modern C 12, fitted with a new twelve-cylinder engine, which was only made in very limited numbers in 1938, when the company ceased automobile production to concentrate on truck and bus manufacturing.

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