Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rudolf Caracciola: An Outstanding German Driver during the Interwar Years

Born on January 30, 1901, he was the son of a successful hotelier and wine dealer from Remagen, From the age of 14, he wanted to be a race car driver, and after WWI became a trainee at Fafnir in Aachen.

Fafnir, a manufacturer of engines and motorcycles made a range of cars between 1908 and 1926. The company was founded in 1894 producing needles. With the growth of the bicycle industry, they started to make wheel spokes. In 1898, the company was registered as "Carl Schwanemeyer, Aachener Stahlwarenfabrik AG". From 1902 the name "Fafnir" started to be used on the company's products, including a range of motorcycle engines. In 1904, the company started to produce kits, consisting of an engine and associated components, to allow others, particularly bicycle makers, to enter into motor vehicle production. These were sold under the name "Omnimobil". The kit at first was based around a two-cylinder engine rated at 6 HP with later a larger option with a four-cylinder, 16 HP unit.

Beginning in 1908, finished cars were manufactured with the type "274" with a 1520 cubic centimetre(cc) engine and a maximum speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) and the type "284" with 2012cc capable of 70 km/h (43 mph). The engines had overhead inlet and side exhaust valves.
By 1912 six different models were available at prices between 4,100 and 16,000 RM.
In 1922 Caracciola won a round-Cologne run on an NSU motorcycle, then talked his way into a Fafnir drive, placing 4th in a 6 HP model at Berlin's Avus course and then winning on the Opel-bahn track.

A brawl with a belgian officer caused him to flee Aachen for Dresden, where he found a job with a fellow racing enthusiast named Siegfried Rathmann. He helped Caracciola set up as Fafnir's Dresden agent, although he had no premises to do business. He sold only one car, to a butcher who paid cash. When the car was delivered the hyper-inflation on paid for the headlamps and horn of the car!
Early in 1923, Rathmann's friends borrowed a 4 HP Ego light car for Caricciola to drive at the Avus, where he won and gained the attention of a director of Daimler Dresden, Subsequently he was hired as a driver and salesman. Numerous minor successes followed during 1924 and 1925, and the stage was set for his ascent as a Mercedes Driver beginning in 1926.

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