History of Linser and Reichenberger Automobil Fabrik

The general public has been associating beginnings of the automotive industry in the Liberec region with RAF, the well-known car-maker, and only few in this context recall the name of Christian Linser, the manufacturer of actually the first motor vehicle in Liberec.

Christian Linser, who was the native Tyrolean, had established the metal processing company here in 1858 (150 years ago).  It became soon a significant producer and supplier beyond the boundaries of this region. With the growth of the company also the production program was extended. In addition to a variety of equipment for the textile industry, breweries and paper factories the company primarily produced both manual and steam-powered fire engines.

At the end of the 19th century Linser decided - based on years of experience in the production of machinery – to produce also motor bikes and sidecars as accessories to them.

He continued with the two-wheel vehicle production and around 1902 he launched the production of single-cylinder and twin-cylinder motorcycles with 3.5 / 5 hp initially under the make of ZEUS (the God of the Greek mythology). The production generated sufficient funds and the Zeus motorcycles were relatively successful. This became the impetus for the next step in this area and therefore Linser started building a light car - Voituretta. He presented his car in March 1906 under the name of LINSER at the car show in Vienna and later (in May of the same year) in Liberec at the exhibition of German industry, arts and crafts. It was a dark red car with an elegant shape and perfect workmanship. In terms of its shape the car was somehow similar to then already known large Mercedes cars made by Daimler and was also sometimes called “Mini-Mercedes”.

Linser also drew the deserved attention to his Linser car in April 1906 at the third automobile exhibition in the Industrial Palace in Prague Exhibition Centre, where he together with the products of Laurin and Klement, Valter from Smíchov and V. Michl from Slaný represented the domestic automobile industry.

The first Linser´s car was equipped with four-cylinder engine of 1640 cc, which gave the power of 8.8 KW (12 HP). It had the three-speed transmission with reverse and customized two-seat, three-seat and four-seat body. Except for Bosch magneto ignition and Michelin tires, the whole car was made in Liberec, of which Linser and his people were very proud.

Data on the number of produced vehicles diverge, so we can only estimate that, given the length of this car-maker existence it was only a few dozen pieces. (We know of three extant pieces).

During 1907 Linser recedes from the car production leaving it together with the technical documentation to the newly established automaker RAF - Reichenberger Automobil Fabrik. This is also indicated by the fact that the first RAF car was produced in the Linser´s shop in Barvířská street no.18, where their production still continued in 1908. We do not know with certainty whether this transaction was related to the retirement of the company founder Christian Linser at this time. It is likely, however, that Theodor von Liebig made such a proposal to Rudolf Linser, the man in charge for the company management, which in a situation, where one of the competitors in a relatively small region was funded through one of the biggest capitals of the monarchy, was so lucrative that it made him terminate the production of cars. However Linser, who continued with the production of motorcycles, did not break with RAF permanently and supplied some parts to this Liberec car-making plant almost until the end of its existence.

The intention of baron Liebieg and his associates to establish in Liberec a car plant able to compete with Czech carmakers, especially Mladá Boleslav factory, took a concrete shape in the end of 1907. On 2 November 1907 a car with a characteristic wide radiator was completed in the plant in Barvířská street, which despite a striking resemblance to the Linser cars was produced under the make of RAF. At the same time, they also worked intensively on the completion and equipment of the plant in Růžodol I, where the production moved in 1908. As we can read in a prospectus of the same year, the newly built factory was equipped specifically for the production of a single type of vehicle, namely a 24/30 HP car, which would be suitable both for long trips, as well as for the city transportation.

Already in 1908, RAF presented itself in a car show, where it exhibited a car equipped with a high-quality four-cylinder engine of 22.1 kW (30 hp) and prepared also a small two-cylinder car with the engine power of 7.4 KW (10k). A year later on the same show Liberec car factory presented itself with one of the best equipped stalls, where it exhibited several truly elegant, types interesting from the design point of view mainly with the power of 22.1 KW (30 hp), namely two double phaetons, a three-quarter landaulet and a classic landaulet. In addition, a RAF truck was exhibited in front of the Industrial Palace and there were some other cars available intended for customers´ testing drives. RAF also had great results in sports: In the same year four of its cars placed well in a stage race for the prize of Prince Henry (Prinz Heinrich Fahrt), which led from Berlin via Wroclaw, the Tatras in Slovakia to Budapest and from there via Vienna and Salzburg to Munich.

Under the business management of Franz Adam, the bank director in Liberec, the company through permanent representations in many European cities began to assert itself at European markets. Due to their driveability and reliability RAF cars soon gained popularity among prominent people from the business community. From the very beginning, the company focused more on cars of higher and luxury categories. The factory often only supplied chassis, on which individual bodies were built by specialized companies, especially the body shop Petera from Vrchlabí (after 1945 it became one of the plants of AZNP Mladá Boleslav, current Škoda Auto).

The high demand for products of the Liberec car-maker led to the gradual launching of other types of cars (14/18HP, 24/28HP - 4500ccm, 40/45HP - 5300ccm) in the following executions: two- and four-seat sports car, four-seat sport phaeton, and Landaulet limousine. In the area of commercial vehicles the company built on proven four-cylinder 24HP type with the flatbed or omnibus superstructure with both light and heavy trucks and the range of omnibuses, with various ways of cooling and power (20/25, 18/22, 20/24, 35/40 HP) .

As the demands on business activities increased the company established an independent limited company in 1911, whose main task was to sell RAF vehicle, spare parts and to operate concessionary passenger and freight transport. Karl Cecelits was appointed commercial director, who also held the same position in the car-making company together with Paul Henze.

An essential innovation came in 1912, when at the suggestion of the RAF designer, J.Laviolett, the company bought the English license for the production of the valve-less engines of the Knight system. The licensing agreement was concluded with Daimler Co. Ltd. in Coventry. In this system of the four-stroke piston engine the time of intake and exhaust is controlled by sheath slides rather than valves. This license was awarded to a single company in each country. It was Panhard – Levassor in France, Mercedes in Germany and Minerva in Belgium. This fact was so significant that new types of cars equipped with these high quality and quiet running motors carried the RAF-Knight designation with the type resolution according to power output.

The cars were available as two-, three- and four-seat landaulet sports car or a limousine.

The facts that the management of the car-making plant and the trading company was taken over by Hejnice industrialist Felix Czizek von Smidaich in 1912 and that the factory team of RAF with Dörring and Luksch as racers placed first in the challenging Alpine tour indicated that the production of cars in Liberec would boom. RAF cars were of exceptionally high quality, technically advanced, elegant and very well developed, but also reasonably expensive. No wonder, the list of customers included a number of high noble lords, "and the highest secular and religious institutions from all over Central Europe. Unfortunately, the factory production remained at the level of the expensive almost piece and small-scale production and sales became a considerable issue. At that time U.S. Ford introduced the mass production. It was necessary to put up with the growing competition and even the cooperation with other Austrian company Puch did not prove effective. Therefore, the partners of the company after the success of the Jubilee 10th year of the Motor Show in 1913 decided to sell the car production including the work in process to another carmaker - Laurin and Klement. It also received the patent for the Knight engines, which have enhanced the range of Mladá Boleslav production. In the first year (1914) the Liberec subsidiary, the management of which was assigned to the plant manager, Robert Sheridan by Mlada Boleslav factory, continued the production of existing types under the make of RAF. However, they were gradually replaced by improved models, especially those with spool engines, now under the name of Laurin and Klement. In 1916 the production of passenger cars in Liberec was finally terminated. The owners turned the factory at first to the spinning mill, and after four years into the carpet production shop.

Perhaps it was a certain satisfaction when in 1926 the Linser family company acquired the former RAF factory buildings in Liberec Růžodol and following the reorganization of production in the engineering plant and foundry it began again to produce automotive components. After eight years, however, it was forced to file for bankruptcy and the company passed into the hands of the German company Co. Winter. The special foundry for automotive cylinders and pistons was acquired by Appelt, which maintained the production and whose production was primarily focused on exports to Germany.

RAF cars were still built in Liberec between 1975 and 1983, but these were just a few individual single-seaters of formula easter with Škoda110 and VAZ 21011 engines. Liberec racers, brothers Jan and Jiří Veselý borrowed the name of this brand so famous in the past, and they in the collaboration with an expert in aerodynamics, Ing. Karel Dlouhý, built several specials. When labeling the type they supplemented the basic letters RAF with two digits indicating the year of the production or rebuilding.

It is worth mentioning the socialist manufacturer mainly of trucks of very wide range and from  1953 also buses of LIAZ – Liberecké automobilové závody make.

The first Paris – Dakar race

This has a special place in the history of Liaz Company. It was not just about trucks, but also about a motorcycle with the Rotax engine built and modified in Liaz, with which Pavel Orth from Jablonec n / N participated in this race.

In November 1983 the office of engine designers of the LIAZ national company in Jablonec nad Nisou got the idea to participate in Paris – Dakar rally with Liaz. In the spring 1984 the managing director finally decided that two Liaz trucks would participate in the next year's "Dakar". They only had the information about this race from foreign magazines. They needed to find someone, who had participated in this race, and therefore had required experiences. Finally, Frenchman Alain Galland became this source of information. During the three days continuous interrogation he willingly answered all questions.

He left the Liaz people with a workbook full of notes and the preparation for the race began. The main task was to build a truck capable of making it all the way to Dakar. In Mnichovo Hradište works on building this truck began and in July so-called "truck zero" left the company. The stage of development of the special truck followed. The truck zero was tested under various conditions and subsequently it was adapted accordingly. One of the tests was conducted on the hard field surface at a speed of around 110 km/h. After Alain had personally tested the truck he said that no other vehicle in the world can do it. It was necessary to drive as many kilometers as possible with this truck in order to detect possibly any and all shortcomings. After all tests and adjustments were made on the truck zero the production of two race specials started.

At the start of the 7th year of the Dakar race there were really two Liaz trucks. The first one had the starting number 626 and its crew consisted of Jiří Moskal, Jaroslav Joklík and Radek Fencl. The crew of Liaz number 627 consisted of Alain Galland, Zdeněk Kovář and Josef Brzobohatý. Both trucks passed the prologue with great results – they placed the fifth and the sixth of fifty-four trucks. In Europe only the connecting stage in Sete followed, from where rally participants were transported by ferry to Algiers. So, the true racing starts up in Africa.

However, in the first African stage (Algiers - El Golem) the first problems came. On a hard bumpy road steering rods of both vehicles were bent. In addition, Liaz 627 had a problem with broken rear shock absorbers and failed the limit of this stage as a result (15 penalty hours). However, Liaz 626, managed to arrive within the limit. In the next stage, which leads to In Salah, the 627 truck drove carefully as the crew was afraid of the connecting rod. This time number 626 failed the limit. After this stage Alain says that both vehicles have to give up because they are poorly prepared. Others, however, agreed that the bars had to be strengthened by welded reinforcements. Each crew used different solution of reinforcements, but the point is that both vehicles can continue. However, Alain disagrees and surrenders. Due to this Liaz 626 is eliminated from the competition, but Zdeněk Kovář and Josef Brzobohatý are determined to reach Dakar even out of the competition. Therefore only the vehicle no. 627 completes the next stage, In Ekker, within the competition; the other vehicle continues out of the competition.

From this moment on 627 continues without major problems until Agadés. There the crew checked the front axle, which during the previous stage did humming noise, and discovered that the rolling bearing broke down. The exchange is not possible, so the axle must withstand up to Dakar. Experienced racers say that if you make it to Agadés, so the worst is over and you can usually make it to Dakar. So, the Liaz racers hope it's true a that the vehicle with the damaged front axle and broken rear shock absorbers can make it.

In the end, Liaz truck really made it and so the first Czechoslovak truck, Liaz 627, made it to the end of Paris Dakar Rally on 22 January, 1985. The winner of that year of the rally among trucks was Karl-Friedrich Capito with Mercedes before Jan de Rooy with DAF. Although he led from the start he lost his victory in one of the last stages up in Senegal, which led through the canopy of the trees. Branches crashed into cabs of large trucks and threatened to break the windshield. Thus only small Unimogs, one of which was driven by Capito, were able to drive at a full speed. Despite de Rooy in an effort to catch the limit completely destroyed the cab and shattered the windshield, all big trucks including de Rooy got penalty for missing the limit that was why he missed the victory. Liaz 627 in the end placed the 13th among all trucks, which was a wonderful result. The second Liaz also finished the Dakar rally, but due to the surrender of one of the crew members it only did so out of competition.

Other interesting points

The Liaz pattern shop did more than just the production for the automotive industry.

1967 - the production of casting slabs for defensive hand grenades.

1970-1973 assistance during the construction of Liberec landmark - Hotel Ještěd

  • production of wooden handles for laminated casing of transmission antennas
  • production of aluminum poles and wooden railing for a restaurant
  • production of outer solid wooden railing. The timber had to be specially treated to withstand harsh weather (steaming, filling with ammonia, etc.)
  • production of commemorative plaques to celebrate the opening of the hotel

1977 production of ingot and casting of commemorative medals for the 400th anniversary of the city of Liberec

Chateau Sychrov – production of patterns for casting replicas of garden fencing - cast by the Ostašov foundry.


MODELÁRNA LIAZ spol. s r.o.
(Liaz Pattern Shop)
Kamenická 743
460 06 Liberec 6
Czech Republic

Tel.: +420 485 130 448
Fax: +420 485 134 177
E-mail: info@modelarna-liaz.cz

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