Max Hoffman

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Not to be confused with Max Hoffmann.

Max Hoffman, (Maximilian E. Hoffman), (1904–1981) was an Austrian-born importer of automobiles into the United States during the 1950s. Doing business among gentlemen who knew one another well, he was known for his handshake deals that always were upheld without a written contract. Often he became the sole importer for manufacturers of what became known as "foreign cars", and orders for these automobiles were placed through direct contact with him. Max Hoffman was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2003.

1953 Mercedes-Benz 300SL prototype, a model suggested by Max Hoffman

Dealers made requests through him, not only for existing models, but for new types of automobiles that they thought their customers would purchase. Knowing the U.S. market very well, Hoffman made suggestions to European automakers about models they should build for the booming post-war American market, and for modifications of existing models. The special models that were built to his specifications often became successful and famous. One of his recommendations included the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, the "Gull Wing" model.

Some of the dealers, such as Lake Underwood and his team's machine engineer, Dick DeBiasse, became instrumental in development, testing, and racing automobiles that would appeal to the American market or influence their choices of brands for purchase.

From 1950 until 1953, Hoffmann was the importer and distributor for Volkswagen for the eastern United States. Hoffmann was also the importer and sole distributor for BMW from the mid-sixties until he sold his business to BMW of North America in 1975. Alfa Romeo was also imported to the United States by Max Hoffman starting from the mid-1950s.[1] The Giulietta Spider was born by request of Max Hoffman, he made proposal to produce an open version of the Giulietta.[2] In 1961 Alfa Romeo started importing cars to the United States.[3]

Porsche 356 Speedster, another model suggested by Max Hoffman

The Porsche 356 "Speedster" was introduced in late 1954 because Max Hoffman, as the sole importer of Porsches (as well as other European automobiles) into the United States, told Porsche management that they needed a less expensive, racier version than what they were offering for sale in the American market. With its low, raked windshield—which easily could be removed for weekend racing, bucket seats, and a minimal, folding top, it was an instant hit. A 1955 Speedster sold at auction for $170,000 in 2013.[4]

Hoffman's house, designed and furnished for him and his wife, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was built a few years after he had Wright design and build his Jaguar Hoffman Auto Showroom at 430 Park Avenue in Manhattan. He and his wife left a legacy of several charitable organizations, including the M. O. & M. E. Hoffman Foundation.

An article about Hoffman in 2007 by The New York Times reviews his life, and includes his photograph provided by the Hoffman Foundation. Another photograph shows him racing a Porsche in the 1950s.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Alfa Romeo, The First 100 Years, Part Two: Mass Production". www.automotivetraveler.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  2. ^ "Giulietta Spider". autoviva.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  3. ^ "Alfa Romeo advertising: the 1960s.". alfabb.com. Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  4. ^ 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster by Reutter Karosserie. RM Auctions.
  5. ^ Osborne, Donald (March 18, 2007). "Max Hoffman Made Imports Less Foreign to Americans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 

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