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Max Hoffman

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Prototype Mercedes-Benz 300SL, developed at Hoffman's suggestion for the U.S. marketplace
Porsche 356 Speedster, another model suggested by Hoffman
BMW 507, 1958, designed by A Goertz on suggestion by Hoffman
The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Max Hoffman House, Rye, New York

Maximilian Edwin Hoffman (12 November 1904 – 9 August 1981), was an American importer of luxury European automobiles during the 1950s.

Known equally for his acumen and influence, Hoffman was instrumental in development and refinement of several iconic luxury sports cars, including the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, Porsche 356 Speedster, and V-8 powered BMW 507 roadster.

Hoffman's contributions to both automobile development and sports car racing earned him induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2003.[1] Both his home in Rye, New York, and Park Avenue Jaguar showroom in Manhattan were designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Early life[edit]

Hoffman was born on 12 November 1904 in Vienna, Austria, to a Catholic mother and Jewish father.[2] His father owned a bicycle manufacturing business, where Hoffman worked when growing up.[2] He developed enough skills to get a job as a factory driver for an Austrian company that produced the French Amilcar, and later became a dealer for the brand.[2]


Hoffman's dealers made requests through him, both for existing models and new types they thought their customers would purchase in the booming post-war American market. The most famous result of Hoffman's suggestions is the Mercedes-Benz 300SL "gullwing". More than 80% of the 300SL's total production of approximately 1400 units were sold in the US, making it the first Mercedes-Benz widely successful outside its home market and thoroughly validating Hoffman's seat-of-the-pants prediction. Its success is credited with changing the company's image in America from a manufacturer of solid but staid luxury automobiles to one capable of rendering high-performance sports cars.

During World War II, when the private market for cars was very slow in the United States, Hoffman used his intuition for possibilities and market niches to start creating jewelry for women, using metallized plastic. He started this business with just 300 dollars, and even in wartime, he earned a small fortune from it. Once the war was over, Hoffman returned to following his true passion for fast and luxurious automobiles. [3]

From 1950 until 1953, Hoffmann was the importer and distributor for Volkswagen for the eastern United States. He was also the importer and sole distributor for BMW from the mid-sixties until selling his business to BMW of North America in 1975. Alfa Romeo was also imported to the United States by Hoffman starting from the mid-1950s.[4] The Giulietta Spider was born by request of Hoffman.[5] In 1961 Alfa Romeo started importing cars to the United States.[6]

Hoffman played an instrumental role in popularizing Porsche vehicles in the United States. In the mid-1950s, one third of Porsche's overall production was sold on the US market by Hoffman. Notably, Hoffman's vision for a cheaper, racier version of the Porsche 356 led to the creation of the iconic Porsche 356 Speedster. He also set a significant milestone by establishing the Porsche emblem, which was designed by Ferry Porsche at Hoffman's urging. Furthermore, Hoffman facilitated Porsche's success in the US by arranging for several Porsche 356 cars to race in various events, resulting in significant victories and increased popularity for the brand in the country.[3]

Some of the dealers, such as Lake Underwood and his team's machine engineer, Dick DeBiasse, were especially influential on Hoffman.


The Max Hoffman House was designed and furnished by Frank Lloyd Wright a few years after Hoffman had commissioned Wright to design and build his Jaguar Hoffman Auto Showroom at 430 Park Avenue in Manhattan.

In 1982 Marion O. Hoffman established the non-profit Maximilian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Foundation Inc. in West Hartford, Connecticut, in memory of her husband. The organization donates to groups, mostly in Connecticut, that further education, medicine and the arts. In 2013 the foundation had assets of approximately $60 million.[7]

Hoffman, who had Jewish ancestry[2] was an auto racer in Europe before immigrating to the United States to avoid the Nazis .[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Max Hoffman inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
  2. ^ a b c d Donald Osborne (18 March 2007). "Max Hoffman Made Imports Less Foreign to Americans". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Wikidata Q120195294. Retrieved 2023-07-02.
  3. ^ a b "Max Hoffman: The Mastermind and importer of the world's most iconic sportscars". Classic Trader. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  4. ^ "Alfa Romeo, The First 100 Years, Part Two: Mass Production". www.automotivetraveler.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  5. ^ "Giulietta Spider". autoviva.com. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  6. ^ "Alfa Romeo advertising: the 1960s". alfabb.com. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
  7. ^ The Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Inc. (per 2015-03-31)
  8. ^ "General - Automotive News and Trends | Motor1.com".
  9. ^ "» Maximilian E. Hoffman | Automotive Hall of Fame".

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