115 Years Ago The Hungarian Auto Industry Was Born

On 31 May, 1905 János Csonka, head of the training workshop at the Royal Joseph University in Budapest proudly presented the prototype of its postal truck to the authorities.

János Csonka (far left) with his two assistants and representatives of the Royal Hungarian Post at the handover ceremony (Source: Hungarian Postal Museum)

János Csonka (1852-1939) is a legendary figure in Hungary. He was just 25 years old when he became foreman of the mechanical workshop at Royal Joseph University, a distinguished institute of technology in Budapest. Together with Donát Bánki, a professor at the University they worked on internal combustion engines. They are also claimed to be the inventors of the carburetor, but that assumption proved to be false.

The Royal Hungarian Post was among the first in Europe to utilize motorized vehicles. In November, 1900 a fleet of motor tricycles were bought from the local Peugeot dealer. Additionally two Hungarian-made tricycles were ordered from the Ganz machine factory, which were designed by János Csonka. It was equipped with a proprietary engine.

A postal tricycle (Source: Hungarian Postal Museum)

After extensive testing with various cars, including Peugeot, Cudell, Teste&Moret and even some Hungarian-built prototypes, the Post was ready for the automobile. In early 1904 a new tender was announced for four-wheeler postal trucks, which could carry parcels between cities.

János Csonka won the tender. However it was impossible to meet the original deadline as the Hungarian machine industry was not prepared for this challenge. With participation from leading enterprises, such as MÁVAG (the Machine Factory of the Hungarian Railways), Magyar Waggon és Gépgyár (Hungarian Railway Carriage and Machine Factory) in Győr and the Röck István boiler factory in Budapest the major components were finished by the Spring of 1905. This truck used a four-cylinder, four-stroke 2545 cc, 14 hp engine. Csonka was also friends with Robert Bosch, who provided him his latest high-voltage magneto ignition. The body was built by a local coachbuilder, Jakab Glattfelder.

On 31 May, 1905 the committee of the Royal Hungarian Post took over the prototype. This marks the beginning of the Hungarian auto industry. The first prototype completed a 2000 km test run all over the Monarchy. It had an average speed of 25 km/h.

Just before the test (Source: Hungarian Postal Museum)

Between 1905-1911 altogether 91 chassis were delivered by the Hungarian Railway Carriage and Machine Factory and the Röck companies.

A later version with Solex radiator (Source: Hungarian Postal Museum)
This version had double rear wheels (Source: Hungarian Postal Museum)

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