Gläser-Karosserie GmbH

1864 - 1952

Carl Heinrich Gläser (1831-1902 or 1903), a master saddler and cartwright from the Ore Mountains, founded a company in Dresden for the construction of high-quality carriages and sledges. Some parts for his models were made by his friend and later business partner, Wagner and farrier Friedrich August Emil Heuer (1857-1934), who came from Radeberg in Saxony. Due to the excellent craftsmanship, glasses quickly gained an excellent reputation and received orders from the royal stables. From 1865 or 1870, the sources differ from the date of Gläser’s death, and the craftsman was allowed to carry the honorary title of a royal court carriage builder. Shortly before the turn of the century, in 1898, Heuer joined the company as a partner. He had married Gläsers’ daughter in 1885. This year, Heuer was convinced of the future of automobiles and, in contrast to glass, which met with fierce resistance from his partner, was concerned with car body construction.
After Gläser’s death, Heuer took over the company together with his sons. According to Dresden’s districts, he renamed the company to luxury car factory Heinrich Gläser. At that time, series production of car bodies began. In 1905, the coachwork manufacturer built a hunting car for the Saxon king in cooperation with Emil Nacke. From 1913 onwards, Heuer expanded the company and united all operations on a single factory site. He had the former business premises converted into an exhibition space for luxury cars. Until 1945, numerous different body types were created in the bodyshop, ranging from the Landaulet, Phaeton and Pullmann to the elegant sedan, the coupé and the sporty convertible. The vehicles consisted of both small series and individual one-off productions.
In the course of time, glass bodies developed into a sought-after commodity. Almost all well-known European and many American car manufacturers ordered in Dresden. Among others, he worked for Alfa Romeo, BMW, Bugatti, Cadillac, Citroën, Ford, Horch, Lancia, Maybach, Mercedes-Benz, Packard, Steiger and Stoewer.
In 1918 Heuer withdrew from the management board and handed over to his sons Georg and Erich. Georg was responsible for the development of the bodywork, Erich was more concerned with the business side. The convertibles created by Georg in the 1930s were distinguished by their balanced symmetry and harmonious lines. A milestone in bodywork construction was the six-window Pullmann convertible, a masterpiece of design and a technical/constructive innovation. The coachbuilders used simple but effective mechanisms for their folding tops, which they had patented. When the cancellation of a major order from General Motors caused the long-established company financial difficulties, Georg committed suicide in 1932. Heuer sen. then rejoined the management board and in 1934 he joined his son-in-law Willy Bochmann as a partner. In the same year, Heuer converted the former owner-managed company into a limited liability company.
There are a number of variations in the new name for the coachwork smithy. Dresden’s districts refer to the workshop as a car body manufacturing factory for glass, the Johannstadt Archive calls the company “Karosseriebau Gläser”, Wikipedia speaks of glass-in-white, the Dresden Transport Museum of Gläser-Karosserie GmbH and KWD Automotiv of Gläserkarosserien GmbH in Dresden. However, it can be assumed that the Dresden Transport Museum uses the correct company name, i. e. Gläser-Karosserie GmbH. It is certain that the coachwork forge was renamed VEB Karosseriewerke Dresden during the socialist regime.
During the Second World War, military equipment was produced in Dresden, and from 1946 onwards the construction of car bodies for the Soviet occupiers began. In 1948 the family was expropriated, after which the Heuers went west and opened a new coachwork factory in Upper Palatinate. They built between 100 and 250 convertibles there before Heuer closed the company down in the early 1970s. In the GDR, the successor company was the only body builder to produce convertibles; after the reunification, the company was privatised and is now operating as KWD Automotive AG & Co KG as a supplier for the automotive industry.