In 1897, the three brothers Graf formed a partnership with Josef Stift and produced Austria’s first automobile. In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie came to Serajevo in a brand-new Graf & Stift phaeton, a large red limousine with a four cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. The sleek automobile would have a rendezvous with history.
The Graf & Stift company had its origins in the bicycle business, but in 1914 they were building luxury automobiles for a prestigious clientele. Among the famous people who bought a Graf & Stift were members of the Austrian Imperial Court.
When he came to the Bosnian city of Sarajevo, on 29 June 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, risked his life. In the great Austro-Hungarian empire all sorts of people were revolting: anarchists, Serbian nationalists… And he had been warned by the “Turnfalken”, the ravens which presaged disaster for the Hapsburgs.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie visited the city in their brand-new six seat, open touring car. As the Graf & Stift approached the corner of Rudolph Street, shots were fired by Gavrilo Princip, a student anarchist. Both Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were killed, but the Graf & Stift survived the attack unscathed. With this event started a conflict.
Some of the horror of that moment seems to have remained alive in the Graf & Stift, because all who owned the car thereafter had their lives cut short or were injured. In the next dozen years, the automobile of Franz Ferdinand was owned by fifteen private parties, was involved in six accidents and took the lives of thirteen people…
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