PAST MARQUES - 1
Grant Ford looks back over the decades at manufacturers whose names have long disappeared into the exhaust plumes of history…
Adams Manufacturing Co ltd, Bedford. 1905-1914
The early Adams designs were often referred to as Adams-Hewitts with the engines supplied by Hewitt Motor Company of New York. The American engine supplier would later go on to supply the first true V8 engine fitted to an American car in 1907, albeit from a French design. Adams cars first appeared with single and twin cylinder motors situated under the front seat with a two speed, twin pedal operated epicyclic gearbox. ‘Pedals to push-that’s all’ became the company slogan. Adams also became one of the first British manufacturers to supply their cars with a V8 (also French, the Antoinette aero-engine) in late 1906. Mechanical issues forced Adams to abandon the V8 soon after but by 1910 the company offered some ‘state of the art’ options including front wheel brakes and compressed air starting, which could also be used for air jacks and to inflate the tyres. The company folded in 1914.
Columbia Six Motors Ltd, Detroit. 1916-1924
A well respected manufacturer of reasonably priced automobiles that offered two models which attracted many buyers. Both powered by Continental six cylinder engines they offered their Roadster for under $1500; a slightly larger investment purchased a sportier model with the catchy title ‘the six shooter’. They also built a touring version and both models enjoyed the slogan ‘gems of the highway’; marketed as high end vehicles at great value which included walnut dashboards and bevelled windows. The senior management were drawn from other prosperous manufacturers such as The King Motor Company, EMF and Packard. Utilising the best parts available in their build included Stromberg carburettors, Bork and Beck clutches and Detroit self-lubricating springs. Their claim to fame came in 1920 with the ingenious idea of fitting thermostatically controlled shutters onto the cars radiator, as the engine warmed the shutters opened; this certainly increased their sales figures. Looking to expand Columbia purchased local rivals Liberty Motor Company in 1923 who were producing a very similar car using their own six cylinder power plant. Like many US car manufacturers of the era the purchase of other brands overstretched finances forcing the surprising closure of the marque in 1924; after building nearly 6000 vehicles.
Vernon Industries Ltd, Cheshire. The Gordon 1954-58
The simplest and cheapest car on Britain’s roads in the 1950s, the Gordon was one in a long line of three wheelers the UK public took to their hearts. Produced with funds from an unusual source, the Vernon’s football pools empire and designed by Erling Poppe already famed for creating the Sunbeam S7 range of motorbikes. A 197cc Villiers two stroke engine was fitted to the off-side of the vehicle and drove just one rear wheel via a chain. The chassis consisted of 2in tubing and under the bonnet house a battery, petrol tank and one large front wheel with steering assembly. Entry to the Gordon was from the pavement only as the engine was positioned where the driver’s door would normally have been; designed as a two seater, later versions offered a pair of sideways facing seats suitable for children. Competition in the three wheeled micro car market at this time was fierce with the likes of Bond, AC (Petite) and Reliant all battling for sales but the Gordon was the cheapest at just £269. 17. 9d including purchase tax. In one publicity stunt a Gordon was driven from Lands End to John O’Groats using just 31 gallons of fuel over 1937 miles giving 62.5 mpg. By 1958 the market for cheap three wheeled cars was diminishing and production concluded that year.
VEB Automobilwerk, Eisenach. Wartburg 1956-1991
The Wartburg name has been around from the very dawn of motoring and was
produced at a factory in Germany by Heinrich Ehrhardt way back in 1896. The
Wartburg was in fact Ehrhardt’s first motorcar, a licenced build from French
manufacturer Decauville. In 1952 the factory was presented to the GDR
government by the Soviets and renamed EMW and just four years later the name
Wartburg returned and became synonymous with cheap two stroke machines
from East Germany. The original three cylinder 895cc engine offered 40bhp but a
sports version became available increasing that figure by 10bhp. The Wartburg 353
version also known as the Knight range arrived in 1967 and four variants of the
353 were produced over the next two decades. Vehicle selection in the GDR was
limited to say the least and the Wartburg was considered as luxury transport by
many when the only other choice in East Germany was the Trabant. The 70’s saw
the 360 prototype, a monocoque construction with the help of Skoda,
incorporating Renault 12 power but the Soviets refused to fund the model, drivers
of Eastern Europe then enjoyed oil burning two strokes for another twenty years.
In 1988 the first four stroke Wartburg became available using VW’s 1.3 engine from
the Golf but with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 the marque disappeared.
PAST MARQUES - 2
Grant Ford looks back over the decades at manufacturers whose names have long disappeared into the exhaust plumes of history…
W H McIntyre Co, Auburn, Indiana 1909-1915
The town of Auburn is known as the ‘home of the classics’, a reference towards the famous marques that set up there over the past century and included Cord, Duesenberg and De Soto. With the world’s largest classic auction and according to many the greatest classic car show on the planet, the state that boasts the Indianapolis 500 also has many fine vehicle museums. The McIntyre Company built a range of ten high wheeled vehicles, powered by a two cylinder air cooled engine with capacities of 12-18HP. Designer William B Stout offered the IMP to the company in 1913. Based on the British cycle car idea which avoided taxes in the UK it offered the US customer an alternative to the large machines on ‘Stateside’ production lines. McIntyre’s produced less than 1000 of these 15 HP V twin machines under the name of the IMP Cyclecar Company and even with a huge belt drive and friction transmission they still only weighed in at 600lbs. This striking machine with an 8ft 4in wheelbase offered seating in a tandem setup for just $375.00 until the name of McIntyre ceased production around 1915. Stout went on to design and build the Ford Tri Motor Aeroplane (The Tin Goose) in 1926 with Henry Ford, of which 18 are still flying today.
Ogston Motor Company, Acton, London W3 1914-24
Prior to WW1 the Wilkinson Sword Company (of razor fame) were developing a motor car named the Deemster. This light car was powered by the same 844cc engine supplied with their luxury motorcycle range. The design was constructed in their Victoria Road factory in Acton and when the factory was sold to the Ogston Motor Company Ltd, the new personnel, many ex Napier, took on the development. The first Deemster small car was introduced just as war arrived and a few of the original 10HP machines left the factory during the early part of the war. Post war and the Ogston Company built their own version with the 4 cylinder water cooled engine block supplied by Qualcast (of lawnmower fame). On a limited budget the factory was producing 15-20 units per week in the very early 20s and the small, light and nippy car proved popular, offering fantastic fuel economy for the era; 60+mpg when driven normally. With a new 1496cc, 12HP Anzani-powerplant from 1922 the Deemster enjoyed success on the banks of Brooklands and whilst the company produced several versions of this great little car, plans to attack the American market were ill-founded and came to nothing. Finances ran short in 1924 and the factory was closed just a year later.
Brutsch Vehicle Construction Stuttgart, Germany 1951-58
German engineer Egon Brutsch developed a range of three and four wheeled micro cars from his favoured material fibre glass; his twin aims were to build the world’s smallest car, which he achieved and to sell production licences worldwide, which he didn’t. The 1956 three wheeled Mopetta offered 49cc with front single wheel drive, room for one and a total length of just 5ft 7in. It was also under 3ft wide, weighed only 134lbs and stirred interest in Georg von Opel in 1957 who went on to purchase a licence to produce his own version but it went no further. Eleven different models were designed and an estimated eighty vehicles were constructed, mostly with small Sachs or DKW two stroke motors; the very pretty V2 from 1957 however enjoyed the 479cc motor from a Fiat 500. Brutsche did enjoy limited sales success when French company Air Tourist Sarl sold the 3 wheeled roadster ‘Zwerg’ under licence as the Avolette and Swiss company Grunhat sold his ‘Spatz’ as Belcar. Surprisingly quite a few of the original Brutsch vehicles have turned up in the UK and those that are offered for sale are known to be very desirable.
Panther Car Company, Byfleet, Surrey 1972-99
The Panther West Winds Car Company creator Bob Jankel produced niche machines at his base adjacent to Brooklands from 1972, usually paying reverence to bygone models. The Jaguar powered J72 which contained more than a hint of the SS100 was the first offering from the man who had studied Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering at Chelsea College. A saloon utilising the Triumph Dolomite floor pan didn’t set the world alight but his sporty Lima Series 1 & 2 proved popular and ran from 1976-80. The original J72 ran through various forms selling an impressive 376 cars with a variety of Jaguar engines until 1986. The De Ville enjoyed film fame (101 Dalmatians) well after the last car was completed in 1982 and the 46 saloons and 11 convertibles offered Bugatti Royale styling without the multi-million price tag although still in excess of £100K. Financial problems saw the receivers sell the company to Jindo Industries and the Koreans looked to update the Lima with the Ford powered Kallista; producing an impressive 1437 machines from 1982-90. In 1987 Jindo sold out to Ssangyong and the final model produced was the carbon bodied, Cosworth powered 4WD Solo of which very few were built before the doors closed just prior to the new millennium.
PAST MARQUES - 3
Grant Ford looks back over the decades at manufacturers whose names have long disappeared into the exhaust plumes of history…
The Lad’s Car; Niagara Motor Car Company 1912-1914
Designed exclusively for the younger male driver, The Lad’s Car first appeared
in 1912. Described as a first class gasoline automobile this vehicle was
available in kit form at $150 or fully built for $170. Sending just 20 cents to the
Niagara Motor Company got ‘any wide awake boy’ the fully illustrated
instruction manual. Powered by a 5hp air-cooled 4 stroke engine with belt
drive, this single seat (or a snug dual) has a good claim to be America’s first kit
car which was as advertised ‘within the reach of almost any live boy’. What it
did offer was freedom for the teenager, whilst making ideal light delivery or
messenger transport with the best fuel mileage available at the time. The
manual specification proudly pointed out that the rack and pinion steering
and hand controls located on the steering wheel; all very grown up for 1912.
No doubt the young driver was also tempted by the 22in artillery style wheels
and the 1 inch solid rubber tyres attached to them. Surely the recommended
‘Battleship Grey’ finish would ensure this machine sold well; obviously not, as
within two years of launch the Lad’s Car like so many others no longer existed.
Horstman Cars Ltd, Bath UK 1914-1929
In 1853 engineer Gustav Horsemann emigrated from Germany to Somerset and within three years invented the first micro metre to measure within 1/10,000th of an inch and this is still on show in the Science Museum today. With over 100 patents to his name, when Gustav died in 1893 his youngest son Sydney looked to automobiles to make his mark on history. 1915 and car production began, initially from drawings and prototypes developed during WW1, then wisely the marques name was shortened by one ‘n’ removing the Germanic spelling, post hostilities. Horstman Cars Ltd developed a 1 litre engine with detachable cylinder head utilising ‘vertical rockers’, just one of many unique features Sydney looked to develop. It was with suspension design he really excelled, something the company continues to this day, mainly with military applications for tanks etc. Mid-twenties saw Horstman switch to British Anzani and Coventry-Climax power plants and impress at venues like Brooklands with their own race programme. Racing Horstman’s enjoyed front wheel brakes and superchargers in 1921, their road cars would follow suit by 1925; the first British light cars to have Lucas four wheel hydraulic brakes. Few cars enjoyed a 4 speed gearbox at the time but the Horstman did and whilst this superb engineering was indeed pioneering, it came at a price, that price was too high compared to the mass produced competition. Up to 3000 alloy bodied cars had left the works by 1928 but their automobile department was closed soon after; some ten Horstman vehicles are said to remain.
Simca France 1934-1980
The Société industrielle de Méchanique et Carrosserie Automobile was formed by Henri-Théodore Pigozzi, an Italian who post WW1 sold surplus British and US motorcycles. He went on to become Fiat’s representative in France importing and assembling vehicles from his homeland thus supplying 30,000 cars whilst still only in his early 30s. Setting up Simca in 1934 the tie with Fiat continued and models such as the Tipo and Topolino were assembled, rebadged and re named. An association with Amede Gordini for the 1939 Le Mans saw five Simca’s finishing, the best being Gordini’s own entry, reaching an amazing 10th place overall after completing 213 laps; impressive against the likes of Bugatti, Delage and Lagonda. The small 4 cylinder engines of around 1 litre suited the French drivers and the format continued after WW2, this time with Simca’s own design the Aronde. The all new monocoque bodied machine constructed at their Nanterre factory became a reality in 1951 and was still selling in huge numbers, 200K per annum in 1959. This growth lead to Simca purchasing the Ford factory at Poissy and when their new model the Ariane was also a big seller the historic name of Talbot was taken over. This success brought the company to the attention of US giant Chrysler who began to re badge Simca cars for the Australian market, whilst buying up the French companies shares. Chrysler gradually took over the French marque and when they withdrew from European sales in the late 70s the name of Simca disappeared also.
Zastava Automobili (Yugo) Serbia 1953-2008
The Kragujevac plant in Serbia is now under Fiat control and builds the 500L version
of the Italian marques successful small car but this factory has a long and dubious
history. The link with Turin has always been, for it was Fiat that allowed two models
to be built under licence back in 1953 when three ageing Fiat versions began
production. The factory had built a small number of Jeeps in the 50s for
Willys/Chrysler and during the 1960s various Fiat models were assembled in the
then Yugoslavia. The Zastava 101was based on the Fiat 128, a popular car during
the 1970s but the factory built the car without a licence and minus any quality
controls from Italy; even the locals complained about the poor quality. The early 80s
and the Zastava 102 went into production but was re-named the Yugo 45 and
offered a version of Fiat’s 127 which ‘entrepreneur’ Malcolm Bricklin imported by the
thousands into the USA; a new car for $3995. The Yugo was subsequently dubbed
the worst car in history by ‘Stateside’ buyers. The 1990s didn’t improve for the
factory and it was virtually destroyed by NATO aircraft during the Balkans conflict.
New versions of the Bravo and Punto were produced after the fighting ceased and
Bricklin offered another US deal but then switched to a Chinese manufacturer in
2006. Fiat took control of the factory and a combined 900 million Euro deal was
done between the Italian giant and the Serbian government meaning the last
Zastava (Yugo) branded car left the plant in November 2008.
PAST MARQUES - 4
Emile Mors name goes down in history as a pioneer of automobile production and one of the very first to realise the development potential of motor sport prior to the dawn of the 1900s. His first carriage style machine featured a V4 rear mounted engine with dry sump, water cooled heads and air cooled barrels of which about 200 per year left the Paris factory. In 1898 a front engine Mors with an 850cc flat twin power plant arrived with ‘handlebar steering’ and cone clutch system; they sold in the UK for £294. Prior to Mors interest Panhard had dominated automobile competition but by 1899 the major European events such as the Paris-Berlin and the Paris-Toulouse-Paris saw Mors take victories. The companies race cars advanced at an impressive rate when in 1902 a 9200cc 60HP machine competed and just one year later this had increased with an 11.6 litre engine and streamlined body resembling the upturned hull of a boat. The Mors-Dauphin led the infamous 1903 Paris-Madrid race when it was abandoned. In 1905 the factory offered 4 cylinder engines only, they ranged from 2.3 litres to 8.1 and just one year later their 50hp luxury model with 6 cylinders and shaft drive was available for £1375. Depression hit in 1908 and Mors suffered, even under the wing of Andre Citroen but continued until the outbreak of WW1 and post-war for a decade before Citroen took total control in 1925.
The genius of Leslie Hayward Hounsfield is just one part of a company that ignored convention and produced vehicles with originality, engineering excellence and at a price; ‘A car for the man who can’t afford a car’ one of their brilliant adverts proclaimed. The Hounsfield story pre dates WW1 with early designs first penned from about 1904; the prototype’s evolved around 1910. After rigorous testing a deal with Leyland Motors was signed, they would build Trojan cars under license at their factory in Kingston upon Thames. The first model to leave the line was Trojans Utility Car in 1922 costing £230 at launch but soon reduced in-line with the cheapest Model T at £125. The design was revolutionary, a punt chassis in the form of a large tray with the engine located under the seats and solid rubber tires. The 1527cc two stroke motor had 4 cylinders in two pairs and was started by a lever next to the driver’s seat. A commercial version became available in 1924 with companies such as Brooke Bond Tea buying thousands. When Leyland looked to concentrate on their truck build business, Trojan Ltd moved to a new site near Croydon where various up-grades and new designs followed including Touring models and Drop Head Coupes; the solid tires were replaced with pneumatic options. Up until WW2 Trojan vehicles numbered over 25,000 produced but slowed when Hounsfield (the driving force) left in 1930. Trojan tried and failed a significant return post WW2 but another of their slogans ‘Can you afford to Walk’ is certainly worth an internet search.
J.P. Wimille 1946-1949
The Wimille story is as much about the man behind the name as it is the car itself. Jean-Pierre Wimille was a very successful French racing driver much favoured by the Bugatti marque with whom he had enjoyed a great career from 1930. Winning Le Mans 24 hours twice in 1937 and 39 with the Type 57S Tank alongside Veyron (a name that would return decades later) only war put a temporary stop to his winning ways. During the war he fought with the resistance and when peace returned Wimille jumped into a pre-war Bugatti Type 59 and won the Grand Prix in Paris. In 1946 everything changed when Jean-Pierre signed for Alfa, saw the birth of a son and designed his first car. The first model was designed as a rear engine sports car featuring a 2.0 litre V6 ohv that produced 80hp, although when it arrived it was fitted with a Citroen engine. Limited production followed and when a Ford V8 of 2.3 litres was shoehorned into the 3 seater featuring central steering column and semi-automatic electric gearbox it caused a sensation at the Paris Auto Show in 1948; thus with Ford backing full scale production looked certain. January 1949 whilst testing for the Buenos Aires GP in a Simca-Gordini, Jean Pierre Wimille left the road at high speed, crashed and was killed; Ford withdrew from the project and that also died.
The Modern Era
The Autobianchi name began with racing bicycles in 1885 Milan but from early 1900s Edoardo Bianchi began producing cars and trucks for the Italian market but his machines were soon available across Europe under the slogan ‘Car of the Connoisseur’. His Desio factory was destroyed by bombing during WW2 then in 1946 Edoardo was killed in a car accident so the company continued with racing bicycles with his son Guiseppe at the helm. In the mid-fifties Bianchi manager Ferruccio Quintavalle approached both Pirelli and Fiat with a proposal of 1/3 share each with the Bianchi family to begin car production again; they all agreed. Work on the Desio factory began in 1956 and a Fiat 500 based production car, the ‘Bianchina’ was unveiled in September 1957, although this period was far from plain-sailing. Guiseppe had been removed, the families shares divided between the two survivors. Fiat now enjoyed an Italian name of distinction as part of its portfolio and Pirelli had somewhere to put its tires. Into the 60s and the company produced many superb little cars, then Pirelli withdrew in 1968 and Fiat took total control. The 1970s saw the A111 model, a superior Fiat 128 and the ‘evergreen’ A112 offering Autobianchi’s take on Fiat’s 127 with a version featuring Abarth. Over 17 years 1.2 million A112 cars were produced before the new Y10 replaced it, branded Lancia everywhere apart from Italy and in 1992 the Desio factory closed. The Lancia Ypsilon arrived in 1996 and the Autobianchi name was gone.
PAST MARQUES - 5
Aquila Italiana - Turin 1906-1914
The Italian Eagle cars were designed by Giulio Cesare Cappa from 1906, ‘state of the art’ machines for the era featuring much new technology and engineering brilliance. His engines were cast ‘en bloc’ or one unit single casting offered in four and six cylinders and were the first power plants to feature alloy pistons with overhead inlet valves whilst the exhausts were on the side. The engine and gear box were carried in a common tray, a complete single unit with one crankshaft running in ball bearings. These advancements obviously brought forth new problems but nevertheless impressive indeed for the time, the power would be transferred through a live rear axle. The company ceased production in 1908 but returned in 1911 with a six cylinder of 4.2 litres that revved to 3600rpm, very high for the time. Aquila Italiana entered the 1914 French Grand Prix featuring OHV’s operated by two high camshafts via short push rods but retired after just one lap with engine issues; Mercedes filled the podium. The event would be the last GP before World War 1 but Cappa would design and build for Fiat and Itala post war. The name of Aquila Italiana would cease after producing an estimated 1500 vehicles, taken over by SPA also based in Turin.
Between the Wars
Rumpler – Berlin 1921-1926
Dr Edmund Rumpler began his car designs with Nesseldorf (later to become Tatra) & Adler at the dawn of the 20th century but then left to follow a short career within the aircraft industry; this may go some way to explaining the unusual vehicles he created after WW1. At the Berlin Motorshow in 1921 he introduced the ‘teardrop car’, a machine that was totally unconventional for the time and would still be today. Rumpler designed the engine built by Siemens and Halske; an unusual star shaped radial featuring two pairs of three cylinders with a common crankshaft. The Tropfenwagen as it was known became the world’s first streamline design and had an amazing 0.28 drag coefficient, a figure that impresses nearly a century later. Benz took a licence on Rumpler’s genius and later Auto Unions were also involved with the Doctor and his engineers. The six cylinder 2.6 litre engine was just one of many unique features mounted at the rear and offering 36hp. He built another version in 1924, this being powered by a more conventional four cylinder of 2.6 litres and turned the car around to offer front wheel drive! Commercially very few Rumpler’s were produced but the principles of reduced drag and the ultimate shape to achieve that still stands to date. The extreme designs are gone but his genius is utilised by current manufacturers.
Heinkel - Stuttgart 1955-1958
With Germany destroyed, after the former aircraft manufacture was prohibited from returning to its roots, with the country in desperate need for cheap transport Heinkel initially began production of scooters and mopeds. Their two wheeled transport was and still is considered a quality product and very stylish for the times. In the mid-50s the company looked to compete with BMW’s Isetta and a similar machine from the one time fighter manufacturer Messerschmitt. The ‘bubble car war’ had begun once Dr Ernst Hienkel had seen an Isetta and thought he could improve on the idea, offering a uni-body design and a smaller 175cc engine, single cylinder 4 stroke. Quickly the Heinkel model 150 received a more powerful 198cc engine and the model designated 153 denoted three wheels whilst 154 offered four wheels; two smaller ones at the rear with both versions known as the ‘Kabine’. The cars featured 12 volt electrics and 4 forward speeds plus reverse but despite producing 50 units per day each vehicle was losing money. The death of Ernst Hienkel and aircraft production resuming in 1958 meant the licence was sold to Dundalk Engineering in Ireland; this also failed by 1962 so Trojan Cars Ltd took over and continued production in Croyden until 1965.
Enfield Automotive - Isle of Wight 1966-1976
The name Royal Enfield is synonymous with large artillery pieces followed by British and Indian built motorcycles with a world-wide following but what about their car production? A competition by the UK Electricity Council was won by Enfield Automotive to build electric vehicles at Cowes. The car offering 56 miles distance and a top speed of 48mph featured 8 battery blocks of 6 volts, thus could be charged from the normal mains. 0-30mph in 12.5 seconds and a crash test pass stamp from the Department of Transport saw the Enfield 8000 on sale for £2600; the price of two Mini’s at the time. TV stardom on Blue Peter followed in a bid to improve sales but the price was just too high, although in hindsight the car now seems way ahead of its time. In 1972 a Jeep based 4.2 litre, four wheel drive luxury off road vehicle was also constructed in prototype form at the Cowes factory but this went no further as sales of the electric cars stumbled. Production moved with Greek owner Giannis Goulandris to the island of Piraeus in 1973 but as none could be sold locally due to tax issues with electric cars, they were all exported back to the UK. The Electricity Board used several of the 8000 models as promotional tools for many years and a few remain in collectors hands. The name of Enfield continued with power boats but car production at the Cowes factory sunk.
PAST MARQUES - 6
Only Motor Car Company– USA 1909-1915
A strange name for a company whose details have long disappeared over time but what is recorded will surprise and impress. A French engineer Francis Maurice Richard arrived in Port Jefferson, Long Island in New York in 1909. Having already been involved with early two stroke engineering and having patented his carburettor design in 1904, Richard set up a small plant and began building a sports car. His engine featured an OHV single cylinder of 3380cc with a ball bearing mounted crankshaft supporting a flywheel at each end. This 12HP unit was guaranteed to offer 60mph with two and four passenger versions built until 1911 and the company took its name from its single cylinder motor. From 1912 a five seat ‘Only’ was next but this came with a four-cylinder engine and a price tag of $700, a fortune for the times. Final model was known as the Metropol, this though failed to sell. The original ‘Only’ single was produced in a race version and one event organised by Richard in 1910 saw competitors such as Henry Ford challenge the hill climb through the town of Port Jefferson. Out classed by the more advanced multi cylinder machines, it finished but well down the order whilst Ford completed the hill in 16th. The event still takes place today although minus the thud of Ricard’s mighty single cylinder ‘Only’.
Between the Wars
Donnet Zedel – France 1924-1934
The legacy of Donnet begins prior the dawn of the twentieth century in Switzerland and the company was called Zedal in 1901 when it began exporting engines into France. Between 300-400 cars were sold before WW1 halted production. Post hostilities the company was taken over by Jerome Donnet, a wealthy Swiss industrialist who had supplied the French army with anti-submarine flying boats. By 1921 several versions were available with variations on body type, including Limousine and Torpedo; as sales grew several moves were made to larger premises. By the mid-twenties Donnet-Zedel (as they became known) introduced the G type which would bring the company great success. Again variations and luxury options followed and by 1927 became France’s fourth largest car producer expanding again into the Nanterre factory of another lost French manufacturer Vinot et Déguingand. A new plant was constructed of five floors each offering a 100x100 metres with the idea of following the American assembly line construction. Merging with Delahaye, Unic and Chenard & Walker in 1927 production numbers looked likely to continue rising until the depression hit and sales slumped in 1929. The workforce was slashed and even with two new models being introduced in the early 30s the writing was on the wall. The Nanterre plant was taken over by Simca in December 1934 and although a rare sight on UKs roads nowadays, Donnet are estimated to have totalled 100,000 vehicles.
Berkeley Cars Ltd – UK 1956-60
Biggleswade Bedfordshire, not normally featured as a manufacturing hub for sports cars but when Berkeley Coachworks utilised their knowledge of GPR (fibreglass) construction things changed. Owner Charles Panter oversaw the largest production of caravans in Europe during the 1950s and teamed up with designer Lawrie Bond (Bond Cars) to produce a range of very small, light-weight sportsters. With both men having vast interest in fibreglass construction the designs would make much use of its qualities and the first prototypes arrived in 1956; they persuaded Stirling Moss to enjoy one at Goodwood and showed their production versions at the London Motor Show. Of unitary construction, the chassis less body consisted of three parts, floor, nose and tail sections whilst engines initially were supplied by British Anzani or Excelsior, two strokes offering 332 or 328cc. Chain drive to the front wheels via a three speed gearbox. Crude but fun and cheap to buy the Berkeley’s sold well, especially at home and in the US and newer models offered two versions with a three cylinder 492cc two stroke then a 692cc Royal Enfield four stroke twin. The Berkeley was up against the Sprite and the Mini by the late 50s and thus they hoped the more sophisticated four stroke would enable the marque to keep pace. The last throw of the dice came with the more conventional Berkeley Bandit in 1960, powered by a Ford Anglia 105E four cylinder but a downturn in caravan sales forced an end to some unique car production in Bedfordshire, December 1960.
DAF - Holland 1958-1975
Hollands first entry into the private car market since Spyker failed in 1925 only to return in 1999. DAF, the brain child of the Van Doorne brothers from Eindhoven began in 1928 manufacturing trailers with buses and trucks following in 1949. The DAF 600 Variomatic was an instant hit at launch; the Amsterdam Motor Show of 1958 saw massive interest with 3000 orders and production began immediately with the first orders fulfilled the following year. The attraction was a small car that carried four, powered by a frugal but lively front mounted OHV air cooled flat twin of 600cc coupled to an ingenious automatic gearbox. The Variomatic was invented by Dr Hub Van Doorne; pulleys in the transmission expand and contract as the speeds change thus the V belts that drive the rear wheels do so without any gear changes via the LSD. Smooth and jerk free motoring at a bargain price and this automatic became known as ‘the car with 100 gears’. With all round independent suspension and ease of driving the success continued with a 750cc version in 1962 when sales had already reached 60k. By 1964 production was running at 20k per annum and motorsport began to appreciate the automatic system on both Formula 3 cars whilst the DAF marque enjoyed plenty of rallying success. Still larger versions appeared, one powered by Renault’s 1108cc motor in 1968 followed by a 1300cc in 1972. Volvo had taken shares in DAF by 1974 and the Marathon model was used as the base for new designs from the Swedish manufacturer. DAF disappeared but the Variomatic gear change could still be enjoyed until 1992 on the Volvo 340/360 models.
Past Marques - 7
Grant Ford looks back over the decades at manufacturers whose names have long disappeared into the exhaust plumes of histoy...
Thames Ironworks – UK 1906-1911
Straddling the banks of the River Thames, its factories described as ‘Leviathan’ on the site of the current Docklands Light Railway; ship building and massive construction projects were the source of this company’s revenue. Naval contacts slowed in the early 1900s so Thames looked to diversify. Originally with steam and petrol powered commercial vehicles from 1902 their first car a shaft drive 45hp six cylinder was displayed at Olympia in 1906. They went on to offer 15 and 24hp models but their star performer was a 60hp machine that would break several records in 1907 and 1909. WT Clifford Earp was already a very accomplished pioneer race driver, completing the 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup in 8th and breaking speed records at Daytona Beach the following year. At Brooklands the mighty Thames 60hp took records over 50 and 150 miles plus the furthest travelled after one and two hours. Thames motorcar production increased in 1910 with an 8hp single, 12hp twin and a 15hp Taxi version for London’s masses. The larger six cylinder engines were also available including a 13 litre 80hp monster but at Olympia in 1911 Thames announced it was too busy to continue building motorcars and production ended. The Thames Ironworks Football Team originally consisting of company workers, known as ‘The Irons’ they would become West Ham United in 1900.
Between the Wars
The Rhode Motor Co – UK 1921-1931
Reported to be one of the best light cars of its era, the sporting Rhode was constructed by FW Mead and TW Deakin at Tyseley in Birmingham. Unusual for the time, only the gearbox for the Rhode was ‘out sourced’, all the other components were ‘in house’. Originally, the 4 cylinder 1087cc offered 19bhp from its overhead valve engine with lubrication performed by the flywheel scooping sump oil and throwing via a pipe to the valve gear above. Quoted as being fast, reliable and noisy, the two seater version failed to sell in huge numbers so the company produced this four seat version in 1924 with the option of a self-starter. To cope with increased weight a more powerful 1232cc engine was fitted combined with a lower axle ratio. Competitively priced in a competitive market but Rhode punched above its weight; one dealer Mebes & Mebes of Great Portland St. London W1 offered them for sale alongside the equally sporty Lagonda. In 1924 the final stage of a 1000-mile trial was held at Brooklands of the ten vehicles that completed the event, one was a Rhode. The 11/30 arrived in 1926 with refinements continuing on the engine, with push-rod overhead valves silencing its mechanicals somewhat. The 1928 Hawk continued the company’s direction away from sporting machines being larger and heavier than its predecessors, it also enjoyed an overhead cam version of the 11/30 engine. The company produced a light truck but like so many unique manufacturers of the time just disappeared after a decade.
Lost Cause – USA 1963-1964
The name could not be more apt; a stranger automobile project would be hard to find but it did actually happen. The reality of the Lost Cause appeared at the New York Motor Show in 1963, a Chevy Corvair itself not the most popular machine of all time was displayed in a stretched version that dripped excess and luxury. Kentucky Congressman and entrepreneur Charles Farnsley set up Lost Cause Motors Group and had a passion for Corvair’s but hated post war cars with all their plastic trim. Derham Body Company of Rosemount Pennsylvania were tasked with the project; they knew their business having modified or built cars for King Farouk of Egypt, Dwight Eisenhower and even Josef Stalin. The extended body required upgraded suspension mounted on wire wheels and bathed in lashings of heavily lacquered British Racing Green. Standard equipment included aircraft altimeters and compass, custom leather and walnut trim along with picnic hamper and matching luggage. The average price for a standard Corvair in 1963 was $2326.00, the Lost Cause on show in New York was a shocking $22300.00 and they took one $1000.00 deposit. Although a production model was completed, the plans for further examples were shelved. As for the original car, it was found under blankets in a barn and underwent a full restoration in 2002; three decades after Ralph Nader’s report condemned the Corvair in his report ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’.
De Tomaso – Italy 1959-2004
Argentine, Alejandro de Tomaso raced Maserati and OSCA machines during the 50s making two F1 appearances. He settled in Italy marrying a wealthy American heiress Isabelle Haskell who also drove for OSCA. Building uncompetitive race cars in the early 60’s the company began construction of their first road machine for 1965, a mid-engine Giugiaro design called the Vallelunga. Only about 50 were produced with a Ford power plant as used in the 1500cc Cortina. De Tomaso also took over several other well-known manufacturers including Maserati and Innocenti plus motorbike builders Moto Guzzi and Benelli. His second offering the Mangusta in 1967 featured a Ford V8 and some 400 of these were produced until 1971 when the Pantera arrived. Despite being described as ‘incompetent but undeniably stylish’ by one harsh journalist, around 10,000 left the factory and were sold via Lincoln and Mercury outlets in the USA. The oil crisis of the mid 70’s affected the American market, especially the V8 ‘gas guzzlers’ and sales slowed. Pantera production continued but not in the thousands per annum, now it would be in the hundreds, all hand constructed. Several luxury models arrived during the 1970s-80s, an attempt to rival Mercedes and Jaguar. Innocenti and Maserati were both sold to Fiat in the 1990s, following which several attempts were made to revive the failing brand and in 2003 Alejandro passed away leaving his son at the helm. Liquidation in 2004 followed and despite new owners, speculation and even a prototype, the ‘name’ De Tomaso was sold to a Chinese company in 2015.
PAST MARQUES - 8
De Dion Bouton – France 1883-1932
Automobile pioneers, a fully justified title for financier Comte de Dion and mechanical genius George Bouton, although it was steam power that pushed their interest in the early days. By 1895 the petrol engine had been developed and was powering their tricycles and the first quadricycle enjoyed a 3.5hp single cylinder of 402cc at the turn of the century. Advanced engineering employed the use of coil ignition and contact breakers or points. By 1904 the Puteaux factory on the outskirts of Paris had produced 40,000 power plants and just a year before the companies first twin cylinder engine was built. All machines leaving the plant in 1908 were fitted with conventional gearboxes and in 1910 a 6.1 litre V8 had been developed; this would be increased in stages to 7 litres then 7.8 and finally 14.7. The new V8 enjoyed success at the Targa Florio in 1913 and 1914 finishing 4th just prior to the outbreak of WW1. Although De Dion Bouton continued producing buses, taxis and commercial vehicles in large numbers the private car demand slowed, not helped by being limited and rather expensive. In 1923 a four-cylinder machine arrived called the 10CV and this offered push rod OHV and aluminium pistons; shortly after both Mercedes and Peugeot looked into buying De Dion Bouton. The final throw of the dice came in 1930 with a 2.5 litre straight eight powered 16CV model but within two years the signs above the Puteaux factory were removed.
Between the Wars
Cord – USA 1929-1937
Erret L Cord wanted to build unique and stylish vehicles and considered this would make huge profits; two of the three wishes he obtained. The first front wheel drive car in America was Cord’s L29 model produced by the Auburn Automobile Company in Indiana; the marque owned by Cord himself. Placed between Auburn’s own brand and the more up-market Duesenberg (another of Cord’s brands) the three marques were aimed towards the more affluent ‘Stateside’ customer. The L29 arrived just in time for the ‘Wall Street Crash’ and although the price was reduced over the next two years from $3295 to $2595 sales were understandably low. The L29 was phased out after 4429 were built concluding production in 1932; where after the marque of Cord remained dormant. Towards the end of 1935 the Gordon Buehrig designed Model 810 arrived, originally designated for the Duesenberg range it received the Cord logo which fitted perfectly, being front wheel drive. Another innovation was the wrap around chrome louvered grill with concealed headlights, something that wasn’t common until the 1960s. Powered by a 3.5 litre V8 the Cord offered 125bhp and stunning, futuristic looks. In 1937 the 812 arrived, this featured a super charged V8 and increased performance to 195bhp but the Cord was a luxury at a time of national hardship and just 2320 examples of the 810 and 812 were sold. The Cord design was appreciated by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and its popularity as America’s favourite classic car has seen a selection of replica models come onto the market. The factory at Auburn ceased production in 1937 and three great automotive names faded into history.
HRG England – 1936-1956
By combining the surnames of three automotive engineer’s E N Halford, G H Robbins and H R Godfrey (of GN fame) many believed the natural successor to Fraser Nash was born; HRG. From their base in Tolworth, Surrey the typical vintage British sports cars would be produced utilising the Meadows 1.5 litre power plant. Available for £395 the HRG offered the British sports car experience, weighing in at 1570lbs it had little trouble in achieving 90mph. In 1938 the company also sampled the 1100cc Singer motor that option increased to include a 1.5 unit the following year. The company raced with success at Le Mans, the Isle of Man and the Spa 24 Hours and although not produced in very high numbers the name HRG was certainly appreciated. Post war, little changed on the design front but in competition the marque took many class wins both on track and in rallies, including the 1949 Belgium 24-hour race. Sales though declined from 40 in 1948 to 25 in 49 and during 1950 a mere 11 HRG’s were sold. The export market remained interested and the company worked on a more modern 1.5 litre with all round independent suspension, a twin OHC engine with more aerodynamic bodywork and superior hydraulic brakes but nothing really came of their endeavours. Car production stalled in 1956 although the engineering shop continued until 1966. Overall about 240 HRG’s were built of which around 225 survive today which is remarkably high for any classic British sports car and emphasises not just the original build quality but also the loyal following the marque has sustained over the decades.
FSO Polonez – Poland 1978-2002
Pronounced as one of the ‘ten cars that should never have been built’ the FSO Polonez (from the Polish word for dance ‘Polonaise’) was a model reborn from the older Polski-Fiat brand. The origins of their car remained the Fiat 125 which dated back to the 60’s and was a great example of how to take a fairly good car and make a bad one. The Polski-Fiats had been built under a licence agreed between the two parties since 1932 but when the Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych factory in Warsaw entered a new era in 1978 they chose a new body for the trusty 125P. The Giorgetto Guigiaro design was initially to enjoy Fiats 2.0 litre twin cam motor but the aged 1.5 unit was installed and remained the mainstay until 1991. 3, 4 and 5 door versions were produced along with a popular pick-up truck and during the 80s limited numbers of 2.0 turbo and VW diesel versions appeared, mainly for the home market. Their appeal was price and exports around the globe brought in some much needed foreign currency just as the iron curtain was crumbling. Ford, Citroen and even Rover supplied engines to FSO into the 1990s, the latter being the 1.4 K series unit which also found its way into the 1994 Prima race car. Quality increased slightly and GM took an interest in the plant but it was Daewoo that took over production in 1995 using the Warsaw factory to assemble its European products. When Daewoo itself collapsed in 2000 the future for the FSO Polonez looked bleak, alternate owners were sought but the official end of production went unnoticed by most in 2002.
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Stutz Motor Company - USA 1911-1937
Initially, Harry C Stutz used the name of the Ideal Motor Company when embarking on motor vehicle production in 1911 although his first ‘home-built’ machine had woken his neighbours back in 1898 when Stutz was 22. Learning his trade with the American Car Company followed by the Marian Motor Company, Stutz set up his new venture near to the recently completed Indianapolis Speedway. Within a few months Ideal entered their first Indianapolis 500 race finishing a creditable 11th but for Stutz a top-ten result was his minimum requirement. Sports-race machines became the Stutz Motor Company’s core product with the introduction of the Bearcat model just prior to WW1. The ‘White Squadron Racers’ as the Stutz team became known would take championship victories in 1913 and 1915 and Stutz raised further funds by offering share options. Many were purchased by Allan A Ryan who began to influence daily running and production; Stutz took exception and left his own company in 1919. Ryan went bankrupt soon after and three investors took control of Stutz in 1922 bringing with them a wealth of new talent often ‘headhunted’ from competitors. Stutz continued with racing including a 2nd at Le Mans in 1928 (not better by a US built car until 1966) but also produced many ‘high-end’ saloon and luxury models. The Wall St crash of 1929 and subsequent depression produced the inevitable sales slump, although the marque struggled on with much reduced production the Indianapolis factory closed in 1937.
Between the Wars
Automobiles L Rosengart – France 1928-1955
A partnership between Jules Salomon (designer who drew the first Citroen’s) and car parts manufacturer Lucien Rosengart began with the production of Austin Seven’s, re-named LR 2. Under a licence Rosengart had obtained from the UK manufacture several years earlier the pair would invest in the old Bellanger plant near Paris. Reliable, attractive and cheap ensured the LR 2 success and production of up to 28 cars per day by 1930. The facelift LR 4 followed in 1932 alongside other models supplied under licence via the German marque of Adler or Citroen and the LR 439 ‘Supertraction’. Expansion increased but the larger models failed to sell as well as the original LR 2; by 1936 Rosengart was in financial difficulties and transferred the company name to Societé Industrielle de l'Ouest Parisien (SIOP). WW2 arrived and the factory was heavily damaged by the German Army, Rosengart fled to America until hostilities ceased; on his return to France he looked to continue car production. A light van (Vivor) that was a much altered LR 4 was their first vehicle post war; proving popular this continued until 1953. Rosengart himself was losing influence on the company’s direction with the rights and name already sold to SIOP in 1936. The replacement for the Vivor was the expensive Ariette Break, a station-wagon version of the saloon, based on Renault’s 4CV. The Rosengart model was one-third higher in price than the Renault original thus by 1952 SIOP was forced into bankruptcy, unable to compete. The Neuilly factory laid off 1700 workers in late 1952 only to reopen a year later with a new model arriving in 1955. The Rosengart was still unable to compete on price and the factory doors were closed again for the final time within weeks.
Gilbern Sports Cars – Wales 1959-1974
The Welsh Gilbern was an implausible combination of two characters; a German ex-POW and a master butcher. With the first 3 letters of the name Giles Smith plus the first 4 of Bernard Friese, a company was born; from humble beginnings behind Smith’s butchers shop to a Rhondda Valley factory. Friese enjoyed an engineering background and previously worked with glass-fibre. Smith desired a ‘special’ but rather than purchase one in kit form they decided to manufacture their own; once completed the GT was tested by Autosport, producing such a positive reaction plans for more followed. Initially, their four seat GT car was sold in component form utilising all new parts but with much of the construction completed, new owners fitted power plant, running gear and some minor trim parts. New components enjoyed warranty terms and the pre-painted car could be assembled in days; also saving on Government purchase tax. During the early 1960s the GT1800 enjoyed B Series power but later cars would change to Ford with V4 and V6 configurations. The factories staffing level increased as did the production rate from 1 per month to 1 per week by 1965. A new model the ‘Genie’ arrived in 1967 but the company was struggling with development and just one year later ACE Group took control, Smith left shortly after although Friese continued another year. ACE investment increased Gilbern staff to 60 and the Invader model arrived in 1969 with updates in 70 and 71 before the company was sold on again for £1. Gilbern production spluttered on, ambitious expansion cited as part of its downfall but in March 1974 production ceased completely.
Avanti – USA 1963-2007
Studebaker needed a fresher image as the 1960s arrived and hoped Avanti was the car to achieve this. They employed radical designer Raymond Loewy, famous for the Greyhound Bus, zippo lighter and the Shell Logo to pen a vision for the younger consumer. Given just 6 weeks to complete his work a fibre glass body would be fitted, saving time and weight plus incorporating a Loewy original, the grille-less front, offering aerodynamic efficiency with unique looks. The V8 from Studebaker’s Hawk model was used with an optional super-charged version available at launch in April 1962. The pre-order count climbed but production couldn’t match, mainly due to miss-calculations and body panels failing to fit correctly. The South Bend Factory, home of Avanti, closed its doors in December 1963 but the story continued with a local Indiana Studebaker dealer. Nate Altman, determined to keep the project going along with the South Bend factory joined with business partner Leo Newman. Avanti II arrived in August 1964 fitted with a Chevy V8 from the Corvette, a much improved car on the original. Hand built Avanti II’s sold in small but profitable numbers for the next decade and following the death of co-founder Altman in 1976 his brother Arnold took the reins. The Avanti company changed hands to wealthy enthusiast Stephen Blake in 1982 when a 3rd version was built plus a coupe and convertible in 1984. A new glossy paint finish proved their downfall when it failed to adhere, forcing a massive recall programme that bankrupted Blake. Several attempts have been made to re-introduce the Avanti marque, the last and final effort came to nothing in 2007.
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White Automobiles – USA 1900-1918
Thomas H White produced sewing machines during the late 1800s but after purchasing his first steam powered automobile in 1898 he entrusted his son Rollin to improve its reliability. Utilising a small section of their Ohio factory Rollin produced the White Sewing Machine Companies first steam powered automobile in 1900. Initial production saw 193 vehicles sold in 1902, a year later a new model offered steering wheel, shaft drive and a boiler that would offer 100 plus miles between water top ups. Racing driver Webb Jay became a household name with his White steamer ‘Whistling Billy’ which earnt its title due to the howl the burners made on the straights. Dirt track and hill climb ‘Whistling Billy’ won races against the most powerful petrol powered machines of the day and could cover one-mile oval dirt track in 48 seconds, 4 mph under the previous record at a speed of 74.07mph. In 1905 White Automobile Company separated from the sewing machine business and the following year President Roosevelt acquired a White automobile and this was often used by his Secret Service entourage on official duty. It seems those holding high office in the US enjoyed the White vehicles as 27th President W H Taft purchased one in 1911. In 1906 record sales of 1534 White cars was recorded and production of steam power continued until 1911, averaging out at 1000 machines per year across the decade. Trials of a new combustion engine followed of both 4 and 6 cylinders including a 60hp six with four speed gearbox and electric light plus starting. In 1917 the models were of 6.5 litre capacity, 16 valve over four cylinders selling for $5000, it would be the grand finale for White car production. Available by special order only until 1936 the company concentrated on trucks, tractors and buses until 1980 when the remaining truck business was taken over by Volvo.
Between the Wars
BNC - France 1923-1931
Bollack, Netter & Cie, three names that made up BNC and sporting car manufacturers who set up production in Paris. Their early cars were powered by SCAP engines (Société de Construction Automobile Parisienne) very popular with most fledgling auto pioneers, choosing their side valve four-cylinder engine of 900cc. By 1925 SCAP produced a Cozette super charged 1100cc unit, unique in France at the time and BNC secured these for their model named after the famous banked French circuit Montlhery. They also produced another sporting two seater named the Monza and the company enjoyed limited success within motorsport. French medal winning female athlete Violette Morris entered a BNC in the 1927 Bol d’Or 24-hour race and won the following year, another BNC entered Le Mans 24 hours and finished 8th. In 1929 the head BNC was leading its class with just a few hours left but was classified as 12th after breaking down; just ten entries completed the race. Bollack and Netter were forced from the company in the late 1920s and in stepped automotive businessman Charles de Ricou and the company released their ‘Aigle’ model. This large eight-cylinder machine was in contrast to the small sporting machines BNC were known for and whilst the model enjoyed some interest it came just in time for the Great Depression. De Ricou would struggle on for the next couple of years but by the end of 1931 all production stopped although one of BNC’s drivers had begun producing a similar style of body. André Siréjols also took the parts discarded within the factory and would continue to produce BNC type machines into the 1950s; they would become known as "B.N.C. Siréjols and were usually Ford powered.
Z.I.S Zavod Imieni Stalina – Russia 1936-1956
The AMO or Moscow Automotive Society drew plans for a vehicle production works just after WW1 but the Russian revolution ensured it would be late 1924 before the first AMO F15 truck rolled out. Fiat trucks built under licence, the F15 remained until the factory was re-equipped in 1931 to build luxury limousines (in Russian terms) very much in line with American Packard designs. Adopting its new name Z.I.S in 1936 the factory produced their 101 Model, with a very Buick 5.8 litre straight eight combined with a three speed all synchromesh gearbox. The Stalin Works operated on a special order basis for high ranking officials, producing one or two completed cars each day; in real terms the 101 Model would have cost near to Rolls Royce values. A facelift version 102 Model was planned for 1940 but production ceased when the Germans invaded, although plans for a post war 110 Model were drawn as early as 1942. Rumours abound of a Russian trade delegation purchasing the ‘dies’ for Packard’s popular Series 180, known to be admired by Stalin himself. The Packard was the first car to have power windows fitted and so did the Model 110 and the chassis would be adapted to take ambulances and even a touring version as well official transport for the Soviet Party. Stalin himself enjoyed a ZIS Model 115, upgraded from a 110, the heavily armoured black limosine weighed 4 tons with each hydraulically powered window contributing 200kgs. No surprise that the engine was upgraded to 6 litres and the 115 resides at the Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum in Southern Germany. After Stalin’s death the factory name changed to ZIL Zavod Imieni Likhacheva after Ivan A Likhacheva, former plant director and pioneer in experimental car construction in the 1920s. As the country removed anything attached to the Stalin name, one thing remained unchanged, vehicle production for the high ranking Russian officials; the cars they drove in were still totally inspired by their arch enemy’s automakers.
DeLorean Motor Company - UK 1975-1982
The DeLorean debate has hung around for years but rumours abound of a new version arriving in the next couple of years, who knows, it could be coming ‘Back in the Future’. The story ‘beggar’s belief’ as John DeLorean was actually a huge success in the American motor industry; starting with the ailing Packard brand he moved quickly through Pontiac (courtesy of the GTO) and onto Chrysler. Destined for a top job within the mighty GM, the ambitious DeLorean decided to build his own car. Somehow he managed to strike a deal with Lotus, build a factory on swampland in trouble ravaged Northern Ireland and secure £80 million of tax payer’s money from the then Labour Government. The car would be no less surprising with gullwing doors, stainless steel panels and a V6 engine that even manufacturer Renault wasn’t very impressed with. A prototype of sorts arrived in 1976 but factory construction in Dunmurry near Belfast didn’t proceed until 1978, the first cars were two years late in 1981. It had taken 24 months for DeLorean to receive a US safety certificate whilst early production cars faced a host of alterations; the DMC12 would become the car to own ‘Stateside’ where most chassis were destined. A massive down-turn in the US automobile market spelt the end for DeLorean in late 1982, ironically just when the cars achieved reliability and recognised build quality. John DeLorean was arrested for drug trafficking and the plant closed with parts still available for 100 cars. After buying up company shares and acquiring the old stock Stephen Wynne originally from Liverpool has built a successful DeLorean service/sales business across America. Following the original design closely (except the engine) a new DeLorean at around £67k is planned for 2017; production levels much lower than the original at around 50 cars per year.