Founded by engineer Ernest Ballot who had considerable experience in the development of marine engines when attached to the French Merchant Marines, and then racing engines for the likes of Delage, Mass and La Licorne. Gained financial backing for the development of a Ernest Henry designed 4.9 litre 8 cylinder race car after World War 1 to compete in the US Indianapolis 500. Soon turned its attention to Grand Prix racing, specifically the French GP. Built some pretty respectable road going cars based on the race specials, but succumb to the depression.
(1921 - present)
Founded by Walter Owen "WO" Bentley who started out modifying the French DFP cars before deciding he could do much better. For a decade Bentley was responsible for manufacturing large, exotic, fast and very expensive motor cars. Collapsed in 1925, recovered then collapsed again in 1931 - then taken over by Rolls-Royce. The name was then used on modified and tuned Rollers. After World War 2 several "unique" Bentleys were manufactured, including the beautiful two-door R-type Continental of 1952 and S-type of 1955. Rolls-Royce, and thus Bentley, were taken over in 1998 by Volkswagen, then in turn BMW.
Most historians agree that Karl Benz's first prototype of 1885 was the worlds first petrol-powered car. Benz was to start out working as a carriage builder and at a stationary engine manufacturer, where he quickly thought it a good idea to combine the two to make a better mode of transport. It would take him 5 years, and a couple of partners (allowing him to concentrate on his engineering) to see the first Benz tricycle reach limited production. This three-wheeler morphed into the four-wheel Viktoria in 1891, forming the basis for van and bus versions.
The four-wheel version became very popular, and by the turn of the century Benz was the largest automobile manufacturer. Fierce competition from other manufacturers would see Benz leave the company bearing his name, in favour of Hans Nibel, who soon embarked on a motor racing effort that would once again raise the companies profile. Most noteable was the "Blitzen-Benz", powered by a 21.5 litre airship engine! Designed to hold the land speed record, it not only achieved it but would hold the record for another decade. Economic hardship following World War 1 forced Benz to merge with another German manufacturer, Daimler.
Almost as earlier manufacturer as Benz, builder of advanced automobiles, some featuring 4 speed gearboxes and wheel (rather than tiller) steering. The range expanded to include much larger cars following the merger with Audibert-Lavirotte, then built some of the most advanced cars of the day, featuring such innovations as four-wheel braking, overhead valves and, by 1936 in the Dauphine, rack-and-pinion steering, independent front suspension and an all-synchro four speed gearbox. Lost its way in the pre-war years, buying body panels from Peugeot. Concentrated on truck manufacture after the war, but never again built a car.
(1973 - 1986)
Founded by Erich Bitter who had been using Opel bodies and imported Abarth tuning parts from Italy in the late 1960's as well as Intermeccanica cars - but became dissilusioned with quality issues. Launced the Bitter CD 2+2 Coupe in 1973, based on a shortened Opel Diplomat chassis and Chev 5.3 litre V8 engine, the beautiful bodies were manufactured by Baur of Stuttgart. The petrol crisis of the mid-1970s hit Bitter hard, but undeterred they continued on to develop the SC coupe, convertible and saloon.
(1928 - present)
Turned to car manufacture after successfully manufacturing
aero engines (from which the emblem is derived), and
then motorcycles. Took over the Dixi concern, who were manufacturing Austin Sevens under licence, slowly expanding its range, the majority featuring a glorious 6 cylinder engine. Concentrated on motorcycle construction during the war, then from the ruins choose to manufacture exclusive and expensive limousines. Able to fund the development of sports cars by building, under license, the hugely successful Iso Isetta bubble car. After many close calls, things did not look good for the marque in the late 1950's, the make or break model was the 1961 1500 saloon. The formula used was to build a sublime chassis more befitting a true sports car, equip it with an eager but economical engine and have it power through the rear wheels. This same formula is used today.
Under the stewardship of his father who had been building steam carriages, Léon Bollée continued the family tradition by building a three-wheeled Voiturette (little car). Very successful, it would be built under license by other manufacturers, however Bollée had his heart set on manufacturing larger more mainstream vehicles. He designed and manufactured (in small quantities) several iterations destined for the US market from his fathers factory in Le Mans, however he would unfortunately pass prematurely in 1913. Never able to fund the development necessary to keep pace with other manufacturers, the company was sold to Sir William Morris in 1924, when it then used Morris chassis and fitted them with elegant Van Vestrant bodywork. When Morris suffered financial difficulty Bollee was sold out to the Société Nouvelle Léon Bollée, however this venture would only prolong the inevitable for another two years.
Grew from hobby-car manufacturer to serious kit-car
manufacturer with the release of the Mk. IV. Gained an ever growing following of loyal devotees, who liked the idea of choosing their own mechanicals. In 1967 Bolwell released the Mk. VII, for the first time the purchaser being able to choose to have the car assembled by the factory. The high point came in 1969 with the release of the Mk. VIII Nagari, many design innovations being incorporated following Graeme Bolwell's return from a working holiday in the UK, much of his time being spent with Lotus - although the use of the Ford 302 or 351ci V8's added considerably to the allure. Lost its way by 1979, trying to create a futuristic grand tourer that looked a little to kit-car esque, only able to reach sales of 20 in Australia before the concept was sold to a company in Greece.
Founded by Lawerence 'Lawrie' Bond, a car designer fascinated by light weight and efficiency. Started out manufacturing lightweight hill-climb specials and 500cc formula race cars before the war, but turned to serious production in 1948 with the release of the Bond Minicar. The concept was to build a lightweight 3-wheeler that would be extremely cheap to run in a still petrol rationed UK. Using a Villiers two-stroke engine complete with cord-pull starting, the Bond offered no rear suspension, no roof and cable brakes to the rear wheels only - and best of all you only needed a motorcycle license to drive one.
Over time, the Minicar would grow in size and offer more equipment, although its utalitarian nature would see it fall from favour as people gained affluence, and it would be dropped althogther in 1962. Instead, Bond built the Equipe GT 2+2 Coupé based on a Triumph Herlad chassis and mechanicals. A little less successful than hoped for, Bond decided its future remained in the manufacture of 3 wheelers, and in 1966 announced the release of the all new 875, this iteration using mechanicals from the Hillman Imp. Bonds main competitor, Reliant, took over the company in 1969, allowing the manufacturer one last swan song, the bright orange wedge shaped Bond Bug. Using Reliant running gear, the large canopy hinged upward with the assistance of a telescopic strut therefore avoiding the inclusion of costly doors. Unfortunately the Bug never captured the hearts of the youth at which it was pitched, and production ended in 1974 after only some 2500 had been manufactured.
Founded by Dr. Carl F.W. Borgward - a fitter and turner who, after surviving World War 1, would purchase a small manufacturing business and transform it into an automotive component manufacturer of both radiators and fenders. The company’s first true automobile would be the 1924 200cc 2-stroke “Blitzkarren” delivery vehicles, which led to the more successful “Goliath” light commercials. In a stroke of automotive and economic genius, Borgward purchased shares in the ailing Hansa-Lloyd company for a fraction of their value, effectively taking control.
In 1930 he would purchase the company outright and merge it with Goliath. In 1931 came the three-wheeled Goliath Pionier, then in 1934 came the Hansa 1100 and 1700, these latter iterations proving to be good looking and well made, and being widely regarded as the cars that re-established the marque. During the war Borgward built military vehicles, but by wars end little of the production facilities were left. Not to be defeated, Borgward (who was now in his mid 50’s) would rebuild and, in 1949, would release the first “all new” German car, the Borgward Hansa 1500.
A succession of larger capacity models would follow - including a diesel version, but it was the totally new Hansa 1500 released in 1954 for which the company is best remembered. Soon to be renamed the Isabella, over 200,000 would be manufactured, including arguably the highpoint of Borgward design, the Isabella Coupé.
Derived from the Bristol Aeroplane Company who were looking for other products to manufacture following the end of World War II. Parts derived from other manufacturers, the cars were built to aerocraft standard, and were of both an extremely high standard and extremely expensive. The Bristol 400 of 1947 used a BMW sourced 2 litre six cylinder engine derived from the 328, this evolving into the 403, then 404 Coupe and 405 four door. Found the best formula to be large 2 door coupes, wedded to Chrysler derived V8 engines.
When French company Salmson decided to expand its empire, it choose a factory in Raynes Park London to manufacture its air-cooled radial aircraft engines. In an attempt to better utilise production capacity, management decided to also manufacture cars at the same facility, commencing in 1934 with the 1.5 litre British Salmson two or four seater sports. By 1936 a 6 cylinder iteration had joined the line-up, but during World War II British Salmson were forced to cease production. Only one car would be manufactured post war.
Most agree this was the first company to design and manufacture a transverse-mounted three-cylinder engined vehicle, it going to market in 1902. Subsequent vehicles became more conventional, the 14/20 being a 3.2 litre 4 cylinder, the 25/30 being a whopping 9.2 litre. The company quickly decided the automotive industry was far too competitive to allow sufficient profit margins, deciding instead to manufacture other more lucrative products.
(1935 - 1939)
Founded by George Brough, who had established a stellar reputation for building exclusive, expensive and highly sought after motorcycles. Impressed by the success others were having fitting high-powered US engines to light British sports cars, Brough decided to branch out into car manufacture himself. The Brough Superior was fitted with Hudson straight-six and straight-eight engines - but unlike its competitors a Brough did not compromise on style nor comfort. Things were going well, and in 1939 the awesome V12 Brough fitted with a Charlesworth body. The company was still in its infancy at the outbreak of war, and no attempt was made to ressurect the marque.
(1907 - 1940)
BSA stands for "Birmingham Small Arms", a gun manufacturer established in 1861. When the decision was made to diversify, they choose the Otto Dicycle, successful they decided to make a copy of the 1908 40bhp Itala. 2 years later they were manufacturing motorcycles (for which to this day they are better known), then ventured into the 4 wheeled variety when they purchased Daimler in 1910. The first BSA's were small versions of the Daimler, complete with sleeve-valve engines.
World War 1 BSA released the V-twin Ten three-wheeler, and although production stopped for a time in favour of the Daimler derivative, it would return in 1929 with the welcome addition of a fourth wheel. Production stopped again in 1934, but was re-released a year later as the front wheel drive Scout. During the war BSA developed the Daimler armoured car and armoured Scout, although the war-time version was extensively different to the peace time iteration. After the war, management decided to leave their car making days behind them, instead concentrating on motorcycles.
(1909 - 1956)
Founded by Ettore Bugatti, a gifted engineer who had manufactured his own 4 cylinder engine by the age of 20. The Milanese Bugatti would work for an array of leading European manufacturers, including Benz, before starting the manufacture of his own cars in France. His first car was a design carried over from his time at Benz, and it was not long before Bugatti's began to win races, such as Ernst Freidrich winning his class (and outright second place) in the 1911 French GP when driving a 1.4 litre Type 13.
Most famous for the Type 35 2 litre race car, although decided to build a mammoth saloon the 'Royale' in 1926, a fuel guzzling monster just in time for the Great Depression. The Royale chassis morphed into preambulating boudoirs at the hands of coachbuilders, who often fitted the beast with silks, leathers and rare woods. During the depression Bugatti diversified, building high-speed rail cars, aircraft and boats. Bugatti’s son Jean would take over car production at the Molsheim facility, but would be tragically killed test driving a race special. Ettore moved to Bordeaux during the war, and teaming with son Roland manufactured the 1.5 litre Type 73. Ettore would pass in 1947, and the company struggle on for a time until being bought out by Hispano-Suiza.
Founded by David Dunbar Buick in 1903, it only survived one year of independence before financial problems would see the need to bring William C Durant into the company. Durants capital injection was put to good use, the new Buick factory turning the fledgling company into a success story that survives to this day. From that factory was born the "Model C" - almost the most popular car around, 2nd only to Henrys Model T.
By 1908 had become part of the GM empire, but decided to maintain market position by innovation, Delco electric lights and starters being made standard by 1914, the same year they would release a 6 cylinder model B-55. Quietly kept alive the US tradition of making each successive model bigger and more elaborate, and by 1931 had released a straight-eight overhead valve model. Synchro gearboxes were introduced in 1932, independent front suspension in 1934.