Established itself using the time honoured tradition of bringing cheap and cheerful cars to market, although just how cheerful a Matiz is could be debated. When others started to match the extended warranties and pricing, there seemed little point in shopping for a Daewoo, the operation falling into financial difficulty and then being taken over by GM. Sold for a time from Holden dealers, the brand exiting Australia in 2005. Has returned as a re-badged Barina, unfortunately at the expense of the far better Opel derivative.
(1958 - 1975)
At a time when auto transmissions were both complex and expensive, DAF was a pioneer in bringing a simplified auto to the cheaper end cars. Rather than using gears, the DAF used twin Vee-belts running over 2 sets of pulleys, changing sizes according to road conditions and being controlled by a centrifugal clutch. The 1958 DAF 33 used this ingenous transmission (the forerunner to the now more common CVT), linked to a 590cc air-cooled engine.
As DAF's grew in size, they would switch to using Renault running gear, and in 1968 several would be entered into the London-Sydney marathon, and while they did not come in the placings they did finish the race, which was quite an achievement! The final iteration was released in 1972 as the 66, but the company was soon to be swallowed up by Volvo who would restyle the 66 and launch it as the Volvo 343.
Founded in 1907 to manufacture the internal combustion engine, by 1930 the company was manufacturing three-wheeled vans. It was not until the early 1950's that Daihatsu began the manufacture of passenger cars, it owing much of its design to the earlier vans, even carrying over the three-wheeled layout and rear mounted 540cc air-cooled engine. By 1963 Daihatsu had managed to add the much needed 4th wheel to their Campagno models, although these early iterations were still extremely small in size; available in saloon, sports and station wagon variants, all were equipped with the Daihatsu 797cc four cylinder engine.
By 1966 the engine capacity had grown to 958cc, it producing 65 bhp, then in 1967 the company again returned to the manufacture of light-weight mini cars, this time with the 356cc "Fellow"; despite its diminutive size it would prove extremely popular in the domestic market, and would remain in production into the early 1970's. Absorbed into the Toyota conglomerate, the companies offerings were soon to mimic those of its bigger brother, although they were always smaller and cheaper. The Compagno was replaced by the Consorte, and in reality it was only a thinly disguised Corolla.
Most notable though was the Taft; this Jeep like 4x4 was powered by a 958cc four cylinder engine and would begin a trend that would see Daihatsu manufacture a long line of very profitable light 4 wheel drive vehicles, the only real competition in this section of the market coming from Suzuki's LJ80. By 1977 the Fellow had grown to a 547cc four stroke engine, however the use by date had long expired, it being replaced by the Cuore fitted with a transverse mounted engine.
Then came the wonderful little Charade, a front wheel drive car fitted with a unique 60.6ci 993cc three cylinder engine mated to a 5 speed gearbox. Incredibly popular, the engineers even set about fitting the little Charade with an ultra-economical turbo-diesel. For a time the Charade held the honor of being the only 3 cylinder car in the world, excluding of course the Italian built Innocenti, but even this car used the Daihatsu engine.
Daimler was formed in 1896 by Fredrick Simms, he acquiring the patent rights to sell Gottlieb Daimler’s 1 horsepower motorboat engines; more importantly Simms was also able to retain the Daimler name. The same year the Daimler Motor Syndicate would enter into car production at their newly established facility in Coventry, soon after garnering Royal patronage when the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) was given a ride in a Daimler by John Scott-Montagu, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.
In 1907 Daimler introduced the now trademark fluted grille, then in 1908 it acquired the license to build the “Knight” sleeve valve engines for its automobiles. During World War 1 Daimler manufactured engines for the Little and Big Willie, the worlds first ever tanks, in addition to engines for scout vehicles, planes, ambulances, trucks and double-decker buses!
In 1920 the company merged with AEC to form the Associated Daimler Company to build commercial vehicles. During World War 2 the company is best known for its manufacture of the “Ferret”, a stoic armored car that would do service in over 136 countries around the world. After the war Daimler lost its way, creating too many models and selling too few, in many respects becoming the play thing of one Lady Norah Docker.
Jaguar, on the other hand, could barely keep up with demand and, with Daimler ripe for the picking, realized it would provide both an up-market division and much needed extra production facilities. In 1960 Jaguar would acquire Daimler, shortly after arguably the prettiest and most highly prized iteration coming to market, the wonderful SP250 Dart.
The halcyon days would be short lived, with the rationalization of British automotive manufacturers ensuring some would live on as mere name plates. Since that time, Daimlers have simply been "badge engineered" versions of current production Jaguar sedans, although they were always fitted with the distinctive fluted grill, upgraded upholstery, and woodwork – making them the flagship of the marque.
The only truly unique Daimler model to emerge between 1967 and 1992 was the DS420 Limousine. It is worth noting that coachbuilders Vanden Plas were merged into BMC, and then assigned to the Daimler group in 1966, a name used for the US market instead of Daimler to ensure no confusion with the German competition.
Founded by Alexandre Darracq in 1896, the company started out manufacturing bicycles with the Gladiator bicycle company. Soon the company was manufacturing petrol engine powered tricycles inspired by Léon Bolléé. The tricycles were a great success, and Darracq went on to purchase Bolléé’s new 4 wheel design, however these strangely failed to repeat the success. Then in 1900 Darracq released his own voiturette, powered by a single cylinder 785cc engine. Best of all, this iteration was shaft driven (rather than chain driven), and it was soon joined by larger two and four cylinder cars.
Everything seemed to be going well for the company, Darracq’s even doing well on the race track, but a decision to enter the steam bus industry would prove ill-founded. The next line of cars also failed to make an impact, and facing bankruptcy it was Englishman Owen Clegg who came to the rescue. He set about creating a new range of cars featuring the Rover Twelve design, and for a time the company was once again successful, even supplying cars to the French army.
Following World War 1 a new model was released that featured a V8 engine mated to a four-speed gearbox – it even featured 4 wheel brakes; it should have been successful, but it wasn’t – Darracq would be acquired by Talbot in 1920, the name then used on Talbot’s being sold in France.
Grew from a prototype develped by engineer Masujiro Hashimoto of Tokyo, and funded by K. Den, R. Aoyama and A. Takeuchi (the first letter from each last name making the acronym DAT). Went into production as a DAT 31 in 1915, powered by a 122ci 2 litre 4 cylinder engine. Concentrated on truck manufacture from 1926, although the Lila light car became increasingly popular, particularly with cab drivers.
Acquired in 1931, the new owners quickly set about mass producing vehicles for the export market, their first attempt being an almost identical copy of the Austin Seven. Wanting to use the Japanese rising sun as part of its trademark, added the word SUN to DAT, creating DATSUN and having the rising sun as a background to their emblem. Turned again to Austin for inspiration after World War 2, the Bluebird's quickly gaining popularity for robustness and reliability.
It was not unusual for French companies to expand into automobile manufacture, one such concern being De Dietrich. Until then primarily concerned with the manufacture of railway rolling stock, one of the principal shareholders of De Dietrich had a son, Adrien de Turckheim, who had acquired the licence to build Bollée cars, which he did in De Dietrich's factories at Luneville, France and Alsace (then part of Germany). Other licence-built cars were to follow, including designs from Léon Turcar and Simon Méry. Turckheim would leave in 1904 to build Lorraine-Dietrichs, taking over British company Ariel and Italian company Isotta-Franshini in 1907.
Losing money at a fast rate, both aquisitions would be sold within a couple of years, however that would not deter Turckheim from releasing a range of more modern cars, including a 15 (fifteen) litre Grand Prix racer. Following World War 1 the company manufactured the six cylinder 15CV Lorraine-Dietrich tourer, capable of a very hefty (for the time) 60 mph (97 km/h). This car would enjoy several race wins, even taking out two Le Mans titles in the early 1920s, however the company turned to aircraft engine manufacture during the 1930's and, in 1934, closed the automobile division completely.
Founded by partners Count Albert de Dion and engineer Georges Bouton in 1883 to manufacture steam tricycles, quickly progressed to petrol engines, this latter form setting the fastest time in the 1894 Paris-Rouen Trials. The performance of their petrol driven iterations the result of an extremely (for the day) high revving engine of around 2000rpm, almost double that of competitors. Developed their first 4-wheeler in 1899, and by 1910 was manufacturing a V8. Unable to scale up and be competitive with other automobile manufacturers, the company would close in 1927, be resurrected by the French government for a short time, then close for good in 1932.
Founded by Louis Delage in 1905, quickly became successful at the race track, at first with De Dion engines and then with their own. Turned into a munitions manufacturer for the war, then went into the manufacture of sports tourers. Their 1932 Super Sports featured a 4 litre engine and was capable of 112mph (180 km/h), although the company quickly re-tooled to manufacturer smaller, cheaper and more economical models during the depression.
Unfortunately these models were rushed into production with little time spent on testing, and the problems associated with the new smaller models would tarnish the Delage reputation forever. By 1935 the company was near bankruptcy, Paris agent Walter Watney purchasing the concern and selling the majority of the company to outside engineering companies. He obtained the licence to build Delahayes, however would re-badge these as a Delage, until finally going out of business in 1954.
Founded by Emile Delahaye in 1895, building his first vehicle, although for some time the company concentrated on the manufacture of marine engines. In 1903 the company manufactured a mammoth 7 litre four cylinder engine featuring twin overhead valve gear, unfortunately not for use in cars. Delahaye could have so easily been the first to introduce this technology to the automobile, but that honour goes to Peugeot for their 1912 GP. The companies fortunes were to take a significant turn for the better when a young designer Jean Francois joined the Delahaye team. Soon the company were to release the 135 range, for the first time entering into direct competition with the aforementioned and better known French marques of the day.
The first of the 135’s used Wilson-type pre-selector transmissions, however these were soon replaced by a French “Cotal” transmission, which employed epicyclic internals and an electrical gearchange control, by means of electromagnetic clutches. The Cotal transmission was typically French, and by that we mean typically very innovative, and complex! A variety of body styles were available, ranging from open sports to elegant Grand Tourers. The 135 was also successful in competitions, and in 1936 a fleet of them took second, third, fourth and fifth places in the French (sports-car) GP. And to show how versatile the 135 was, an example that had taken part in the GP then went on to win the 1937 Monte Carlo rally.
The “sister” car to the 135 was the Type 145, which used the same basic chassis design, but with an overhead valve 4.5 litre V12 engine. This was reputed to be capable of 250bhp, a monstrous figure for its day. The 145 was really intended as a two-seater racing sports-car, for long-distance events like Le Mans, or - with all road equipment removed - for use in GP racing against the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union cars. On one famous occasion, at the Pau street circuit in 1937, a Delahaye defeated the mighty Mercedes-Benz! The war had not been kind to the marque, but many blamed the crippling post war taxation for the demise of this and other “Grandes Routieres”. While the West did everything to re-establish West German manufacture, it would seem they turned their collective backs on those from their own backyards, we won’t call it a war crime, but at the very least it was a great tradgedy.
Louis Delaunay found work at boiler maker Belleville of Paris in the 1860’s, he going on to marry the boss’s daughter. He changed his name to Delaunay-Belleville, then went into the car manufacturing business. His first iterations were brilliantly designed, and featured a rounded hood that indeed closely resembled a boiler.
In many ways the Delaunay- Belleville was the French equivalent of the British Rolls Royce, and the hoi-polloi were soon eager to be seen in a Delaunay-Belleville, people such as Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (then following the revolution both Trotsky and Lenin would continue the tradition). Louis Delaunay passed away in 1912, however his son Robert assumed control, however the company would struggle and, during the 1930’s, was forced to purchase Continental engines from the US rather than manufacture their own. After the war the company concentrated on the manufacture of the mini “Rovin” car, with other models and trucks being manufactured up to 1950.
A short-lived British marque that began the manufacture of predominantly one-off trial cars for competition work, although some saw road use. The Ford 10 was the donor car, it being modified to ensure suitability for hill-climbs and trial work - the requirements being that it be both light and afford acceptable ground clearance. The Ford side-valve four cylinder engine was used, however many purchasers would further modify their Dellow's to keep them competitive.
(1981 - 1982)
Sports car manufacturer founded by John DeLorean in 1973, who was able to persuade the British government to invest more than $140 million in the venture in hopes of stimulating the economy in Belfast. American investors put up another $31 million, among them entertainers Johnny Carson who contributed $500,000, and Sammy Davis Jr., who coughed up $150,000.
The rear-engine, gull-winged, stainless-steel car that emerged in 1981 was well received at first and developed a cult following which helped propel it into the "Back to the Future" films..., but the $25,000 price tag was a good bit higher at the time than that of the principal competition-GM's Corvette.
Unsold DeLoreans began piling up at dealerships. The factory only produced about 8,900 cars in three years, and many of those went unsold. Short of cash, DeLorean asked the British government for another $30 million, but PM Margaret Thatcher turned him down. In February, 1982, the British government declared the DeLorean Motor Co. insolvent and appointed a receiver to take over the firm.
De Soto was the mid-level division for Chrysler, a step up from the Plymouth but a little below the Dodge. Of course rationalisation would see the divisions share a common parts bin, and so the very first 1928 De Soto was very similar indeed to the Chryslers of the day. In fact, the De Soto Airflow only differed from the Chrysler Airflow in name (and badge work) alone. The earliest De Soto’s used a straight-eight engine, then came the straight six and, from 1955, the V8 iterations.
As styling changes were made at Chrysler, so too were the changes reflected at De Soto, including Virgil Exner’s “Forward Look” of 1957. But the De Soto’s never really distanced themselves adequately from the other Chrysler divisions of the day, and sales were never meeting expectation. In 1958 Chrysler took the bold move to merge the division with Plymouth, the very last De Soto badged car being manufactured in 1960.
Founded by Argentinian Alejandro de Tomaso, son of a former Prime Minister. Was to take over the family estate but political pressure saw him flee to Italy. Passionate about motor sports, he met with the Maserati brothers and raced their OSCA cars until founding his own company in 1959, dedicated to building race cars powered by OSCA engines. Began an association with Ford in 1963 when he launched the Vallunga, an important but not terribly successful car, but responsible for establishing the theory that an Italian exotic could be powered by a Ford V8.
The Vallunga was followed by the Mangusta, and many buyers grew to love the concept of an affordable power-plant wrapped in Italian sheet metal. DeTomaso's American wife had suitable connections, most noteably with Rowan Industries of New Jersey, who not only helped the marque establish itself in the US, but invested suffient funds to allow DeTomaso to take over Ghia coach-builders in 1967. The Mangusta was replaced by the Pantera in 1970.
Today we are prone to think of electric cars as a futuristic concern, but they have in fact been around for over a century. The Anderson Carriage Company started out as the manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages and buggies, but recognised the rising influence of the automobile very early on and knew it had to diversify to remain in business. In 1907 it began the manufacture of electric “Town Cars”, at the time these enjoying a short lived “boom” era, many considering them a far better alternative to the temperamental, noisy and dirty petrol driven variety.
By 1911 the company had gone from strength to strength, and so the company was renamed the “Anderson Electric Car Company”, at that time manufacturing over 1000 such vehicles a year. After World War 1 the electric car fell from favour almost overnight, with petrol powered vehicles now affording better reliability and comfort, and most importantly speed.
In 1919 the company again changed names, this time to “Detroit Electric”, and to make their electric cars more saleable, each was fashioned with fake adornments to make them look every bit like a regular petrol version – including the fitment of fake radiators and engine cowls. For a time the cars used bodies supplied by Willys-Overland, most being made to special order. But the early twentieth century was not the time for electric cars, and in 1938 the operation would come to an end.
(1928 - 1966)
Founded by Jorgen Skafte Rasmussen in Saxony after studying Engineering in Mittweida. By 1904 he had set up an apparatus engineering company, and in 1916 began experimenting with steam-driven motor vehicles. Although these experiments did not lead to any specific product, they yielded the company name and trademark DKW, derived from the German words for "steam-driven vehicle" (Dampf Kraft Wagen). In 1919, Rasmussen obtained the design of a two-stroke engine from Hugo Ruppe, a tiny version of which he sold
as a toy engine under the name of "Des Knaben Wunsch",
meaning "The Boy's Dream".
This mini engine was subsequently upscaled and used as an auxiliary cycle engine, evolving into a fully-fledged motorcycle engine called "Das Kleine Wunder" (The Little Miracle) in 1922. DKW became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world during the 1920’s, and was also regarded as a leading international engine manufacturer.
By 1927 Rasmussen had acquired design and production facilities for six and eight-cylinder engines from a Detroit automobile company which had been wound up, with two new Audi models being powered by the DKW engines. Rasmussen however remained committed to the idea of manufacturing smaller, less costly vehicles.
The very first DKW cars were rear-wheel drive, and were built in Berlin-Spandau. At the end of 1930, Rasmussen commissioned the Zwickau plant to develop a car to be powered by a two-cylinder, two-stroke motorcycle engine with a capacity of 600cc. The designers, Walter Haustein and Oskar Arlt, used a unitary wooden chassis with leatherette upholstery, swing axles at the front and rear, and made the vehicle front-wheel drive.
Unveiled at the 1931 Berlin Motor Show, the DKW “Front” caused a sensation with the masses. The DKW Front was built at the Audi factory, and went on to become the most-produced, most popular German small car of its day. The company merged with Audi, Horch and Wanderer to form the Auto Union group.
The advent of the steam car may have been an aberration in Europe, but it was to enjoy a much longer hey day in the US, and Doble rode the wave of success better than most. If you turned the clock back to early last century, you would find a time when everyone knew the automobile would be a success, but there were competing technologies concerned with how best such an automobile should be powered.
Much like the debate in the early 1980’s as to the virtues of VHS versus Beta, the three main choices consisted of petrol, electric and steam. In a time before tree-hugging greenies, social conscience and global warming, people decided on what was best based on practicality – and who could blame them – such modern day conveniences as washing machines, fridges and air-conditioners were decades from evolution, and the notion of starting a steam car on a cold winters morning would have discouraged the most fervent supporter of the technology.
But petrol powered cars were far from cementing their place in automotive history in the early part of last century, and so it came to pass that Abner Doble, with the financial backing of his parents, began the manufacture of steam cars in 1911, at the young age of 16. Full scale production would commence in 1914, with the simply named Model A, followed by the models B and C. His cars would soon come to the attention of C.L. lewis, who assisted with more funding, it being used to develop the GEC Doble (or Doble-Detroit) in 1916. Soon Doble had 11,000 orders on his books, but with the advent of World War 1 he was unable to obtain the necessary steel for manufacture.
Disillusioned with the project, Doble moved to California, however after 7 years the urge to build a steam powered automobile again proved too great, and he announced the release of the Model E. Most importantly, the Model E looked much the same as any petrol driven car – in some ways it being even more beautiful, and with technological advances Doble had perfected a steam powered system that almost negated the drawbacks of warm up time and cold weather starts.
The orders began to roll in, and soon the waiting list grew to over 1000, however in a shonky stock market deal Abner Doble was cheated out of the money he thought he had wisely invested for the development of the Model E. Forced to sell his factory and all other assets, he went to Germany to assist with the design of the post-war Paxton Phoenix and Keen cars – although these were never successful.
(1914 - present)
Founded by brothers John and Horace Dodge; the duo began as bicycle machinists working in their fathers Michigan (USA) shop, then moving to Windsor, Ontario (Canada) where they adapted their skills to meet the needs of the fledgling automotive industry. They were particularly adept at the manufacture of intricate automotive parts, their products soon coming to the attention of Henry Ford. So impressed with the quality of their workmanship, and the brothers themselves, Ford would offer them a whopping one-tenth interest in his own new car company.
That partnership would endure for the next 12 years, the brothers then splitting from Ford to pursue the creation of their own automotive empire, particularly given that the Fords of the day were built almost entirely out of Dodge parts! When asked why he and his brother wanted to build their own car, John Dodge reportedly said "Think of all the Ford owners who will someday want an automobile".
In 1914 Dodge Brothers was formed, and in their first year the "Old Betsy" would be released, a rugged car built for reliability and durability at a time such vehicles were held in very high regard; that year Dodge built a total of 249 new cars. In 1928 Chrysler acquired the company, creating a new division to help it better compete with the all conquering GM, and at the same time adding much needed additional production facilities.
During World War 2 the company would manufacture the highly acclaimed Power Wagon - a vehicle that would continue in production a decade after the war. The company would continue to lead the way in technical innovation, including the first 140-horsepower "Red Ram" Hemi V8 engine in the 1953 Coronet. In the 1960s and '70s Dodge contributed to America's fascination with high-performance muscle cars by manufacturing the 505 Charger Daytona’s for stock- car racing and as production cars.
From the 1980’s Dodge engineers and designers would set about the creation of some of the most desirable sheet metal going around, from the Dodge 400 (and the Chrysler Lebaron) convertibles of the 1980’s, to the Viper of the 90s. And like the Old Betsy of days past, Dodge would also manufacture a formidable lineup of rugged pickups and small trucks, such as the Ram, Dakota and Durango.
You’re not going to impress the ladies when you tell them you drive a Donkervoort, leastwise not in Australia. But more is the shame, the Dutch company concerned with the manufacture of highly desirable sports cars inspired by the original Lotus Seven. Founded by Joop Donkervoort, the company began by building Seven replica’s, although the Donkervoort interpretation was bestowed with far superior interior appointments and a top speed of 160 km/h which, it is alledged, would keep out the rain if travelling the autobahn at top speed.
1920 - 1937)
Founded by Fred Duesenberg, an aspiring car designer who had played a big part in the design of the “Mason” automobile in 1906, after which he set up his own racing engine business with brother August. Together, the pair built and supplied their race engines to Mason in 1912, and then established the Duesenberg Motor Co. the following year. As their business expanded, Duesenberg began manufacturing a wide variety of engines including racing, road car, airplane and marine varieties.
A special 16-cylinder unit powered a Land Speed Record contender up to 158mph (254.3 km/h) in 1919, and in 1921 a Duesenberg won the prestigious French Grand Prix. The first Duesenberg production car followed in late 1921; called the Model A, it had a straight eight-cylinder 260cu.in (4.25 litre) engine, and was the first-ever North American car to use hydraulic brakes. Less than 500 cars were sold up to 1926, at which point the company was taken over by the colorful entrepreneur Erret Lobban Cord – founder of the Cord Automobile Company.
Cord kept Fred Duesenberg on as an employee, and soon had him developing the wonderful “Model J”. The car was launched in 1928 and featured a massive straight-eight 420cu.in (6.9 litre) engine built by Lycoming - another company in the Cord group. The engine had twin chain-driven overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and a (claimed) power output of 265bhp – almost twice that of any other American built car of the time.
The open four-seater “J” was good for a top speed of around 116mph (186.7 km/h) – quite literally awesome for the time! Cord did not allow the Depression to thwart his grandiose plans for the car, and continued development of a supercharged version. In 1932 his dreams were realized when the “SJ” was released. The celebrations were short lived, Fred Duesenberg having a bad accident during testing of the car – he would later die from resultant complications. Financial difficulty at Cord would have dire consequences for Duesenberg, and neither company would survive past the late 1930’s.