Founded by Ferruccio Lamborghini, born April 28, 1916 in a small Italian farming village, Renazzo di Cento, Ferrara. Even as a small child Lamborghini displayed a keen aptitude for anything mechanical. During World War 2 he was drafted into the Italian services where he repaired vehicles. After the war he started out building tractors, then in 1963 he founded the Lamborghini Automobili company - primarily because of his dissatisfaction with his recently acquired Ferrari.
Lamborghini used his birth sign, Taurus the bull, as a symbol for his cars, with most models being given names relating to the bull. The first production Lamborghini was the 1964 350 GT, followed by the 400 GT and the 400 GT 2+2. These cars made Lamborghini famous, but it was the Miura that made it legendary. The successors, Countach and the Espada, kept the company alive during some very troubling times.
In 1973 Ferruccio sold all of his companies and retired to his vineyard in Italy's Umbria province. He produced a red wine called Colli del Trasimento, known as "Blood of the Miura". He died on February 20, 1993 at the age of 77.
Founded by Vincenzo Lancia who launched the popular Lambda at the Paris and London car shows of 1922. Lancia would pass in 1937, but not before overseeing the continued improvement of the Lambda, and leaving behind the wonderful Aprilia saloon. After World War 2 the company hired Vittoria Jano, an ex Alfa Romeo designer.
Togther with Lancia's son Gianni, the two would embark upon a program of innovation and design which included the wonderful V6 powered Aurelia B10. The company reached a high point in rally racing with the release of the Stratos.
The Series I Land Rover would be released at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show, a solid workhorse that would quickly garner a loyal following of devotees with its rugged no-nonsense style and ability. The original 80” wheelbase would be extended to 86” in 1954, later the 107” making it an attractive proposition as an agricultural workhorse. 10 years after its initial introduction, the Series II would be released, it featuring a vastly improved appearance and better levels of comfort and performance (but most importantly it would remain every bit as rugged as its predecessor).
By 1959 there would be 250,000 Land Rovers on and off the bitumen, that figure doubling by 1966. Recognizing that there was a niche to be filled by providing a luxury version of the venerable Land Rover, the engineers set about designing the up-market Range Rover, a paradigm shift in the concept of off-road vehicles. Released in 1970, the Range Rover was years ahead of its time.
The following year the Series III was released, and by 1976 over 1 million Land/Range Rovers had been sold. By now there were plenty of competitors determined to muscle in on the success of the vehicle, most notable would be Toyota with their Land Cruiser. But unlike all the others, Land Rover remains as the only marque to have a heritage forever linked to rugged terrain and dirt roads.
Leyland Motors grew from the Lancashire Steam Motor Company, founded in the town of Leyland, North West England by the Sumner and Spurrier families. Their first vehicle was a 1.5 ton steam powered van, and then in 1907 the company would change its name to simply Leyland Motors. In 1920 came the Leyland 8, a luxury tourer that would soon find its way to the racetrack at Brooklands, being driven by J. G. Parry-Thomas (who unfortunately would later be killed when making an attempt on the land speed record after the chain drive broke).
The Spurrier family would continue its control of the company through three generations, until the retirement of Sir Henry Spurrier in 1964. During Sir Henry’s reign the company would rapidly expand, acquiring competitors such as Standard Triumph. It is worth noting that under Sir Henry’s leadership the company enjoyed excellent labour relations, it widely reported that not one day was lost to industrial action – but things were about to change!
Donald Stokes would take control, and in 1968 it would merge with British Motor Holdings (BMH) with encouragement from the Wilson Labour Government, to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation. Famous marques in the BMH family included Daimler, Guy, BMC (including of course BMC Australia), Austin and Morris. Difficult to manage because of the many divisions under its control, all manufacturing similar products and in turn competing with each other, difficulties would be compounded by problems arguably outside its control, such as the oil crisis of the early 1970’s and continued difficulty with hard line unions. In 1974 the company was forced to seek a guarantee from the British government so that it could continue to operate.
With the Australian operation reportedly losing some $56 million, British Leyland would dispatch 31 year old David Abell to assume Managing Director responsibility, and given the financial difficulties being faced by the parent company it was obvious to most that he would shut down operation. The 1974 Industries Assistance Commission report claimed there was not room in the Australian market for four manufacturers, which didn’t help much either. The P76 was the last roll of the dice, anything less than it being an overnight sensation would spell disaster – and it was only given the chance because so much work had already gone into the design and tooling up of the Zetland facility.
The P76 deserved better, but an impotent marketing campaign combined with build quality issues would spell the end, only Mini and Mini Moke production continuing beyond 1975. Today the P76 is highly collectible, very few cars having been born into such a turbulent corporate climate.
Founded by Harold Lightburn in the Adelaide suburb of Camden Park as a white-goods manufacturer, the company would for a brief time in the mid 1960’s turn its hand to the manufacture of lightweight fibreglass bodied cars. Initially launched in 1963, the Zeta was manufactured in three body styles, the 2 door sedan, 2 door roadster and utility – each clearly targeting the “cheap and cheerful” market segment. On paper at least, the Zeta put forward a compelling argument to augment the Aussie family with a second car, the £595 asking price amazingly low.
But the execution was poor, build quality and insipid engines combining to wipe the smile off any new owners face in seconds, rather than minutes. And with the release of vastly better vehicles such as the BMC Mini, few were tempted to give the little Zeta a try. The Sydney City Council did purchase a handful of the utility body styled Zeta’s to supplement it’s Hyde Park fleet, but these rarely ventured onto the bitumen. In the end, only 400 would be sold, production ending in 1965 and the last vehicles being sold in 1966.
Lincoln (named after Abraham Lincoln) was founded in 1917 by Henry M. Leland after his departure from Cadillac. Initially set up to manufacture Liberty aircraft engines for the war effort, after the war Leland set about re-tooling the factories to facilitate the manufacture of up-market vehicles. The transition took a heavy financial toll on the company, and in 1922 Ford was able to take control. It is interesting to note that Henry Ford had been forced out of his second company (Cadillac) by a group of investors led by Leland – so it is probable that Ford himself felt some satisfaction in the Lincoln takeover. Lincoln would quickly establish itself as a rival to GM’s Cadillac division, at first using a greyhound as their emblem, but then replacing this with the now familiar diamond.
In 1936 Lincoln introduced the Zephyr as an almost entirely new brand name rather than model, then from 1939 Edsel Ford would assist in the creation of the best known Lincoln model, the Continental. Originally intended as a one-off project car for Edsel Ford to use when vacationing in Florida, the Ford marketers quickly realized the fresh design would prove successful in the showrooms. The Mark II revived the concept, and for a short time between April 1955 and July 1956 there was even a Continental division, but rationalization would see the formation of the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln division (Edsel only surviving until 1960). The Continental proved extremely popular with Presidents, and remained Lincoln’s flagship until the release of the Town Car in 1981.
Owes its existence to the late Colin Chapman, one of the greatest innovators of motorcar design. Chapman started out designing and building specials based on the ubiquitous Austin Seven, however his motoring prowess would soon see him emerge to control a Grand-Prix racing team, among many other accomplishments. The first Lotus was manufactured in the English winter of 1947-1948, while Chapman was still studying for his engineering degree at London University. He continued to construct other specials for competition work, all built to comply with the regulations of the 750 Motor Club.
The first production Lotus was the Mark 6, the first of many similarly styled cars featuring a multi-tube space frame chassis enclosing both the engine and transmission, and incorporating soft independent front suspension – all adding up to an extremely light weight. And it was in regards to weight that Chapman became a devotee, adopting the philosophy that “no item should be in any way superfluous, or over-strong, for this simply added unnecessary weight to the machine”. This philosophy is still very much at the core of production principles applied to the modern day Lotus.