Founded by Charles W. Nash, a self made entrepreneur that started out as a farm labourer, then by 1912 had landed the job as president of none other than General Motors. But Nash wanted to be his own boss, and in 1916 he purchased the Jeffery Motor Company with the intention of building his own cars. In 1917 the very first Nash hit the roads, it being powered by a 244ci 4 litre six cylinder engine; this was soon followed by the release of both sports cars and roadsters.
A smaller 2.5 litre 4 cylinder engine was developed, and by 1920 there were no less than eight different body styles using the new engine. Wanting to move the marque up-market, Nash purchased La Fayette Motors to provide a fast entry into that sector, particularly given he would benefit from the La Fayette 341.7ci 5.6 litre V8. The attempt to market a high end Nash proved difficult however, and soon the plan was abandoned, Nash having to settle on the middle ground. Like most other manufacturers Nash was hit hard by the Depression, however clever management and rationalisation ensured the company remained in profit, despite production falling to a mere 14,000 units in 1933.
The La Fayette name was introduced in its own right, but not as an up-market limousine, but rather as a cheap big car; while to aid in rationalisation the model line-up was reduced from 32 to just 6. In 1941 Nash replaced the La Fayette with the all-new Nash 600, a car incredibly advanced for the time. Featuring unitary construction, the 600 was light, enabling particularly good fuel consumption combined with more spirited performance from the 2.8 litre six.
Nash car manufacture was halted in 1942 so that the company could concentrate on war time production, but following the war the Ambassadors were reintroduced, and they now featured Airflyte styling complete with wrap-around windshields and semi-enclosed road wheels.
Then came the 1950Rambler, arguably the first US compact sedan, but despite the forward thinking, quality and value for money each Nash offered, it remained too small to viably compete with the Big Three. The company merged with Hudson in 1954 to form the American Motors Corporation (AMC), and while sales of the Rambler and Metropolitan continued to do well, the bigger Statesman and Ambassador models were fairing poorly. In 1957 AMC gradually dropped both the Nash and Hudson names.
The Datsun name was dropped by Nissan in 1983, timed to aid in an all out assault the company was determined to make on the European market. Nissan purchased a controlling interest in Motor Iberica of Spain, and soon had the company building Nissan Patrol 4x4’s. They then built a brand new factory in Sunderland, UK to build the Bluebird. The expansion programme was not without cost, and given the Button plan for car manufacturer rationalisation in Australia, most knew it would be Nissan that would close – although the company did not want to abandon the Aussie market, and output in Japan was increased to help compensate.
The Sunderland UK plant expanded, as did a plant in Tennesse, USA, mostly thanks to the popularity of the company’s new micro car, aptly named the “Micra”. The “Z” cars had lost much of their past appeal, and so the company desperately needed a new hero car. The 200 and 240SX’s went some of the way, but the flagship was undeniably the Skyline GT-R. It lacked a little of the power of the ZX, but the 208.8 kW 158.7 kW 2.6 litre twin turbo straight six was tractable and smooth, and when linked to a viscous-coupled four wheel drive and four wheel steering system it made to a simply stunning and awesome drive. But unlike other Japanese manufacturers, it is arguably the 4 wheel drive iterations that the company is best known for, the Patrol being joined by the X-Trail “soft roader” where both either hold, or challenge, for top position in their respective categories.
Founded by Heinrich Stoll and Christian Schmidt to manufacture knitting machines. Took the name NSU from the first letters in the names of the rivers surrounding the plant in which they operated, Neckar and Sulm. Following the increasing popularity of bicycles, devoted an ever increasing amount of production to their manufacture, first with the high wheelers, then to more modern, ballbearing equipped examples. Progressed to the motorcycle and, in 1905, developed their first car.
Within a few years were manufacturing a variety of different vehicles, from small taxi-cabs to trucks and all in-between. Manufactured both cars and motorcycles for the Wehrmacht during World War 1, after the war turning their attention to racing, gaining several Grand Prix victories. In 1923 developed the all-aluminium 8/24, but soon encountered financial difficulty and was sold to Fiat. Built 3 prototype Beetles for Ferdinand Porsche prior to World War 2.
Continued to manufacture motorcycles after the war, then designed the 3 wheel Max Kabine, but this would gain a more traditional 4th wheel prior to entering production as the Prinz. Built the first Wankel motor in 1960 and a small Corvair styled Prinz 4 in 1963. Sold to the VW/Audi concern in 1969, the name discontinued in 1984.
A British supercar manufactured since 2001, designed by chassis engineer Lee Noble who teamed with businessman Tony Moy. Their car is a two seater mid engined iteration, powered by a quad-cam 152.5ci 2.5 litre V6 fitted with twin-turbochargers, only the serious driver, earning a serious dollar, need apply.
(1896 - present)
Founded by Ransom E Olds in 1897 as the Olds Motor Vehicle Company of Lansing, Michigan, the company began the serious manufacture of cars in 1901, that year manufacturing 425 - not many by today’s standards but at the time it was enough to make Olds the first high-volume car manufacturer of the day. Olds left the company following financial difficulty to form the REO Motor Car Company, the last of the famous “Curved Dash Olds” being manufactured in 1907 before a GM buyout in 1908.
Developed a well deserved reputation for innovative firsts, including the speedometer (1901), out-sourcing of parts, chrome plating, mono-block V8’s and automatic chokes. In the mid 1940’s Oldsmobile were the first to offer an automatictransmission in more mainstream models, their “Hydra-Matic” is widely considered the forefather of every automatictransmission offered to this day.
The “Rocket” engine of 1949 was the first mass-produced, high-compression OHV V8, then in 1962-1963 Oldsmobile released the “Jetfire”, the first turbocharged passenger car featuring an aluminium-block 215 in³ V8 engine with turbocharger, producing one horsepower per cubic inch. The Toronado of 1966 may not have been the first front wheel drive American built car, but it was the first to be successful and gain acceptance with the motoring public. It would go on to win the Motor Trend Car of Year award in 1966 for its unique and innovative styling.
Founded by the brothers Zust from Switzerland, engineers who had spent their time developing experimental cars. Started building cars to rival Mercedes, then set up a sister company Brixia-Zust to develop cheaper end models, the projected profits from this venture to assist in the development of their high end models. The Brixia-Zust 3 cylinder models found work for a time as London cabs, but the Zust brothers company was taken over in 1911 by Officine Meccaniche or "OM". They continued production of the S305, and an OM even took out the 1927 Mille Miglia despite the low-tech approach of the design. Taken over by Fiat in 1933, who quickly realised the commercial division to be the profitable one, and in turn car production ended.
Founded by Adam Opel who built a successful business manufacturing sewing machines, Opel was subsequently encouraged by his 5 sons to venture into cycle manufacture in 1886. When Opel passed away in 1895, his widow Sophie together with elder sons Carl and Wilhelm looked for something else to manufacture – the obvious choice was the automobile. The Opel’s purchased the rights to the Lutzmann car, a small 4 hp (2.98 kW) single cylinder machine, however this was not a success and the plan was abandoned after only a few cars had been sold. They were almost going to abandon the notion of automobile manufacture altogether, but decided instead to become the sole agent for Darracq in Germany, Austria and Hungary – part of the deal being that they would manufacture Darracq’s under licence. These proved far more successful than the Lutzmann, and soon Opel had launched their own 10/12 115ci 1.9 litre model.
A twin-cylinder “doctor’s car” followed, and by 1910 Opel were a well established car manufacturer in their own right. The following year however the factory would be all but destroyed after a horrendous fire – the brothers knew that they needed to chose one, and one only, line of manufacture – not surprisingly they chose automobiles over sewing machines. World War 1 was unkind to Opel, their facility falling into the hands of the occupying French army, but with demand for cars at an all time low in impoverished Germany it didn’t seem to matter all that much. Opel survived the war, and created their own copy of the Citroen 5CV, a model that proved immediately very popular. Sales flourished, so much so that the company came to the attention of the giant General Motors concern. In 1929 GM purchased 80% of the company, and in 1931 the remaining 20%.
Under GM guidance, the company began the manufacture of smaller cars, such as the 1935 Olympia and 1937 Kadett, along with the six cylinder Admiral between 1937 and 1939. Manufacturing trucks and engines for the Nazi regime during the second World War, the company returned to automobile manufacture in 1947 with the pre-war Olympia model, with GM re-assuming control in 1948. The Rekord of 1953 signalled Opel’s return to design leadership, and later iterations all helped improve Opel’s reputation for building good quality cars. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s GM would ensure Opel shared the parts bin with sister company Vauxhall.