Lost Marques - Lagonda to Wolseley

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The Forgotten Car Makers From Last Century

What a shame that so many fine automobile manufacturers have closed their doors - fortunately there are many museums and private collectors dedicated to the preservation of such important automotive history. In tribute to those people, we are writing a series of articles on the lost marques of last century - and there a quite a few!

It seems paradoxical today that the owners of such legendary marques as Stutz and Mercer would compose such impolite slogans about each other, one wonders if they would still recite “There’s nothing worser than a Mercer” and “You’d have to be nuts to drive a Stutz” had they foreseen global events such as war and the depression wiping out the manufacturer of their cherished automobile. And remember to check back regularly as we expand our collection of “Lost Marques”…

Also see: Lost Marques - USA Edition
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Lagonda Rapide

While most classic car enthusiasts associate, quite rightly, the name “Lagonda” with the legendary car marque, not many would know that the name originates from the US and not the UK! The company’s founder was one Wilbur Gunn, who first lived in a small town named Lagonda, in the state of Ohio. More>>

Lanchester (USA Edition)
The Lanchester has the distinction of being the very first British car. The cars came about because of the Lanchester brothers, both remarkable automotive pioneers, they were also very prominent engineers, so that, although distinctly unusual in design and construction, the early Lanchester motor-carriages were efficient, well sprung machines of adequate performance. More>>
Lea-Francis (USA Edition)
Lea-Francis started, like most other early car manufacturers, as cycle makers. It was a company that had many set-backs and had faced receivership in its time, yet it also had its great occasions, being prominent in the competition world as a very desirable 1½-liter Meadows-engined sports car. More>>
Marmon (USA Edition)
The first Marmon was made in Indianapolis by Nordyke and Marmon in 1902, using an epicyclical two-speed transmission (as the Model T Ford used all its life), to obviate any alarms that the clashing of sliding pinions might bring to inexperienced operators. A special arrangement of the front springing, and sub-frames for the mounting of both engine and gearbox on the chassis frame, made for durability over bad going and these Marmons continued in production right up to 1908. More>>
Martini (USA Edition)
Martini cars were built in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, by the famous armament manufacturer, amounted to little more than a hundred cars; Adolf von Martini, son of the inventor of the Martini-Henry rifle, had built his first experimental rear-engined car in 1897, following this with V4 cars of 10 hp and 16 hp in 1902. Then came production under licence of the French Rochet-Schneider; and it was one of these cars that Captain H. H. P. Deasy, the British agent, had used in a daring publicity stunt. More>>
Mathis (USA Edition)
Emile Mathis, who was born in Strasbourg in 1880, built sober cars, but this he offset by entering some improbable ones in races. It seems that he found out about motor-engineering by serving an apprenticeship in London. By 1898, at a time when wealthy adventurers were investigating the pleasures and perils of travelling, if not very far (without resort to horses), Mathis returned to Alsace to set up in the motor trade. More>>
Maudslay (USA Edition)
The Maudslay Company had a high reputation as engineers long before it turned to making cars. From around 1790, Maudslay had made steam engines in Lambeth, and later it was to have the distinction of supplying boilers for the pioneer battleships of the Royal Navy. Other important contributions to steam engineering were made by Maudslay Sons & Field, and in 1902 they reached the decision that it was time they entered the then-accelerating motor industry. More>>
McLaughlin (USA Edition)
Most attempts at Canadian automobile manufacture had failed miserably. Yet the alternative - importing a proven design from America - was expensive, as there was a 35 per cent tariff levied on the wholesale price, so that a Ford, which sold in Detroit for $800, cost $1000 in Toronto. It was more economical for Canadian companies with sufficient facilities to build cars to American designs, making as much as possible themselves, and importing the remaining components, which attracted a far lower rate of duty than complete vehicles. More>>
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Mercer Raceabout
Mercer County, New Jersey, USA. Home of the now largely forgotten Mercer Automobile Company and their wonderful Type 35 "Raceabout". Introduced in 1911 the car was designed by Finley Robert Porter and made possible by the financial backing of Washington A Roebling. More>>
Minerva (USA Edition)
Belgium was never a major builder of cars, but if it did not make them in vast quantities, it had its grande marque in the celebrated Minerva, the Goddess of Automobiles. It all began in 1897 when Sylvain de Jong commenced making bicycles and then branched out into supplying engines for the first motor cycles, a venture in which he was so well regarded that most of Europe's pioneer riders were propelled by little Minerva engines. More>>
Monica (USA Edition)
Excluding the Facel Vega, France did not build many luxury cars in the 3 decades after World War 2, mainly because of a car-taxation policy which legislated heavily against any vehicle with an engine of 2.8 liters or more. The Monica was a rare ... and all too short lived exception. More>>
Monteverdi (USA Edition)
Switzerland was never a large manufacturer of cars. However, in 1967, a Basle garage owner and former racing driver, Peter Monteverdi, decided to build a fast two-seater GT car. Monteverdi had constructed his own racing cars, known as MBMs, but he retired after a serious crash and concentrated on his booming BMW sales outlet. He had often wanted to build his own car and, in 1967, he decided to take the plunge. To make the operation economical, he used a large number of bought-out components so that he needed little factory space; in fact, the cars were assembled in his BMW workshops by the mechanics, in between servicing the BMWs. More>>
Moon (USA Edition)
The Moon company - headed by Joseph W. Moon, who had emigrated from Scotland - were builders of horse-drawn buggies before they turned to motor manufacture. Their first products, though, were a far cry from the buggies, as Moon engaged Louis P. Mooers as designer. More>>
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William Morris was born in 1877, in a small terraced house in Corner Gardens, Worcester, the son of a wayward character who flitted from job to job, and who had even been a stagecoach driver in North America before his son's birth. During his stay in America, William's father had also lived with a tribe of Red Indians for some time and had been adopted as a full member of the tribe. By the time young William was old enough to go to school, the family had moved yet again, to a house in James Street, Cowley, then a small village on the outskirts of Oxford. More>>
Mors (USA Edition)
MORS is the Latin word for death, a coincidence which did not escape the notice of a motorphobe Member of Parliament at the turn of last century, who claimed that the name implied that Mors drivers had the licence to kill anyone who crossed the path of their cars. More>>
Moskvich (USA Edition)
Although it was relatively late in the development of the motor car, the Moscow factory was the second oldest car production facility in Russia, the first being the Gorky factory which produces Volga cars. The first car which the factory produced was, in fact, manufactured from the dies which the Russians obtained from the German Adam Opel AG factory when the end of World War 2 brought about the enforced dismantling of the Russelsheim factory during 1945. More>>
NAG (USA Edition)
The story of NAG starts at Bergmann's Industriewerke of Gaggenau, Germany, who had created a reputation for themselves as manufacturers of chocolate slot machines and enamel signs. Their first venture into things automotive was designed by Joseph Vollmer, and the company struck upon a great name ... the "Orient Express", but unfortunately the contraption was a disaster. Loosely based on the Benz, it first appeared in 1895, and was soon given the nickname the 'Brute Beast'. More>>
Nagant (USA Edition)
Nagant was established by brothers Lean and Maurice, who owned an arms factory in Liege, Belgium, and, like many other turn-of-the-century armament makers, they turned to car manufacture as a relief from the long - and unprofitable - years of peace. Their first products, which appeared in 1899-1900, were French Gobron-Brillies built under licence. Like their Gallic prototypes, these cars had their twin-cylinder opposed-piston engines set transversely at the rear of the chassis. More>>
Napier (USA Edition)
At the start of last century, Napier held the position that was later occupied by Rolls-Royce. David Napier, the founder of D. Napier & Son, was the second son of the blacksmith to the Duke of Argyll at Inveraray, and was born in 1785. His cousins became shipbuilders but, after engineering training in Scotland, David came south in 1808 to make his career in London, and soon set up a business in general engineering in Lloyds Court, St Giles. By 1824, he had designed and manufactured a printing press with the excruciating name of 'The Nay-peer', and he sold several of these to Hansard, the government printer, and other machines to newspapers. More>>
Nardi and Nardi-Danese
Nardi and Nardi-Danese (USA Edition)
Today Nardi is best known as an after-market manufacturer, but there was a time when Enrico Nardi was developing fine litte racers that enjoyed plenty of success at the track. Nardi had made his name in automotive circles as early as 1932, when he made a little racing car christened Chichibio. This had been designed by Augusto Monaco and, after completion as the Nardi-Monaco, the car had a fairly successful competition career, winning its class in several Italian hill-climbs. More>>
Nash (USA Edition)
The story of Nash is very much a rags-to-riches story. The company was founded by Charles W. Nash, who was born in 1864. Orphaned at a very early age, he was bound out to an Illinois farmer when he was six; he hated the life so much that he ran away six years later, when he reckoned he was old enough to fend for himself. But his adolescence was spent in grinding poverty, wandering from farm to farm as an itinerant labourer; before he was 27 Nash never made more than $300 a year. More>>
NSU Ro80
NSU (USA Edition)
There were many good things to come out of 1906. There was the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and ... NSU’s first automobile. But when the company was first established, the motorcar was a thing of the future. In 1873, the two Swabians who established a workshop in Riedlingen, Christian Schmidt and Heinrich Stoll, were keen to get into the manufacture of another kind of technical innovation, namely knitting machines. More>>
Oakland (USA Edition)
The first car to leave the Oakland factory at Pontiac, Michigan was a 20 hp, twin-cylinder runabout designed by Alanson P. Brush, who had previously designed the first Cadillac and the Brush Runabout. Weighing 1600lb and selling at $1375, the Oakland Model A had a two-speed epicyclic transmission and the engine cranked anti-clockwise (a supposed panacea for the risk of wrists broken by a backfire while the engine was being swung). More>>
Oldsmobile (USA Edition)
It is a good thing that Ransom Eil Olds did not like the smell of horses on the farm, and decided to invent an automobile. That was in the early 1880s, when Ransom was in his early 20s. Born in 1864, he was the son of Pliny Fisk Olds, a village mechanic in Geneva, north Ohio, not far from Cleveland. Cleveland was already a major engineering centre, with iron and steel manufacture, farm implement production, oil-refining and ship-building industries firmly established; and it was here that Ransom went to school. More>>
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From the very first mass produced car, to those rolling off the production line today, it is a rare thing for it to be right from the beginning, and then to remain in production for years and years, with very little development until time and changing standards eventually make it obsolete. The OM was one of these - in Italy at least; but in England, where it was also popular, it underwent a great deal of development and modification by its importers, enthusiasts of the marque buying 'concessionaire's specials' for years after the cars had gone out of production. More>>
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The story of OSCA begins over half a century before the birth of the marque. An Italian engine driver's six sons, the Maserati brothers, became passionately involved with motor cars. They were Carlo, Bindo, Alfieri, Mario, Ettore and Ernesto. Carlo was chief test driver for Fiat before joining Bianchi, for whom he also raced. He died at the age of 30, by that time running the Junior car firm and being involved with the design and construction of aero engines. More>>
Owen Magnetic
Owen Magnetic (USA Edition)
Ray Owen adapted the Entz transmission, which was designed for use in the new generation of oil-engined battleships (such as the 1919 New Mexico), for automotive use, and began production of a luxury car with this form of drive in 1914. Under its original name of Owen Magnetic, the 'Car of a Thousand Speeds' was not very successful, but by 1920 J. L. Crown had taken over the design rights, and was producing cars in a factory at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. More>>
Packard (USA Edition)
In most of the years from World War 1 until its merger with Studebaker in 1954, a span of more than thirty years, Packard was America's only entirely independent auto company dedicated exclusively to the manufacture of the finest possible cars. For this reason, and also for its accomplishments in the design and production of aircraft engines, Packard was the only company in the United States whose work could be compared with that of England's Rolls-Royce organisation. More>>
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Panhard began by making a car with a V-twin Daimler engine carried amidships. It ran successfully in 1891, but the partners were not themselves convinced, and after trying rear-engined layouts they finally settled on one that was to become classical: they put the engine at the front with its crankshaft aligned longitudinally with the chassis, the gearbox in line behind it, and thence transmitted the drive to the rear wheels. More>>
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The prototype Panther was an elegant vintage-style four-seat tourer, which owed more than a little of its frontal shape to the Rolls-Royce company. It took only a few months for this prototype to be developed into the first 'production' model, known as the J72 and announced in June 1972. This car was typical of every car to come subsequently from Panther, in having a hand-made aluminium body, which was trimmed in Connolly leather and gleaming walnut, coated with a massively thick and deeply shiny paint. More>>
Peerless (USA Edition)
The first motor car produced by the Peerless Manufacturing Company, of Cleveland, Ohio, was a typical 'horseless carriage' and was fitted with bicycle wheels and a single-cylinder De Dion-Bouton engine. Prior to this, the company had been makers of clothes wringers and bicycles, but, like so many turn-of-the century companies, it was quick to see the potential of the automobile. More>>
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The decision to build (exceptional) cars along with their commercial vehicle operation was taken not so much as to be a money making concern, but to train apprentices. There, as in other factories, newcomers to the industry's crafts had to learn to work to the very highest standards: they would work slowly, and the reject rate would be high, but the vehicles that emerged would be far superior to anything that might be seen coming from an ordinary mass-production factory. More>>
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The Piccard-Pictet was arguably the finest vehicle to be produced by the tiny (by world standards) motor industry of Switzerland, whose products were restricted on their home ground by antiquated traffic. Piccard-Pictet et Cie, of Charmilles, near Geneva, were a well established firm of hydraulic engineers, specialising in turbines, who had already built a monstrous 12.75-litre straight-eight racer for the brothers Frederic and Charles Dufaux. More>>
Pierce-Arrow (USA Edition)
In 1865, George N. Pierce had set up in business in Hanover Street, Buffalo, New York, making bird cages, squirrel cages and similar wire products and, eventually, the company's skill in wire working led to the manufacture of bicycle spokes and then to complete cycles. Comfort and speed were the hallmarks of the Pierce cycles, which boasted shaft drive, cushion frame, sprung forks and freewheel in their most popular models. More>>
Plymouth (USA Edition)
Leading the American motor industry in 1928 was Walter P. Chrysler. Having brought the company which bore his name to fourth position in the sales charts within two years of its founding, he was in the process of buying the Dodge Brothers Company for $170,000,000 in stock and $59,000,000 in assumed interest payment on Dodge bonds. And even before the deal had been formalised, Chrysler was already planning to bring out a new low-priced model to try and gain a foothold in the lucrative Ford/Chevrolet market sector. More>>
Pontiac (USA Edition)
Although the Pontiac name did not adorn a car until 1926, the marque dates back to 1893. Edward M. Murphy founded the Pontiac Buggy Company in Pontiac, Michigan, a town which had taken its name from a mighty Indian chief who, 150 years before, had banded the Ottawas, Chippewas, Pottawattomis and Miamis into a powerful confederation. Murphy went into motor car manufacturing in 1907, however he called his new company Oakland, and it was not until the middle 1920s that the Pontiac name was used on a car. More>>
Pope (USA Edition)
A number of British cycle manufacturers exhibited their high-wheeled 'ordinary' bicycles at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition – and these were to prove extremely popular. The American public placed orders by the thousand. Among the visitors to the exposition was Colonel Albert Pope, a former Civil War officer, who had led his Yankee regiment in the final assault on Petersburg, and now a maker of pistols, who realised that there was a definite future for an American cycle industry. More>>
Railton (USA Edition)
The Railton was an Anglo-American car emanating from the factory which had formerly produced the Invicta sports car at The Fairmile, Cobham, Surrey, in the UK. Two similarities connect Captain Noel Macklin's Invicta with his Railton which followed it. The first is that the Invicta, although more of a quality car than the Railton, was nevertheless assembled at Cobham almost entirely from bought out components, and the second is that one of the tenets on which the design of the Invicta was based was that it should be a 'top gear car'. More>>
Rambler (USA Edition)
By 1900, Thomas B. Jeffery had two cars ready to show to the public. The work of his son, Charles, the vehicles had tiller steering and twin-cylinder engines. One was bodied as a Stanhope, the other as a runabout, and they were shown at the International Exhibition and Tournament in Chicago and at America's first national motor show at New York's Madison Square Garden. More>>
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The Reliant Motor company thrived for over forty years, largely due to one, almost illogical, loophole in British legislation. At the time, provided a car weighed less than eight hundredweight and had three wheels, it was treated by the licensing authorities as a motor cycle. It could be driven by anyone with a motor cycle licence, without the need for a car license, and it was taxed as if it were a motor cycle and sidecar. More>>
Reo (USA Edition)
The low price of the Reo, and Ransom Olds's flair for publicity, were sufficient to ensure its success. Originally priced at $685, the Reo was progressively reduced in cost until in 1909 it was available for $500. Olds advertised that in 1907, with 'the rain coming down in sheets', a Reo Runabout with four people aboard had covered 57 miles on 1.75 gallons of petrol. There was a two-cylinder Reo, too, and in 1906 Olds built a tiny replica of this model as a publicity vehicle for Chiquita, the midget with Barnum & Bailey's Circus. More>>
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Riley Sandracer
It should come as no surprise, particularly if you have read other articles in the “Lost Marques” feature of this site that Riley did not start out manufacturing cars. In fact the automobile was simply a progression, the company at first being involved in the weaving trade and later manufacturing bicycles. More>>
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In the heyday of motor manufacturing in the French city of Lyon, the most famous make was Rochet-Schneider – but we don’t blame you if you have never heard of them before. Rochet-Schneider was founded in 1889 to build bicycles, a partnership between young Edouard Rochet, a graduate of the Martiniere technical school and the son of the proprietor of a machine shop, and Theophile Schneider, whose family was in the silk trade, one of the traditional industries of the Lyon area. More>>
Rolland-Pilain (USA Edition)
Rolland-Pilain started manufacture in 1904 with a 20 hp four-cylinder model, with the cylinders cast in a mono bloc. By 1907 the range had grown to three models, a 12/16 hp (available with the charmingly titled 'petite limousine' coachwork), the 20/28 hp and a 35/45 hp, shown at the 1907 Paris Salon as a 'Limousine de Grand Tourisme'. By this time the factory and offices were located at 129 Rue Victor-Hugo at Tours, and the company could run to a Paris office at 24 bis Boulevard de Courcelles, just off the Boulevard Malesherbes. More>>
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Rootes Hillman Imp
When William Rootes' father purchased a car in 1898, he developed an early fascination , fostered by the senior Rootes' decision to open a motor sales section in the shop. Gradually the sale of cars became the major part of the family business and after World War 1, William Rootes and his brother Reginald, took over active control of the business, by then centred in Maidstone, Kent. More>>
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In 1903 Rover introduced its first motor-cycle designed by Edmund Lewis, at that time chief engineer of the Daimler Motor Company in Coventry. His original Imperial Rover had a 2½ hp vertical single-cylinder engine and, along with its successors and the single-cylinder, water-cooled tri-car of 1904, featured high standards of build and finish. It was considered to be a quiet machine. More>>
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The French automobile builder Rovin was active from 1946 until 1959, although after 1953 production slowed to a trickle. The firm was established, initially as a motorcycle business, in 1921 by the racing driver and motorcycle constructor, Raoul Pegulu, Marquis of Rovin (1896 - 1949). The car was developed by Raoul but in 1946 production became the responsibility of his brother, Robert who continued to run the business after Raoul's death. More>>
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Rumpler Tropfenwagen
Rumpler Tropfenwagen
We doubt you have ever heard of them, but in the early days of World War 1 Rumpler was known to millions. The Rumpler Taube monoplane, with its swept-back wings and triangular tailplane epitomised German military air power. One sight of its sinister silhouette was enough to make any allied civilian run for shelter. More>>
Salmson and British Salmson
Salmson and British Salmson (USA Edition)
Once Salmson decided to manufacture cars, the obvious thing to do was acquire a licence to manufacture an existing design. The English GN, one of the better cyclecars, was chosen and a three year licence signed in June 1919; Salmson GNs were in production three months later. More>>
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Many vintage car aficionados will tell you that, from the Edwardian era, the Sheffield-Simplex was arguably the best there was. It had its origins in the Brotherhood-Cracker car of 1904, which was constructed by the engineering firm of Peter Brotherhood Limited, who had long been established in the manufacture of high-speed steam engines. More>>
Siata (USA Edition)
The Societa Italiana Auto-Trasforrnazioni-Accessori was founded in 1926, manufacturing go-faster equipment for popular Italian cars in its works in Turin. There was always a close link with Fiat, and the new Fiat Tipo 508S Ballila Spyder Sports which ran in the 1933 Mille Miglia had Siata ohv cylinder heads and Siata four-speed gearboxes, but these enhancements were not enough to prevent the cars from being thrashed by the more powerful (and more expensive) MG Magnettes. More>>
Simca (USA Edition)
Simca's first efforts were virtually identical to their Italian counterparts with the first model being the Tipo 508 Balilla powered by a three bearing, short stroke 995cc engine. The car had hydraulic brakes, a four speed synchromeshed gearbox and four door pillarless sedan bodywork. Simca also produced their version of the Fiat 1.9 liter 518 model and this went into production in the French factory in 1935. More>>
Simplex (USA Edition)
If you wanted to buy an elegant, expensive imported car in New York at the turn of the 20th century, the place to go was Smith & Mabley, Incorporated, of 513-519 7th Avenue, who were agents for Mercedes, Panhard and Renault. For $12,750 they would sell you a 28/32 hp Mercedes with 'Vedrine King of the Belgians' bodywork. But out of that $12,750, a staggering 40 per cent was import duty: and, reckoned Messrs Smith and Mabley, anything Europe's finest makers could do, they could manage to equal - at a lower price. More>>
Singer (USA Edition)
In 1905, Singer acquired the licence to build a car which was then being manufactured by R. H. Lea, who had been a Singer employee for 7 years and his partner Graham Ingleby Francis. the most remarkable feature of the Lea-Francis was its engine, designed by Alex Craig; its 15hp horizontal three-cylinder power unit had an overhead camshaft and connecting rods three feet long to give the advantages of a long-stroke engine without it having excessive side-thrust on the pistons. More>>
Sizaire et Naudin
Sizaire et Naudin (USA Edition)
The very first Sizaire was complete by 1904, and was shown at the Exposition des Petits Inventeurs in March 1905, where its design attracted much attention: a company was formed for its production, and a stand taken at the 1905 Paris Salon. Plenty of orders were taken for the Sizaire-Naudin light car, and by 1906, two cars a day were leaving the factory. But it had been priced too low, and the newly-formed company ran into financial difficulties; it was bought by the Due d'Uzes, who provided capital for motor sports as well as building private cars. More>>
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SPA - Societa Piemontese Automobili
The first SPA cars were little different from the contemporary Italas - big, rugged machines of 24 and 60 hp with, unusually, shaft drive: by 1907 the range had grown to include a 60hp six, and a 30/35 hp six, and a light 15/24hp four, as well as the 40hp four. They were imported into England by H. E. Hall & Co, of Riding House Street, London W, who showed all four as polished chassis at the Olympia Motor Show in November 1907. More>>
Spyker (USA Edition)
For the most part, the pioneer Dutch car makers quietly built a handful of cars and then vanished equally quietly from the scene. But there was one exception ... Spyker, a marque which lasted for a quarter of a century, which built cars which were always technically advanced, and which achieved posthumous fame when one of its cars was selected as a star of the film Genevieve. More>>
Standard (USA Edition)
The story of Standard starts with one Sir John Wolfe Barry, who designed London’s famous Tower Bridge. After his young assistant, Reginald Waiter Maudsley, was left in financial straits by his father's death, Sir John Barry provided a cheque for UK£3000 to enable him to leave civil engineering and establish himself in the nascent British motor industry. Maudslay formed the Standard Motor Company in Coventry on 2 March 1903, with a total capital of £5000, a small factory in Much Park Street and offices in Earl Street. More>>
Stanley Steamer
Stanley (USA Edition)
To our mind, Stanley built the most successful steam car of all time. Its production life of over a quarter of a century was at least a decade longer than that of any other external combustion car: and even after its demise there were attempts to revive the marque. Francis E. Stanley and Freelan O. Stanley were identical twins, born in 1849 in Kingsland, Maine, whose principal boyhood hobby seems to have been making violins. They turned this hobby into a business, mass-producing violins which, while a little roughly finished, were acceptable musically. More>>
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In 1898 Star issued their first catalogue: 'Three-and-a-half horsepower single cylinder water cooled motor; belt and chain driven; two speeds; electric ignition; Star carburettor which is equally effective in any weather; two independent powerful handbrakes are fitted; petrol tanks have a capacity of supply for about 100 miles run under favourable conditions. The car is fitted with lamps, horn and a complete set of tools, oil cans, etc. More>>
Stearns (USA Edition)
Frank B. Streans was one of the earliest pioneers of motoring in America - he built an experimental car in 1896, while he was still a student - and one of the first to go into production. That was in 1898-9, and the first car to emerge from his factory in Cleveland, Ohio, was a single-cylindered gas buggy, with its power unit mounted horizontally, under the floor. Epicyclic transmission, tangent-spoke wire wheels and chain drive were all part of the specification - as they were of that other pioneer marque from Cleveland, the Winton. More>>
Stevens-Duryea (USA Edition)
The Duryea brothers founded America's first commercial car manufacturing operation in 1895, but a disagreement in 1898 led to a seperation and James Duryea decided to try and go it alone. In 1900 he organised a company called the Hampden Automobile and Launch Co, at Springfield, Massachussets, but this proved unsuccessful, and built at best one car (at worst, nothing was manufactured). So in late 1900, Frank Duryea joined the Stevens Arms & Tool Company of Chicopee Falls, Mass, as Vice-President and Chief Engineer. More>>
Steyr (USA Edition)
The Steyr Ironworks stood at the meeting of the Steyr and Enns Rivers in Austria. The company was founded in the mid-nineteenth century, specialising in the manufacture of armaments. World War 1 was obviously good for business, but the company's directors were far-sighted enough to realise that, when peace eventually came, it would bring a trade recession in the munitions business. So, like many other armaments companies, the Steyr Osterreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft, decided to start building motor cars. More>>
Stoewer (USA Edition)
In the North German seaport of Stettin, in the province of Pomerania, the Stoewer ironworks was an important feature of commercial life in the late 1890's. Founded in 1858 by Bernhard Stoewer, the company originally manufactured sewing machines, later branching out into typewriters and bicycles. In 1897, Bernhard's sons, Emil and Bernhard, began building motorbicycles, tricycles and quadricycles powered by De Dion engines built under licence in Aachen by Max Cudell. More>>
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Sidney Straker & Squire, Limited, of Fishponds, Bristol, was already well established as manufacturers of steam lorries and petrol buses before it entered the private car field in 1906. Like so many other firms, Straker-Squire decided to play safe by acquiring a licence to build an established design: but the design they chose was a real obscurity, the Cornilleau & St Beuve, built in Paris. More>>
Studebaker (USA Edition)
During sixty four years of car manufacturing in North America, the Dutch name of Studebaker stood for cars of quality at moderate prices, light and economical engineering design, adventurous styling - and persistent financial trouble. The last-mentioned may not be entirely fair: the Studebaker Corporation did not go out of business in March 1966; it simply stopped making cars then. More>>
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Stutz Bearcat
The progress from component manufacturer to automobile manufacturer was set in motion in 1911 when Harry C Stutz's company built a successful Indianapolis race car as a publicity exercise. The success would gain investors, and so Harry set about the manufacture of his own “complete” passenger car. More>>
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Sunbeam Alpine
“Fill up the Sunbeam”, mention this in an Australian home today and most would assume you are talking of the kettle. But there was a time when the word Sunbeam would evoke the very essence of automotive fervor. Until the mid 1920s Sunbeam were one of the very few British companies to seriously build, develop and race a team of Grand Prix cars. And in 1923 Sunbeam would taste success with Sir Henry Segrave taking out the French Grand Prix, making for a British Driver/Manufacturer combination that would not be repeated until the 1950’s. More>>
1902 Swift
Swift (USA Edition)
Though Swift became one of the leading manufacturers of bicycles, they were late to enter the motor car field. When they did, in 1902, it was with a strangely designed vehicle. The unlovely voiturette was powered by a 4½ hp single-cylinder engine of the De Dion type supplied by the Motor Manufacturing Company. The gear change was novel, with two sets of teeth on the crown wheel and two pinions, the choice of gear ratio being determined by dog clutches. To start the voiturette the driver had to insert the crank-handle into a hole on the rear axle. More>>
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Talbot was originally founded by the Earl of Shrewsbury & Talbot (hence the name), to assemble cars in London from French components. Keen to become an entirely British concern, in 1905 they replaced the original Clement-Bayard models with home grown versions – cars that helped Talbot gain a reputation for building durable, if somewhat austere cars. More>>
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Talbot Lago America
Talbot Lago
Major Tony Lago created the Talbot-Lago marque in 1935 when he purchased the French branch of the bankrupted Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq combine. However many contest that the story really began at the end of the 19th century when Adolphe Clement, a French industrialist, began to manufacture cars. More>>
Tatra (USA Edition)
Presented in public for the first time at the Prague Motor Show of 1923, the Tatra T-11 had an air-cooled 1056cc two-cylinder engine producing 12 hp, rigidly connected to the clutch housing and thence the transmission housing. The car had a backbone tubular frame and featured rear swing axles, differential, and independent suspension all round. This concept put Tatra ahead of most car firms of the day in terms of design, and was the basis of subsequent Tatra cars and commercial vehicles. More>>
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The origins of Trident cars can be traced to the financial problems that hit the Blackpool specialist car firms of TVR, which handled sales of TVR cars, and Grantura Engineering, which constructed them. TVR, producing a number of well liked coupe models, ran into cash- flow difficulties in 1965, and was unable to proceed with a new aluminium bodied fixed-head car design by Trevor Fiore. More>>
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Triumph TR7
You don’t have to look far to find numerous car companies that have made the successful transition from motorcycle to car manufacturer. Japanese companies such as Honda and Suzuki immediately spring to mind, but the undisputed pioneer in making such a transition is Triumph. More>>
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Tucker Torpedo
In September, 1947 the Tucker car was announced to America. It was called the Torpedo and was a long, sleek, streamlined job described as "a truly modern motor car descended from race-track champions." Reports told of a car that would make all current cars obsolete. It would weigh 10 cwt. less than any other American car and its revolutionary rear-mounted engine would deliver 35 m.p.g. and give a cruising speed of 100 m.p.h. More>>
Trojan (USA Edition)
'Can You Afford To Walk?' asked the advertising of the Trojan, which was possibly the most successful utility car of the time. In fact, the company even put out a hilarious advertising film which purported to show that the operating costs of the Trojan were substantially less than the cost of repairs to the shoes of a keen walker. It was a little unconvincing and left the British public with the impression that the person who bought a Trojan did so because they could not afford to buy a car. More>>
Tucker (USA Edition)
Preston T. Tucker, of Ypsilianti, Michigan, had previously been known as an associate of Harry Armenius Miller in the construction of a number of successful racing cars, including one which had set up many records on the Bonneville Salt Flats, including a top speed of 244 mph and an average of 150 mph for 500 miles. Now he intended to produce an entirely new type of passenger car, sporty, modern in appearance and completely radical in mechanical conception. More>>
Turcat-Mery (USA Edition)
Turcat and Mery first offered a car for sale in 1898, though their vertical four-cylinder Model A, with five forward speeds and two reverse gears, promised a rich crop of mechanical breakdowns for the unwary motorist. By 1901, they were building on more conventional lines, following closely the design of the contemporary Panhard; they were also running short of cash. More>>
Turner (USA Edition)
It was in 1896 that Jules Miesse, of Brussels, built his first experimental steam car, which followed closely the layout of the contemporary Serpollet; two years later he began production, and by 1902 the three-cylinder single-acting Miesse steamer was being built under licence in Wolverhampton by Thomas Turner and Company. At first trading under the name of the Miesse Steam Motor Syndicate, Turner claimed in 1902 that: 'Every portion of the Miesse Steam Car is constructed of the best English materials...' More>>
Unic (USA Edition)
When Georges Richard, who had founded the Georges Richard Cycle Company in 1893, broke away from the Richard-Brasier company to establish the Georges Richard Company, he was determined to keep to a one-model policy, in this new independent venture. Hence the new company's alternative title of La Societe des Voitures Legeres Unic. There was, however, nothing utilitarian about the Unic car. More>>
Vale Special
Vale (USA Edition)
The Vale was designed by 'Pow' Pellew (later the Earl of Ex mouth) : in its original incarnation it was powered by a modified 832 cc sidevalve Triumph engine, which was capable of propelling the diminutive car at 72 mph at 4750 rpm. Average fuel consumption was claimed to be 40 mpg, while the safe speeds in the intermediate gears were 20, 38 and 54 mph. More>>
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Alfredo Vignale was sufficient of a craftsman to gain employment with Pininfarina at the tender age of seventeen, working in the Corso Trapani. It was in fact a 'copycat' move - Farina himself had left school at eleven to work in his brother's carriage repair business, and had subsequently been trained by one of the established masters of coach-building, Alessio of Turin. More>>
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First announced in 1901, Vinot-Deguingand was originally built in Puteaux, near Paris, but relocated to Nanterre some time after production began. The early models were marketed in English speaking countries (of which we can only find evidence that this meant England) under the name 'La Silencieuse', and were fairly advanced machines for the day, with vertical twin 5½ hp engines mounted in a pressed steel chassis with belt and chain final drive. More>>
Vulcan (USA Edition)
Vulcan have always been more famous for their commercial vehicles than for its cars. Mind you, the first experimental Vulcan cars had appeared a long time before, in 1897-1899, the work of Thomas and Joseph Hampson. The marque reached production status in 1902, when a 4hp 'Motor Phaeton' was shown at the Agricultural Hall Show. Priced at 130 guineas, it had a single-cylinder engine, apparently of Vulcan's own make, and single belt drive to the back axle, which incorporated a three-speed gear. More>>
Walter (USA Edition)
In 1898 Josef Walter began building motorcycles in Smichov, near Prague, Czechoslovakia, adding a bathchair-like three-wheeler to the range in 1908. At first the V-twin power units of these machines were of only 500cc capacity, but this was gradually increased to a more lethal 1250cc. Unusually, the rear axle was driven by shaft, not chain, and eventually closed four-seater coachwork was available on the tricycle chassis. More>>
Wanderer (USA Edition)
Around 1910 Wanderer decided that it was time that they started car production in earnest, and were approached by young car designer Ettore Bugatti, who was trying to sell the design of a neat little four-cylinder car with an ingenious two-speed transmission which used concentric propeller shafts and dual crown wheel and pinion sets of different sizes: but Wanderer were not interested, and so Bugatti sold the design to Peugeot, who produced it as the immortal Bebe. More>>
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Towering above the town of Eisenach is one of the best-preserved Romanesque buildings in Germany, a building revered by most as the birthplace of a unified Germany. Here Martin Luther translated the Bible (in 10 short weeks), and laid the foundation for a common German tongue. From here, too, in 1817 came the call from German students for national unity, which resulted in the joining together of the multitude of small Teutonic states. More>>
Waverley (USA Edition)
Waverley - an enigma of the early motoring world - was a company that should have gone on to much bigger and better things, but never achieved anything significant. The original cars were originally built in Willesden, North London, in 1910 by Light Cars Limited. Their first model was a 10hp four-cylinder with 'patent suspension' which was exhibited on the stand of T. B. Andre, Limited, at the Motor Show that year, priced at £165, and a colonial model at £175. More>>
Weigel (USA Edition)
Danny Weigel was a colorful character who imported Continental cars into Britain in the early part of last century, and became one of the prime movers in the formation of the Clement Talbot Company in 1903. He was managing director of the concern until 1905, when he broke away to set up in business on his own. He was also an impassioned writer of letters to the motoring press, exceeded in bravado only by S. F. Edge of Napier. More>>
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It was not until the 1920s that demand for closed bodywork began to take hold, and coach builders were faced with several problems. For one thing, the closed body was heavy to build, and, for another, needed stout wooden pillars to support its roof; and, especially if metal-panelled (wood panelling was almost a thing of the past), it was prone to drum and magnify engine and transmission noise to a frustrating extent. More>>
White (USA Edition)
The White steam cars were desacribed as 'Incomparable', but at first glance White steamers, products of the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland, looked little different from other steam buggies, Produced after 1900 as the brain child of Rollin H. White, they had full-elliptic suspension. and wooden reach-bars linking front and rear axles which were a normal feature of the design of such vehicles. More>>
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Though Whitlock were never an important car manufacturer, they were a persistent one, as the company was nominally active in car manufacture for around thirty years. However, the name of Henry Whitlock & Company dates back long before the motor era to 1778, when they were London coachbuilders. At the 1883 Sportsman's Exhibition, Henry Whitlock, Carriage Builder, by now boasting the Royal Appointment, and operating from factories at Holland Park and Turnham Green, 'invited Inspection of Carriages of all kinds from the Four-in-Hand Drag to the Pony Carriage ... First of Style! Sound Work! Moderate Charges!' More>>
Wills Sainte Claire
Wills Sainte Claire (USA Edition)
C. H. Wills used all his skills in metallurgy in developing a new car, as different in concept from the utilitarian Model T as it was possible to imagine, and named it the Wills Sainte Claire. It was the first car to use molybdenum steel in its construction, and the connecting rods were made from aluminum. In its engineering, it reflected the work of Marc Birkigt as epitomised in the Hispano-Suiza aero-engine which had, among others, powered the SPAD biplanes of the Escadrille Lafayette. More>>
Willys (USA Edition)
The story of Willys takes many turns, with highs and lows in product lineup, changing financial conditions, sales records and slumps: but for the most part it is also the story of a remarkable man - John North Willys, who almost single-handedly created a great automotive empire. More>>
Winton Six
Winton (USA Edition)
Opinions vary as to who can actually claim the title as founder of the American automobile industry, but one thing is certain: one of the first to sell a production car to a private individual was Alexander Winton, who was born in a little village near Glasgow in Scotland in 1860. More>>
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At Unique Cars and Parts, we dont know of any other car make that rose from a more unlikely partnership than Wolseley - a partnership between a manufacturer of sheep-shearing machinery and a quick-firing-gun designer, but that is how it was. Their first car, designed by Herbert Austin, appeared in 1896 and the name also appeared on Austin/Morris British Leyland variants until 1975. More>>
Zust (USA Edition)
Roberto Zust, a Swiss engineer, is recorded as having joined the little Italian firm of Giiller & Groff as a partner in 1871. Based at Intra, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, the company specialised in the manufacture of steam engines for stationary and marine installations. Zust, it seems, was a pioneer of the steam turbine, and may have built some form of land-going steam vehicle in the 1890s, but the company, which moved to Milan in 1900, did not become interested in internal combustion until after the turn of the century. More>>
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A Brief History of the Automobile:

If you enjoyed the features listed on these pages, we hope you will also enjoy our "Brief History of the Automobile". From Cugnot's 1770 “Fardier” to the 1950's, by which time many manufacturers had succumb to financial difficulty, we have tried to capture all the important events and milestones of our favourite invention. In many ways the 1930s were a watershed - they saw the last of the big luxury cars from makers such as Hispano-Suiza, Duesenberg and Minerva, as well as the end of many small, independent manufacturers and coachbuilders (victims of the swing to mass-produced cars with pressed-steel bodies). The motor industry had reached the point where it had become vital to the economic well-being of the major industrialized countries. Now it was to prove just as vital in providing weapons of war.

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