All the Makes: Ballot to Buick
(1919 - 1933)
Founded by engineer Ernest Ballot who had considerable
experience in the development of marine engines when
attached to the French Merchant Marines, and then racing
engines for the likes of Delage, Mass and La Licorne.
Gained financial backing for the development of a Ernest
Henry designed 4.9 liter 8 cylinder race car after
World War I to compete in the US Indianapolis 500.
Soon turned its attention to Grand Prix racing, specifically
the French GP. Built some pretty respectable road going
cars based on the race specials, but succumb to the
BENTLEY (1921 - present)
Founded by Walter Owen "WO" Bentley who started out
modifying the French DFP cars before deciding he could
do much better. For a decade Bentley was responsible
for manufacturing large, exotic, fast and very expensive
motor cars. Collapsed in 1925, recovered then collapsed
again in 1931 - then taken over by Rolls-Royce.
name was then used on modified and tuned Rollers. After
World War II several
"unique" Bentleys were manufactured, including the
beautiful two-door R-type Continental of 1952 and S-type
of 1955. Rolls-Royce, and thus Bentley, were taken
over in 1998 by Volkswagen, then in turn BMW.
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(1885 - 1926)
Most historians agree that Karl Benz's first prototype
of 1885 was the worlds first petrol-powered car. Benz
was to start out working as a carriage builder and
at a stationary engine manufacturer, where he quickly
thought it a good idea to combine the two to make a
better mode of transport.
It would take him 5 years,
and a couple of partners (allowing him to concentrate
on his engineering) to see the first Benz tricycle
reach limited production. This three-wheeler morphed
into the four-wheel Viktoria in 1891, forming the basis
for van and bus versions.
The four-wheel version became
very popular, and by the turn of the century Benz was
the largest automobile manufacturer. Fierce competition
from other manufacturers would see Benz leave the company
bearing his name, in favour of Hans Nibel, who soon
embarked on a motor racing effort that would once again
raise the companies profile.
Most noteable was the
"Blitzen-Benz", powered by a 21.5 liter airship engine!
Designed to hold the land speed record, it not only
achieved it but would hold the record for another decade.
Economic hardship following World War I forced Benz
to merge with another German manufacturer, Daimler.
BERLIET (1895 - 1939)
Almost as earlier manufacturer as Benz, builder of
advanced automobiles, some featuring 4 speed gearboxes
and wheel (rather than tiller) steering. The range
expanded to include much larger cars following the
merger with Audibert-Lavirotte, then built some of
the most advanced cars of the day, featuring such innovations
as four-wheel braking, overhead valves and, by 1936
in the Dauphine, rack-and-pinion steering, independent
front suspension and an all-synchro four speed gearbox.
Lost its way in the pre-war years, buying body panels
from Peugeot. Concentrated on truck manufacture after
the war, but never again built a car.
BITTER (1973 - 1986)
Founded by Erich Bitter who had been using Opel bodies
and imported Abarth tuning parts from Italy in the
late 1960's as well as Intermeccanica cars - but became
dissilusioned with quality issues. Launced the Bitter
CD 2+2 Coupe in 1973, based on a shortened Opel Diplomat
chassis and Chev 5.3 liter V8 engine, the beautiful
bodies were manufactured by Baur of Stuttgart.
petrol crisis of the mid-70's hit Bitter hard, but
undeterred they continued on to develop the SC coupe,
convertible and saloon.
BMW (1928 - present)
Turned to car manufacture after successfully manufacturing
aero engines (from which the emblem is derived), and
then motorcycles. Took over the Dixi concern, who were
manufacturing Austin Sevens under licence, slowly expanding
its range, the majority featuring a glorious 6 cylinder
engine. Concentrated on motorcycle construction during
the war, then from the ruins choose to manufacture
exclusive and expensive limousines.
Able to fund the
development of sports cars by building, under license,
the hugely successful Iso Isetta bubble car. After
many close calls, things did not look good for the
marque in the late 1950's, the make or break model
was the 1961 1500 saloon. The formula used was to build
a sublime chassis more befitting a true sports car,
equip it with an eager but economical engine and have
it power through the rear wheels. This same formula
is used today.
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LEON BOLLEE (1895 - 1933)
Under the stewardship of his father who had been building
steam carriages, Léon Bollée continued the
family tradition by building a three-wheeled Voiturette
(little car). Very successful, it would be built under
license by other manufacturers, however Bollée
had his heart set on manufacturing larger more mainstream
vehicles. He designed and manufactured (in small quantities)
several iterations destined for the US market from
his fathers factory in Le Mans, however he would unfortunately
pass prematurely in 1913.
Never able to fund the development
necessary to keep pace with other manufacturers, the
company was sold to Sir William Morris in 1924, when
it then used Morris chassis and fitted them with elegant
Van Vestrant bodywork. When Morris suffered financial
difficulty Bollee was sold out to the Société Nouvelle
Léon Bollée, however this venture would only
prolong the inevitable for another two years.
(1960 - 1979)
Grew from hobby-car manufacturer to serious kit-car
manufacturer with the release of the Mk. IV. Gained
an ever growing following of loyal devotees, who liked
the idea of choosing their own mechanicals. In 1967
Bolwell released the Mk. VII, for the first time the
purchaser being able to choose to have the car assembled
by the factory.
The high point came in 1969 with the
release of the Mk. VIII Nagari, many design innovations
being incorporated following Graeme Bolwell's return
from a working holiday in the UK, much of his time
being spent with Lotus - although the use of the Ford
302 or 351ci V8's added considerably to the allure. Lost its way by 1979, trying to create a futuristic
grand tourer that looked a little to kit-car esque,
only able to reach sales of 20 in Australia before
the concept was sold to a company in Greece.
BOND (1948 - 1974)
Founded by Lawerence 'Lawrie' Bond, a car designer
fascinated by light weight and efficiency. Started
out manufacturing lightweight hill-climb specials and
500cc formula race cars before the war, but turned
to serious production in 1948 with the release of the
Bond Minicar. The concept was to build a lightweight
3-wheeler that would be extremely cheap to run in a
still petrol rationed UK. Using a Villiers two-stroke
engine complete with cord-pull starting, the Bond offered
no rear suspension, no roof and cable brakes to the
rear wheels only - and best of all you only needed
a motorcycle license to drive one.
Over time, the Minicar
would grow in size and offer more equipment, although
its utalitarian nature would see it fall from favour
as people gained affluence, and it would be dropped
althogther in 1962. Instead, Bond built the Equipe
GT 2+2 Coupé based on a Triumph Herlad chassis
and mechanicals. A little less successful than hoped
for, Bond decided its future remained in the manufacture
of 3 wheelers, and in 1966 announced the release of
the all new 875, this iteration using mechanicals from
the Hillman Imp. Bonds main competitor, Reliant, took
over the company in 1969, allowing the manufacturer
one last swan song, the bright orange wedge shaped
Using Reliant running gear, the large canopy
hinged upward with the assistance of a telescopic strut
therefore avoiding the inclusion of costly doors. Unfortunately
the Bug never captured the hearts of the youth at which
it was pitched, and production ended in 1974 after
only some 2500 had been manufactured.
BORGWARD (1924 - 1960)
Founded by Dr. Carl F.W. Borgward - a fitter and
turner who, after surviving World War 1, would purchase
a small manufacturing business and transform it into
an automotive component manufacturer of both radiators
and fenders. The company’s first true automobile
would be the 1924 200cc 2-stroke “Blitzkarren” delivery
vehicles, which led to the more successful “Goliath” light
commercials. In a stroke of automotive and
economic genius, Borgward purchased shares in the
ailing Hansa-Lloyd company for a fraction of their
value, effectively taking control.
In 1930 he would
purchase the company outright and merge it with Goliath.
In 1931 came the three-wheeled Goliath Pionier, then
in 1934 came the Hansa 1100 and 1700, these latter
iterations proving to be good looking and well made,
and being widely regarded as the cars that re-established
the marque. During the war Borgward built military
vehicles, but by wars end little of the production
facilities were left. Not to be defeated, Borgward
(who was now in his mid 50’s) would rebuild
and, in 1949, would release the first “all
new” German car, the Borgward Hansa 1500.
succession of larger capacity models would follow
- including a diesel
version, but it was the totally
new Hansa 1500 released in 1954 for which the company
is best remembered. Soon to be renamed the Isabella,
over 200,000 would be manufactured, including arguably
the highpoint of Borgward design, the Isabella Coupé.
BRISTOL (1947 - present)
Derived from the Bristol Aeroplane Company who were
looking for other products to manufacture following
the end of World War II. Parts derived from other manufacturers,
the cars were built to aerocraft standard, and were
of both an extremely high standard and extremely expensive.
The Bristol 400 of 1947 used a BMW sourced 2 liter
six cylinder engine derived from the 328, this evolving
into the 403, then 404 Coupe and 405 four door. Found
the best formula to be large 2 door coupes, wedded
to Chrysler derived V8 engines.
BRITISH SALMSON (1934 - 1947)
When French company Salmson decided to expand its empire,
it choose a factory in Raynes Park London to manufacture
its air-cooled radial aircraft engines. In an attempt
to better utilise production capacity, management decided
to also manufacture cars at the same facility, commencing
in 1934 with the 1.5 liter British Salmson two or four
seater sports. By 1936 a 6 cylinder iteration had joined
the line-up, but during World War II British Salmson
were forced to cease production. Only one car would
be manufactured post war.
BROOKE (1902 - 1913)
Most agree this was the first company to design and
manufacture a transverse-mounted three-cylinder engined
vehicle, it going to market in 1902. Subsequent vehicles
became more conventional, the 14/20 being a 3.2 liter
4 cylinder, the 25/30 being a whopping 9.2 liter. The
company quickly decided the automotive industry was
far too competitive to allow sufficient profit margins,
deciding instead to manufacture other more lucrative
BROUGH SUPERIOR (1935 - 1939)
Founded by George Brough, who had established a stellar
reputation for building exclusive, expensive and highly
sought after motorcycles. Impressed by the success
others were having fitting high-powered US engines
to light British sports cars, Brough decided to branch
out into car manufacture himself. The Brough Superior
was fitted with Hudson straight-six and straight-eight
engines - but unlike its competitors a Brough did not
compromise on style nor comfort. Things were going
well, and in 1939 the awesome V12 Brough fitted with
a Charlesworth body. The company was still in its infancy
at the outbreak of war, and no attempt was made to
ressurect the marque.
BSA (1907 - 1940)
BSA stands for "Birmingham Small Arms", a gun manufacturer
established in 1861. When the decision was made to
diversify, they choose the Otto Dicycle, successful
they decided to make a copy of the 1908 40bhp Itala.
2 years later they were manufacturing motorcycles (for
which to this day they are better known), then ventured
into the 4 wheeled variety when they purchased Daimler
in 1910. The first BSA's were small versions of the
Daimler, complete with sleeve-valve engines.
World War I BSA released the V-twin Ten three-wheeler,
and although production stopped for a time in favour
of the Daimler derivative, it would return in 1929
with the welcome addition of a fourth wheel. Production
stopped again in 1934, but was re-released a year later
as the front-wheel-drive Scout. During the war BSA
developed the Daimler armoured car and armoured Scout,
although the war-time version was extensively different
to the peace time iteration. After the war, management
decided to leave their car making days behind them,
instead concentrating on motorcycles.
(1909 - 1956
Founded by Ettore Bugatti, a gifted engineer who had
manufactured his own 4 cylinder engine by the age of
20. The Milanese Bugatti would work for an array of
leading European manufacturers, including Benz, before
starting the manufacture of his own cars in France.
His first car was a design carried over from his time
at Benz, and it was not long before Bugatti's began
to win races, such as Ernst Freidrich winning his class
(and outright second place) in the 1911 French GP when driving a 1.4 liter Type 13.
Most famous for the Type 35
2 liter race car, although decided to build a mammoth
saloon the 'Royale' in 1926, a fuel guzzling monster
just in time for the Great Depression. The Royale chassis morphed into preambulating boudoirs at the hands of coachbuilders, who often fitted the beast with silks, leathers and rare woods.
During the depression
Bugatti diversified, building high-speed rail cars,
aircraft and boats. Bugatti’s son Jean would
take over car production at the Molsheim facility,
but would be tragically killed test driving a race
special. Ettore moved to Bordeaux during the war, and
teaming with son Roland manufactured the 1.5 liter
Type 73. Ettore would pass in 1947, and the company
struggle on for a time until being bought out by Hispano-Suiza.
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(1903 - present
Founded by David Dunbar Buick in 1903, it only survived
one year of independence before financial problems
would see the need to bring William C Durant into the
company. Durants capital injection was put to good
use, the new Buick factory turning the fledgling company
into a success story that survives to this day. From
that factory was born the "Model C" - almost the most
popular car around, 2nd only to Henrys Model T.
1908 had become part of the GM empire, but decided
to maintain market position by innovation, Delco electric
lights and starters being made standard by 1914, the
same year they would release a 6 cylinder model B-55.
Quietly kept alive the US tradition of making each
successive model bigger and more elaborate, and by
1931 had released a straight-eight overhead valve model.
Synchro gearboxes were introduced in 1932, independent
front suspension in 1934.
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