All the Makes: Marcos to Mors
(1959 - present)
(1902 - 1933)
Founded in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA) in 1851, the company originally was concerned with the manufacture of flour grinding mill equipment. Like many companies of the era, the lure and associated kudos of manufacturing automibles proved tempting, and in 1902 production began of a small quantity of experimental cars, then fitted with an air-cooled V-twin engine.
In 1903 came an air-cooled V4, and experimental V6 and V8 engines were to follow, until the company developed the engine for which they are best known, the straight engine design. The 1909 Model 32 morphed into the Wasp, which would take out the famous Indianapolis 500. The Wasp would also take the honours as being the first ever car to be fitted with a rear view mirror.
The 1916 Model 34 was a highly advanced iteration, using aluminum not only for the straight-6 engine, but also the body and chassis. The car weighed in at a remarkable (for the time) 1495kg, the resultant power to weight ratio enabling the Model 34 to be driven from coast-to-coast as a puclicity stunt, and in doing so beating Erwin "Cannonball" Baker's record.
In 1929 Marmon introduced their most famous model, the sub US$1000 "Straight-8" Roosevelt. It should have been a great success, but the timing could not have been worse. Following the stock market crash that year, the company was beset with inevitable financial problems, and Howard Marmon's development of a V16 engine was a costly exercise at a time when excessive developmental expenditure was ill afforded.
Marmon also lost some of its best engineers, such as Owen Nacker who defected to Cadillac, and James Bohannon who went to Peerless. Both Cadillac and Peerless would use their talents to help develop a competitive V16, with Cadillac taking line honours.
Nevertheless the Marmon 16 did make it to market, the 8.0 liter engine producing 200 bhp (149 kW), very respectable figures for the time. But with the Great Depression in full swing, there was little market for such a large and expensive luxury vehicle, and only 400 would be manufactured over a three year period. By 1933 Marmon were on the ropes, and decided to discontinue automobile manufacture, instead manufacturing car parts and trucks.
MASERATI (1926 - present)
There were no less than five Maserati brothers involved
in the racing of both cars and motorcycles. Alfieri,
Bindo, Ettore, Ernesto and Mario made up the Maserati
dynasty, tragically sixth brother Carlo died in 1910
and there was even a seventh brother that died at birth.
In 1926 the five brothers built their first 1.5 liter
racer, and soon after Alfieri had a class win in the
. Technically speaking, there was a Maserati
car manufactured in 1925 for Turin manufacturer Diatto,
this being manufactured as a Grand Prix car, however
this was sleeved down to produce the first 1.5 liter
At first the brothers concentrated on the
exclusive manufacture of racing cars, however in 1932
Alfieri was tragically killed in a racing accident.
Mario left the business to become an artist, leaving
three to carry on, however by 1937 the company was
struggling and industrialist Adolfo Orsi gained a controlling
The remaining brothers would sign a ten year
consultancy agreement, however on its expiry they left
the company to form OSCA sports cars. Orsi and his
son Omer were forced to find somebody extremely talented
to fill the void left by the departure of the Maserati
brothers, and a genius they did find, in one Gioacchino
Colombo (who had already gained experience at both
Ferrari and Alfa Romeo). He would oversee production
of masterful race cars such as the 250F, which Juan
Fangio piloted to victory in the 1957 Driver’s Championship.
That same year
the company released their first real road car, the 3500GT
coupé. By 1966 the road-going line-up had swelled
in number, to now include the Quattro Porte saloon, Mexico
V8 coupe and Ghibli. These were all more traditional
front engined cars, and Maserati being the company that
they were (and still are) needed a mid-engined iteration
to take the fight up to Ferrari – and thus begat
the wonderful Bora V8 of 1971. In 1971 the Orsi sold
their interest to Citroen, who wanted access to
the technology of high performance engines to enhance
the engineering on their upcoming SM coupe.
the SM was quite a car, affording the best of French
road-going design with one of the sweetest V6 engines
under the hood, courtesy of Maserati. Citroen
bailed in 1975, allowing Alejandro DeTomaso (with some
financial backing from the Italian government) to take
control, however it was always a struggle for survival
for the company. Nevertheless some fantastic sheet
metal left the company, such as the Kylami coupe, Khamsin
2+2 and V6 engined Merak. In 1993 the company was taken
over by Fiat.
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MATHIS (1910 - 1950)
MATRA (1965 - 1993)
Made the jump from aeronautical
engineering contractor to car manufacturer
in 1964 when it assumed control of
René Bonnet sports cars. Thus the
René Bonnet Djet was sold as a Matra,
but when production switched to their new
facility at Romorantin the company would
launch the M530, a svelt Ford V4 powered
coupé. Built Formula 1 cars through
the 1960's, even getting the backing of
both the French government and oil giant
Elf to develop a new Formula 1 car.
Production vehicles were, unfortunately,
obtaining only mediocre sales success, more
because of an almost non existant
dealership network than having a poor
product. Forced to combine with Simca,
creating Matra-Simca in 1969. The first car
of note from this union was the mid-engined
Bagheera sports of 1973, featuring a 1.3
liter engine transversly mounted inside a
Then followed the mainly
Simca derived 4x4 Matro Rancho, and in 1980
the steel bodied Murena sports, now fitted
with a more sporting 2.2 liter Chrysler
engine. In 1983 it left Peugeot-Citroen to
join forces with Renault, creating the
Espace and with it the catch phrase "people
MAYBACH (1921 - 1941)
MAZDA (1960 - present)
Mazda is one of the great success stories of recent
automotive history. While car manufacture did not begin
until 1960, the Hiroshima based Toyo Cork Kogyo company
had been in existence since 1920, concerned with the
manufacture of motorcycles, machine tools and drilling
equipment. In 1931 the company began the manufacture
of a light truck, and was renamed Mazda, both in recognition
of its founder Jujior Matsuda, and in honour of Mazda,
the god of light.
In 1940 a prototype car was manufactured,
but the countries incursion on Pearl Harbour put pay
to any automotive aspirations of the day. Amazingly
the Mazda facility would only suffer very minor damage
after the B-29 “Enola Gay” dropped the “little
boy” atomic bomb, although truck production did
not re-commence until the 1950’s.
The first Mazda
car was released in 1960, a micro car powered by a
V-twin air-cooled 21.72ci 356cc engine. Immensely popular
(and affordable), the company would sell 20,000 in
the first year. The next model inevitably grew in size
and stature, the P-360 now featuring a water-cooled
engine and available in either 2 or 4 door body styles.
Then came the Familia, a 4 door sedan fitted with a
782cc four cylinder engine; outwardly the car looked
very conventional, but look a little closer and you
could see the Mazda engineers had thought outside the
square, the engine being manufactured from light alloy
and the options box including either a 4 speed manual
or 2 speed automatic transmission. The Familia was
responsible for not only raising the profile of Mazda
in it’s home market, but for pushing it to third
place on the Japanese sales charts, some 80,000 being
sold in 1965 alone.
Bertone was commissioned to style
a larger variant to help fill out the Mazda line-up,
the 929 (also known as Cosmo or Luce) was fitted with
a 1.5 liter engine, but again there was a difference,
this time the options box included a very unusual offering – the
Mazda had for some time shown interest
in the rotary engine, and had finally bought a licence
from NSU to build their own version after shipping
samples from Germany. The first Mazda to be fitted
with a rotary was the Cosmo 110S coupe, it also sharing
the honour of being the first mass-produced rotary
powered car in the world. By 1978 Mazda had sold over
1 million rotary powered cars.
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(1901 - present)
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.
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MERCER (1910 - 1925)
(1938 - present)
The initial success of the Ford empire was clearly
due to Henry Ford’s decision to keep things
simple, in design, application and model line-up.
But by the 1930’s competition was forcing Ford
to do a major re-think of this strategy, and a move
to a more up-market offering would also require the
establishment of a different division, a brand that
offered clear differentiation from Ford.
catered to the top tier, but for the burgeoning middle
ranks Mercury would take the lead. In fact, the jump
from the more humble Ford V8 to the Lincoln Zephyr
was quite substantial, so Edsel Ford together with
sales chief Jack Davis came up with the Mercury Eight.
An overnight sensation, the car would sell over 70,000
in 1939 and make it a household name in the US. Taking
the middle ground between Ford and Lincoln, it inevitably
drew upon the enormous parts bin of both divisions.
The 1941 Mercury used a Ford body shell, then after
World War 2 the Mercury Type 72 Coupe used a Lincoln
body shell. The 1960 Comet used a Ford Falcon body,
and the Cougar two door coupe of 1967 would become
an almost direct competitor to the Mustang.
would turn distinctively Ford, the Cougar really
being a Thunderbird with slightly different sheet
metal, and during the 1980’s and 1990’s
the identity of the marque would become less prestigious.
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MESSERSCHMITT (1955 - 1964)
Willy Messerschmitt would join the Bavarian Aircraft
Works (BFW) in 1927 as chief designer and engineer.
Willy was a firm believer in the notion of “light weight
construction”, taking separate load-bearing parts
and merging them into a single re-enforced firewall,
thereby saving weight and improving performance. The
BF108 “Taifun” sports-plane would soon
make the theory fact, it going on to set numerous speed
The Luftwaffe watched the engineering triumphs
of Willy Messerschmitt with considerable interest,
and following the success of the Taifun the company
was invited to submit a design for the 1935 fighter
contest. Their entry was the incredible BF109, arguably
the best fighter of World War 2. Willy Messerschmitt
would become a favored son of the Nazi party, and Messerschmitt
AG was established with their backing on July 11, 1938.
With the renaming , the company's RLM designation changed
although existing iterations, such as the Bf 109 and
110, retained their earlier designation in official
documents. After World War 2, the company was not allowed
to produce aircraft, and like Heinkel they turned their attention
to the manufacture of a cheap three wheeled bubble cars,
known as Kabinenroller (cabinscooter).
/ KR200 were built in a time of post war austerity, and
despite the many drawbacks of such a vehicle those that
owned one were considered very fortunate. Rumors abounded
that the Messerschmitt’s were being constructed
from old aeroplane parts, but this was untrue. Nevertheless
the Fritz Fend designed bubble cars would reach cult
status, a red KR200 even being owned for a time by
Elvis Presley. The cars were actually made by Fritz
Fend's own company in the Messerschmitt works at Regensburg,
Willy Messerschmitt having little to do with the vehicles
other than ruling that they carried his name.
aircraft influence certainly showed itself in his desire
to achieve a light yet stiff frame with low wind resistance
from the tandem seating with aerodynamic steel body.
This resulted in a surprisingly high performance from
175 and later 200cc single cylinder two-stroke engines.
Some would say that his ultimate achievement with the
Kabinenroller was the four-wheeled TG500 or 'Tiger'
with a twin cylinder 490cc engine capable of higher
speeds and sports car handling. However, there is little
doubt that the best developed and most successful was
the three-wheeled KR200. Production of the KR200 ceased
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(1924 - 1980 and 1985 -
Cecil Kimber, then General Manager for Morris, is credited
by most as pioneer of the MG brand after he instigated
the manufacture of the Morris Cowley. In 1924 the Morris
Oxford would prove valuable as a donor car, used to
form the basis of a small series of sporting four-seaters.
Sanctioned by William Morris (owner of both Morris
Motors and Morris Garages), Kimber's sporty new car
would be dubbed the MG Super Sports. Grew out of its
premises and moved to Edmund Road, not far from the
big Morris factory in Cowley, and then again in 1929
to a disused leather factory at Abingdon.
In 1928 introduced
the 18/80 model, this time only the Morris engine remained,
the chassis and coachwork entirely MG. Corporate changes
in 1935 saw Morris take direct control of both Wolseley
and MG, and the Abingdon design department was closed.
After World War 2 began the manufacture of the wonderful
TC sports-car, it being a very lightly modified TB.
Although the TC was produced only in right-hand-drive,
it introduced MG to the important US market.
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(1899 - 1939)
Little known and relatively short-lived
auto manufacturer from Belgium, but was for
a time the chosen brand for the Kings of
Norway, Sweden and naturally enough Belgium
(and it is reported that Henry Ford once
drove one). Founded by Sylvain de Jong, a
bicycle manufacturer, who progressed to
making cycle-cars, then two, four and the
whopping 6.2 liter 6 cylinder models.
World War I began exporting their larger
cars to the US. Upon Sylvain de Jong's
death in 1928 the company quickly lost
direction, and despite many attempts to
prevent its collapse, including
intervention by the Belgian government, it
would cease automobile manufacture at the
outset of war. Lingered on for a time,
through the war creating commercial
vehicles and then a 4x4 in 1955.
MITSUBISHI (1917 - 1921 and 1953 - present)
Mitsubishi is one of the largest companies of the
world, and automobile manufacture makes up only one
part of the conglomerates empire. It was originally
established in 1870 as a shipping concern, then became
one of the pioneering Japanese automotive manufacturers
when it manufactured its first car in 1917 – only
around 20 of the Fiat designed Model A would be manufactured
before the company decided to concentrate on other
endeavours in 1921, including the manufacture of trucks
It spent many years manufacturing the infamous
A6M “Zero” fighter which rose to prominence
in World War 2, then it would take until 1953 before
the company again ventured in the automotive arena,
this time building Jeeps under licence. In 1959 came
the 500, a typical Japanese micro car that used a three
cylinder 2 stroke engine. Renamed the Colt, it would
inevitably grow in size from the fastback 800 to the
In 1966 Mitsubishi attempted to launch
their large six-cylinder “Debonair” in
Australia, it brimming with standard kit such as air-conditioning,
automatic transmission, electric seat adjustment and
a self-seeking radio, however it came at a time when
Australians chose to buy Japanese for only one reason – their
low price – and it proved far from successful.
During the 1970’s the company showed some bold
initiative, releasing the stylish Galant coupe in 1974,
and later developing the “Astron” engine,
which featured a balancer shaft to smooth out unwanted
vibration, an unwanted characteristic of nearly all
4 cylinder engines up until that time. Export markets
came courtesy of a tie-in with US manufacturer Chrysler,
the Mitsubishi’s being re-badged as Chryslers
to enable the company to bolster their product offering.
The first Sigma’s offered in Australia were re-badged
as Chrysler’s, but when financial problems beset
the giant Chrysler Corporation Mitsubishi Motors Australia
Limited were ready to assume control. The company inherited
a dynamic team of engineers, designers and managers,
many of whom had worked with Chrysler since its Australian
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MONTEVERDI (1967 - 1982)
Established in Switzerland in 1967 by Peter Monteverdi
who, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, had built,
sold and raced a number of "specials" while
developing the motor vehicle repair business founded
by his father. In 1967 Peter decided to undertake series
production of exclusive high performance luxury sports
and touring cars. The first model, the 2-seater Monteverdi
High Speed 375S coupe, was launched at that years Frankfurt
Motor Show to critical acclaim.
Designed by Pietro
Frua it featured aluminum body panels over a square-tube
space frame, a De Dion rear axle, and was powered by
a Chrysler V8 engine delivering 380 bhp. Other '375'
models were introduced in subsequent years, all featuring
the same basic layout but with variations in wheelbase
and power outputs and including 2+2, 4-door 4-seater,
and 2-seat convertible versions.
A smaller BMW based
2000 GTI model was shown in 1969 but failed to make
production.The high point came with the mid-engined
2 seater Monteverdi Hai 450, first shown at the 1970
Geneva Salon. But the proglem with the Hai was the
cost, it far exceeding that of competing Ferrari and
Lamborghini models. Out of the reach of almost the
entire world population, only 2 are believed to have
been produced. From 1976 the high-performance models
were discontinued and Monteverdi concentrated on Safari,
Sierra and the Sahara, based on International Harvester's
Scout II and Traveller series.
These models sold in
greater numbers than the preceding sports cars and
remained in production until 1982. Then between 1980
and 1982 Monteverdi would manufacture their own unique
version of the 4 door Range Rover, however despite
ambitious plans for subsequent models production would
cease in 1982, and the factory was converted into a
museum, the Monteverdi Car Collection, in 1985.
MORGAN (1910 - present)
Following his training with the Great Western
Railway, Morgan would set up a car dealership in
Malvern Link, Worcestershire. Here, and in his spare
time, the young Morgan would build his own iterations,
one such three wheeled version using a Peugeot engine
and independent front suspension.
Believing in the
genius of his son, Morgan’s clergyman father
would finance the establishment of the Morgan Motor
company in 1910, then manufacturing the now famous
3 wheelers using JAP engines. Immediately successful,
the company would hit a production high of 1000 by
1914, then after World War 1 sales would boom, particularly
with the release of the four-seater “Family
Morgan” of 1919.
The V-Twin engine proved tractable
and powerful, and would quickly garner legend status
with those of a racing inclination. The first “four-wheeler” came
in 1935 with the release of the 4/4, the company
forced to add the extra wheel when it became evident
the time of the 3 wheelers was coming to an end.
The final 3-wheeler was manufactured in 1952, and
the 4/4 was replaced by the 2.1 liter Plus Four in
1950. H.F.S. Morgan would pass in 1959, however he
left the company to his four daughters and son Peter.
Many thought the company would soon fold, but instead
it would flourish. The Rover V8 powered Plus 8 was
released in 1968, it using design cues from the original
3 wheel two seat design of 1910.
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MORRIS (1912 - 1984)
We are all familiar with Henry Ford, and the impact
he had on the mass production of the automobile. Lesser
known perhaps, but providing a similarly important
role to the British car industry was William Morris
(later Lord Nuffield), who believed firmly in the need
to produce cheap cars for the masses. Morris himself
started out manufacturing motorcycles, but his attention
soon turned to automobiles, and he was determined to
make his company a success. The first iteration was
the 1912 Oxford, named after the nearby city of Oxford
(the Morris factory being at Cowley). But the Oxford
moniker was soon replaced by the rather less attractive
name “Bullnose” by
most, because of the distinctive rounded radiator grille.
Powered by a small White and Poppe four cylinder engine
producing 10hp (7.5 kW), only 1000 would be manufactured
before the outbreak of war. Next came the larger Cowley,
which used a 1.5 liter US built Continental engine, and
then after the war both cars had their engine capacities
upgraded. As production methods were streamlined, costs
inevitably fell, and instead of the savings being consumed
by greedy executives they were instead passed on to the
The Cowley, albeit with a slightly lower
level of trim, had £100 slashed from the price,
a huge sum at the time. Inevitably there was an increase
in demand, and with the added cash-flow Morris set about
the strategic acquisition of key components suppliers,
including Hotchkiss engines, Wrigley transmissions, SU
carburetors and Hillock and Pratt bodies. The “Bullnose” radiator
would be dropped in 1927, replaced by a less distinctive
but more traditional flat design.
The “Empire Oxford” was
designed for export to the then British Empire, it featuring
a 2.5 liter six cylinder engine mated to a four speed
gearbox and worm final drive. In 1934 hydraulic brakes
were introduced across the range, and larger versions
appeared such as the long wheelbase Ten-Six and top of
the range 3.5 liter Twenty-Five. The trusty Minor was
replaced by the side-valve Eight in 1935, and was available
in saloon or open tourer models.
The Eight was replaced
by the E Series just before the war, and all models would
go back into production following the cessation of hostilities.
But the best would come in 1948 with Alec Issigonis masterpiece
Morris Minor. Designed by Issigonis and A. V. Oak, it
was originally intended to be a front wheel drive flat
four iteration, but time constraints meant the design
retained the old 918cc side valve rear-wheel-drive configuration.
But it was technically well advanced, offering rack-and-pinion
steering, independent front suspension, unitary construction,
a roomy interior, excellent handling and great fuel economy.
In fact, it was such a hit that it would remain in manufacture
right up until 1971! Morris merged with Austin in 1952,
forming the British Motor Corporation (BMC).
overhead-valve engines were favored over the older design
Morris side valve units, the Minor now equipped with
a 49ci 803cc engine taken from the Austin A30, the 1954
Cowley received the 73ci 1.2 liter B Series, and the
Oxford received the 1.5 liter version. Over the next
few decades, the Austin and Morris cars became increasing
an exercise in badge engineering, being virtually identical
versions of the same thing.
This was never more evident
that with the other Alec Issigonis masterpiece, the Mini,
that was available as either the Austin Seven or Morris
Mini Minor. The last “Morris” only iteration
was the woeful Marina, the victim of British automotive
industry upheaval during the 1970’s. Build quality
was non-existent, and it would tarnish a marque better
known for producing high quality affordable automobiles
for the masses.
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(1895 - 1925)
Mors was one of the best known of French automobiles at the turn of last century, it making its sporting debut in the Paris-Dieppe race of 1897 when driven by Emile Mors. This first outing would herald the start of a long and torrid struggle with Panhard. The first Mors had an 850cc two-cylinder engine at the back, with belt drive and magneto ignition. Next year there were water-cooled V4's, but these were not quite enough to make them terribly competitive, even the Peugeot twins were quicker.
By 1899 the Mors were up to 7.3 liters, this being enough to help them take out the two biggest automotive events of that year, the Bordeaux-Perigueux-Bordeaux at 48.4 mph (77.89 km/h), and the Paris-Toulouse-Paris. For the first time, Panhard had to take a back seat...and Mors were not going to stop there. Their next engine grew in capacity to a whopping 13.6 liters.
Better yet, the mechanical specifications of the Mors was fairly advanced for the time, the inlet valves being mechanically operated,
however they did stick with the use of a chain drive. There last great victory however would come in 1903, in the Paris-Madrid race. Mors' very last effort was in the 1908 Grand Prix car, a 12.8 liter ohv four-cylinder iteration, still with magneto and chain drive, but alledged to boast a credible 100 bhp.
The factory team achieved nothing, and their attempted come-back in 1914 with a 2.5 liter sleeve-valve engine was frustrated by the war. In 1921 Malcolm Campbell was the English agent, he running a 3.5 liter Knight engined car at Brooklands
. By now, however, the Mors name meant little to most car enthusiasts, and even the great man himself had to quit his agency. The company struggled on until 1925.