Rare Auto Makers of the UK (Part 3b)

As with every nation known for making cars, the UK has quite a few small makers that are worth taking note of. Unlike most nations most of the smaller auto manufacturers seem to start their name with an “A.” Just kidding, although you’ll see it’s sort of true. We hope you enjoy this brief list of them. If you know of some we missed please comment. (PS yes, I know the picture says part 3a. Again I recycle the graphics for the rare makers.)

AC

AC Cars Ltd was one of the first car makers of Great Britain. It makes sports cars set apart by excellent dynamics and racing qualities. AC stood for Auto Carriers Ltd. in the beginning. Around 1901 the Weller brothers began tinkering with a making a car, a 20 HP touring car which they presented at the Crystal Palace motor show in 1903.

Their business manager and financial backer, John Portwine, was a butcher by trade. He didn’t want to take that full car into production. It was too big and only useful as a passenger vehicle. So they decided to crate a 3 wheeled delivery vehicle first.

In 1904 the company, now names Autocars and Accessories, debuted a very popular single seater with a cargo box behind it. Three years later they made a version available with a bench seat in place of the cargo box, called the sociable.

1927 Royal Saloon Car

The company became Auto Carriers Ltd. in 1911, adopted their round logo, and produced their first four-wheeled car in 1913. WWI put the company on hold for a bit. In 1921, Selwyn Edge (previously of Napier), pushed the John’s Weller & Portwine out of the company, renaming it to AC Cars Ltd. and began promoting the car through racing.

Sales declined and the company was bought out by the Hurlock family who had not interest in making cars. Hurlocks ran a successful haulage business and wanted the factory on High Street as a warehouse. They continued to service cars until they agreed in 1930 to start producing cars again. In 1932 they contracted with Standard to supply new chassis. The 2nd world war shut them down again, but after the war AC got a government contract to produce the odd-looking Thundersley Invacar Type 57. This crazy thing had a fibreglass-body, one seat, and a Villiers 2-stroke engines. This odd car was designed for wounded veterans, distributed for free to the disabled, and kept AC solvent for decades.

Invalid Car

Thus the company embarked on their continued journey as both an industrial/business car maker as well as a race/sports car maker.

As a race car maker they have a storied history including an early La Mans success but things really kicked into high gear when AC was approached by none other than Carol Shelby in 1961. He wanted to put a small block Ford Windsor V8 engine into an Ace chassis. The AC Ace could be a post unto itself having developed through a pattern of race team experimentation across Europe, which spawned production cars from AC based on the battlefield (racetrack) success of these modifications. (We say modification but don’t think they added a spoiler or something, we’re talking about rebuilds with new engines on an AC Chassis in some cases.)

The result of the Shelby collaboration also produced a set of cars (31 of them) that were ultimately sold to the public as Cobra 427 S/C. These cars sell for around $1.5 million if you can get your hands on one.

Arash

The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest creature on Earth and putting it’s image on the Arash emblem was a bold statement about the type of car Arash Farboud was going to make. Starting in 1999 Farbound committed to a new era of power and convenience in sports cars. Originally Farboud Limited, (name changed in ’06) Arash Motor Company makes Supercars and Hypercars based in Newmarket, Suffolk, England.

AF8

Of course it wouldn’t be a British car company without more drama than a high school cheer squad. So here is the short version. Arash’s first design, the Farboud GT, garnered a lot of attention at its debut in Birmingham NEC Autosport Show, but his second car, the Farboud GTS became a sought after design–by other designers. Chris Marsh worked for Arash (sales and marketing) and became obsessed with the car. Arash granted him licence to the shape allowing Chris to switch out he engine, stream line the doors and improve the interior, which gave the engine a link to bio-fuel. After trying to re-brand the car as “the Fangion” after deceased Argentine F1 racer, but being stopped by the family, Chris renamed it “the Farbio.”

Farbio GTS

Arash sold his shares of Farbio to Michael Simmonds, who later sold to Laurence Tomlinson of Ginetta fame, who kept the design and renamed the car the Ginetta F400.

Arash retained 100% of what is now Arash Motor Company and went on to design more fast and powerful cars–the AF10 (2009) and AF8 (2016). The AF10 is 7.0-litre V8 engine producing at least 500bhp. The AF8 is a mid-engined 7.0-litre V8 engine producing 505bhp (Brake Horsepower).

Ariel

You might think of Arial the Bicyle and later motorbike maker in Bournbrook, Birmingham, but we are talking about the tiny maker of cars in Crewkerne, in SomersetEngland, where a team of 7 to 30 people makes about 100 cars a year.

Founded by Simon Saunders in 1991, Arial makes 4 different designs.

The Atom is an extremely light, high performance car, with unique “exoskeleton” design, (no bodywork or roof) its built entirely around the tube chassis, making it weigh less than 500 kg (1,102 lb). If you want to look like you’re driving an F1 Racer on the street, the Atom is your only choice as there are no other street legal cars of this design. Powered by a Honda Civic Type-R engine and gearbox the 3.5R supercharged model will get you around 700 bhp per ton!

The Ace is Ariel’s attempt at a bike, which could be confusing given the historic bike maker mentioned above. It’s powered by a Honda 1237cc V4 engine and gearbox.

The Nomad can be thought of as an off-road version of the Atom. This road-legal buggy only produces 235bhp.

In August 2017, Ariel announced their electric sports car, called HIPERCAR (High Performance Carbon Reduction), APM200 electric motors, supplied by a Norfolk-based electric bus maker.

Ascari

Ascari Cars Ltd. is a producer of sports cars based in Banberi, UK. The company was founded by Dutch millionaire Klaas Zwart. The company is named after two-time F1 world champion Alberto Ascari (1918—1955).

Very little is known about Ascari. They established in Dorset originally, in 1994. In 2000 they built their new facility in Banbury in northern Oxfordshire.

Its first limited-edition car, the Ascari Ecosse, (1998). Ascari’s second car, the Ascari KZ1, was developed at Banbury, which also housed Team Ascari’s racing assets. The premises are now occupied by Haas F1 Team, of Newman Hass fame. We wouldn’t mention them at all if they stuck to race cars, but they did have a 2005 road-going version called the Ascari KZ1-R version of the A410 race car.

A full list of their cars and versions can be found at this link. Very pretty web surfing for folks like us.

Bristol

Bristol Cars is technically defunct in our opinion, though you could see some of their cars on the road if you get lucky. The manufactured a very small number of “deluxe” class cars by hand until March of 2011 when they suspended manufacture, changed their board members and fired 22 employees.

Bristol Cars was born out of the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1945 when the war effort would no longer be buying warplanes. Much of Bristol was bombed during WWII so the entire area was being remade and modernized.

Bristol Bullet

Interestingly, a new company was formed in 2011 to sell off components of the old one. The new company is owned by  Kamkorp Group, and mainly operated to service units it had previously sold. In 2018 they began talking about a new flagship cars design called the “Bullet” a two-seat, open-top sports car  which commemorated their 70th year as a company. Power is sourced from a naturally aspirated 4.8-litre BMW V8 producing 400 bhp, an tribute to their the Bristol 405 Drophead coupé. At least 8 completed chassis with BMW V8 before the company again dissolved without going into full production.

Lesser Known Japanese Car Makers (P2B)

I know the picture says Part 2 A, I stole a picture from myself to save time. We really needed to get straight into the fun part of the post which is car makers in Japan you have likely never near of.

Daihatsu

Officially founded in 1907, Daihatsu Kogyo Co. Ltd., is now a subsidiary of Toyota specializing in vehicle for export to more than 100 countries. This company LOVES their symbolism. Whether it’s their name, a combination of two hieroglyphs which together mean Osaka Production of Engine, or the illustration of their history which can be found at the website they created to celebrate their 110th birthday.

Why are they not listed as one of the oldest car companies in Japan when they were founded in 1907? The simple answer is that they got their start on a college campus as a partnership between Japanese businessmen and students and teachers of technology. The focus was on producing engines in Japan, including steam engines for use on boats–a more practical use of energy at the time.

Fuso

From the Website and the Logo you might be tempted to believe that Fuso is another subsidiary of Mitsubishi, and it is, except that currently the German car Company Daimler owns about 90% of the stock. Fuso makes buses and trucks since 1920’s as well as chassis for vans and the Fuso Canter pictured here.

Mitsuoka

Mitsuoka holds the record for having the creepiest logo. Susumu Mitsuoka founded the company in 1968, originally to do repairs and pre-sale prep, but they’ve quickly evolved to one of the most original car designers on the market. As for the logo, what’s officially described as “white figure “eight” and star inside a circle is depicted against the blue background” that’s instantly recognized by drivers all over the world, looks to us like something from the “Blair Witch Project.” But you tell us, love it or hate it, leave a comment.

Scion

Founded in 2003, Scion is a wholly owned concern of Toyota, making cars only for the American market. Translated, “scion” means Heir, but the logo was designed in California to appeal to surfers and water skiers. They offer only one configuration of each car model. Their flagship models are the SCION FUSE and SCION T2B.

Hino

If Hino is a new one for you, that’s not surprising. Most American drivers are commuters or sports enthusiasts. Hino is Japans leading truck manufacturer. How they got there is interesting. In 1942 Hino Heavy Industry Co., Ltd, split from Diesel Motor Industry Co., and dropped ‘heavy’ from their name after WWII. A few years after than they began to focus on their diesel truck and bus production. Now they’re totally owned by Toyota.

The How And Why Of Airbags

Why exactly were airbags invented? In 1952 John Hetrick suffered a crash in Pennsylvania after avoiding a deer and collided with a large rock. He wondered if cars could come with a safety cushion. He created a design on his kitchen table which sounds romantic but was probably just somewhere he went to design things.

Crash Detection

The first crash detection system was invented in 1967 by Allen K Breed, an electromechanical system which involved a ball-in-tube inflating an airbag via a magnet.

LBJ

Lyndon B Johnson said in a speech that all cars should have airbags as early as 1969. Despite this, it seems that airbags have been far from top priority for driver’s safety.

When a few of them were rolled out in the 1970s they ultimately weren’t seen as customer friendly until the 1990s. This is because using an airbag was likely to lead to secondary injuries until a less rigid version was created in 1991 which was safer to use.

A 1973 Chevrolet Impala had driver side airbags. They only lasted until 1977, the manufacturers saying that hardly any consumers were interested. Ford and GM would lobby against airbags as both unfeasible and impractical for a number of years. The first brand to make airbags standard from 1988 was Chrysler but they were very much in the minority.

Another Annoying Factor: Sensor Lights

There are many reasons why the sensor light will come on, one of them is driving through a ford or a flood. Whatever the reason, it should be checked out. The light may be red or yellow and may be flashing, depending on the car make. The location of the sensor also varies.

There was a time when manufacturers insisted that airbags should be replaced after 15 years, which still seems a reasonable amount of time when you think about it, but this is no longer the case. However, it is more important to check sensors on older air bags as wrong deployment can create injury and cause accidents.

Deployment Control

Exactly when and how airbags are deployed depends on the ECU (electronic control unit) which monitors the type of collision, the angle of impact and severity. A special algorithm works out if the factors for deployment have been met and which airbags should be deployed. It works by pyrotechnics, that is a small explosion, powered by backup battery.

Modern Airbags

Up to 10 airbags can be fitted in a modern vehicle, the most common being the driver and passenger. The principle of the airbag is to absorb energy and they are considered passive restraints in that they are not activated by the passenger.

Cars don’t especially need side airbags, but many manufacturers fit them anyway. Engineers are always coming up with new types of airbags such as rear curtain airbags and far-side airbags.

They still aren’t without incident, some people have been killed by airbags, mostly shorter people as they have to sit closer to the steering wheel. Unfortunately, these problems have yet to be resolved as of time of writing.

The Love of Three Wheeled Cars

Is a three-wheeler a car, or a bike? It depends on who you ask.

Designs of three wheeled cars vary, some are similar to motorized tricycles, some are more van-like, there are also those which are unmotorized as such.

How do cars stay upright? Why don’t they just fall to one side? They have the plus point of lower production costs, fewer parts to buy and less time to assemble, though the chassis must surely cost more than a traditional chassis.

Due to the CanAm Spider, people think three wheeled cars are a comparatively recent invention, but they have a long history.

Historically, the big reason for a three wheeled vehicle is to avoid special taxes levied on cars. And that continued to be the case for many centuries, at least in the UK.

Early Three Wheeled Cars

The first three wheeled car was powered by steam. It was hard to manoeuvre and crashed into a wall; not surprising as the intricacies of driving were a mystery at this point. It did however have a poor distribution of weight.

Morgan 3 Wheeler

Karl Benz invented the first motor car with three wheels but only 25 were sold between 1886 and 1893. It could be thought of an idea before its time.

Henry Morgan used a two-cylinder Peugeot engine and although he originally wished to manufacture a motorcycle he decided instead to turn it into a three wheeled car. It was first shown in Olympia in London during 1910.

There were a number of teething troubles, the public was looking for a vehicle which had more than one seat and Morgan had designed a one seat car. Unbowed, he went back to basics and produced a two-seater three wheeled car for 1911 which in turn was sold by Harrod’s department store.

Reliant Robyn

The Bond Minicar and the BMW Isetta were produced just after the second world war. Most drivers preferred the Mini as a smaller vehicle but there was always a niche market of buyers. Isetta is a bubble car company originating in Italy but other countries such as Argentina, France and UK built it under license. The company originally manufactured refrigerators.

The Campaigna T-Rex is a sleek Canadian car powered by a BMW engine. It first hit the market in 1996. Its balance is maintained by having two strong wheels in front. It produces 160hp, not bad for such a small vehicle.

Polaris Slingshot

The story of the Reliant Robin originated in the work of a bicycle company (Raleigh). The design of the car was created by Ogle Design, a famous car and transport design consultancy company which also created Triumph motorcycles and Chopper bikes. Although the company was founded in 1935 it didn’t produce a car until 1952. The last three wheeled car was produced in December 2011.

Next, we have the Polaris Slingshot which uses a four cylinder engine sourced by General Motors. This one has 173 horsepower, the first model unveiled in 2014. Should you wish to open it up it is helpful to know that it has a 5-speed manual transmission. It is marketed as a three wheeled motorcycle, rather than a car.

It does seem somewhat of a shame that three wheeled vehicles haven’t yet passed into the mainstream despite the many fans of these vehicles.

General Motors Throughout The World

Detroit Renaissance Center

It should come as little shock that the biggest factory in Detroit, based in the Renaissance Center, belongs to General Motors but this isn’t their only plant. How much does it account for in the grand scheme of their manufacturing and just how did GM become such a major player?

Plant Locations:

There are hundreds of factories around the world employing tens of thousands of people. The size of the GM payroll and how widespread it is, could be a reason they’re a major player. Let’s take a closer look at some of these locations.

In the US:

There are more than 100 facilities in cities across the US, including Arlington and Bay City. Of specific note is the Cadillac. These include assembly plants as well as part stamping plants, propulsion component and battery plants. Most, however, are distribution centers. Still, they’re vital parts of the local economies as it gives smaller communities a tie into a global product.

In the internet age it’s hard to grasp how difficult it was for a smaller city to bring in big business with international sales. It took something that required a lot of parts and that sold all over the world in high volume. This could be one reason GM is considered a major player.

Equinox

The GM Defence Concord Facility makes vehicles especially for the army. They have a factory in North Carolina which was previously used to make Chevrolets. GM has a long tie with defense contracts which could be another reason they’re a major business.

Mexico

There are several factories in Mexico, including the Equinox and the Trax. Vehicles such as the Saab and the Oldsmobile used to be made in Mexico. They also make pickups and various other trucks.

Canada

1907 McLaughlin

The link between GM and Canada has a long vintage; all the way back to 1907 when McLaughlin and Buick were contracted to make Buick cars. After successfully making Buicks for several years McLaughlin sold Buick stock in order to obtain a foothold into GM stock. McLaughlin joined GM Detroit, forging a strong link.

The GM’s main center is called the Canadian Regional Centre and works with many countries around the world. Although you may hear of some factories closing, such as one in 2017 it still makes cars such as the Chevrolet and the Pontiac.

Brazil

’78 Opala

General Motors do Brasil began in 1925. It did final assembly from various parts imported from the US and was based in the city of San Paolo. The first car produced was an Opala, a type of Chevrolet.

One million Opalas were made in Brazil, and it was even used by the Brazilian police as well as the taxi service. The name comes from Opal, a German subsection of GM. The first version was a 4-door sedan and was available in “Especial” (Special) and “Luxo” (Deluxe).

Europe

In Europe the General Motors brand has been less than successful with names such as Opel and Vauxhall not actually capturing the public imagination. People seem to prefer the German cars-those being BMW, Merc and VW. The business was eventually sold to the PSA Group who own such names as Citroen and Peugeot.

This was GM cutting their losses—no real way to hide it – and what a loss. According to official figures the venture eventually lost $39 billion. Only a major player can lose $39 billion and survive.

China

In China things appear so much better with promising sales on Buicks, Chevrolets and Baojun and Wuling. Don’t recognize those last two? Don’t feel bad they’re clearly not available in your market. There are several other vehicles brands Westerners won’t recognize.

Baojun Advertisement

Wuling originally made very small vans until it joined with GM in 2002 where it began to manufacture small trucks as well.

Baojun was created a few years after Wuling (in 2010) with the goal to create what was known as “farmer’s cars.” It’s first vehicle looked like a cross between a Chevrolet and a Daewoo and the latest vehicle is a MPV – multi-purpose vehicle with seven seats. They have to their name, a number of crossovers, compacts, and electric vehicles. There are so many Baojuns out there that they could have their own article.

Wuling

If you own a new car in North America, South America or China then the chances are that it’s a General Motors vehicle. The magnitude of the company cannot be easily stated.

Editors Note: Here at the Kicker we’re working with the descendants of legendary Harley Earl to get a story about the early days of GM. His official story can be seen in the documentary, “Fins,” the making of which has tied up our dig into this era of GM (they had the exclusive scoop). But there is more to the story than the film reveals so we’ll be coming to you soon with more on the era of GM’s hay day.

The Glory Days of AMC Cars

Pacer not a Pinto

Without a doubt, the golden era for AMC was the 1970’s, and we mean golden in more ways than one.

A report by the CAP-HPI around five years ago suggested that AMC seventies models with a copper bronze hue or even custard yellow were on the way up. Despite the car industry changing in the intervening years many cars of this vintage remain popular.

Side Note: CAP produces a black book analyses the used car market, similar to Kelley Blue Book only based on large scale market.

Setting Themselves Apart:

AMC, American Motor Corporation, looked to be different than other automakers and came up with an SUV style vehicle, the Eagle. It looked like a cross between an all-terrain vehicle and a passenger car, with a long hood but about the same size as a VW Beetle. They were manufactured by AMC & Chrysler between 1979 and 1987.

It had the alternate name of the Eagle Wagon which makes sense if you see one. According to an article written for Newsweek in 1979 it was the only four-wheel drive passenger vehicle made at the time. It could also be thought of as the first crossover.

Was this a gamble? Possibly, after all there was no established market for such a car. There doesn’t appear to be a genuine effort at market research on AMC’s part, only a prediction that “consumers would embrace a vehicle with the comfort of an automobile (sic) but with capabilities of an all-terrain vehicle.”

The design came from Ray Lunn who was the chief designer for the AMC Jeep. It was given the convoluted code name of “Project 8001 plus Four.” Having a uni-body was vital to the design; a unitized body means a vehicle frame or chassis is purpose made for the car in question. Unibody was not a common thing in ATV’s of the time, since people who like to take their cars off-road also like to pound out dents from going off road—not a strength of the unibody design.

Other AMC Oddities:

In perhaps the weirdest product crossover some Hornets and Gremlins could be ordered with denim interiors in the 1970s created by jean manufacturer Levi. It can’t be the best substance to keep clean though.

The AMC Hornet shouldn’t be confused with the Green Hornet or the Hudson Hornet. As with most of the cars referred to here, it was only produced in the ‘70s. A compact which came as either a sedan, or a station wagon. The Hornet had the same platform as the Gremlin, the Eagle and the Spirit, among others.

Gremlin

The Gremlin has a reputation as an ugly and therefore bad car. In fact, gremlins are mythical creatures that destroy machines so it’s a terrible name for a car line. The truth is the Gremlin was ahead of its time; a sub-compact manufactured in both the US and Mexico by AMC. It was produced a long time before the 1985 film of the same name.

What’s a Matador?

Today we might honestly ask that, but ironically an AMC 1970’s advertising campaign asked, “What’s a Matador?” The twist is that at the time AMC Matador was the car to have, superseding the AMC Rebel. A two-door hardtop, it had the export name “Rambler Matador.” They also became the car used by the LA Police Department for a while.

(Trivia section: What car did the AMC Matador replace? The answer is below.)

One way that the costs were kept down in AMC cars was having parts such as the distributor, starter and carburettor shared with companies like Ford. Not many people realise that AMC manufactured engines for other company’s cars when practical.

In the end, AMC was purchased in 1987 by Chrysler who continued some of the car lines for a few years and then phased them out.

Answer to the question above: The AMC Matador replaced the Plymouth Satellite as the car used by the LA PD.

The Origin Of Trucks

Benz-Gaggenau BL 10 platform truck

Firstly, where does the word truck come from? It appears it was first used for the wheels on a ship’s cannon and was extended to carts carrying heavy loads. Before gas powered trucks were steam trucks, though they weren’t that widespread.

While vehicles remained expensive, luxury items, the truck wasn’t that popular either. There were many cheaper ways to transport goods – carts, canal boats, railways and so on.

The first trucks had wooden wheels clad in iron. The Phoenix was a later model, a converted car that ran on coal gas, lamp oil as well as gasoline.

Early Trucks

Karl Benz came up with the first truck in 1895 which was in turn altered to become an autobus. In 1896 Gottleib Daimler produced a horseless wagon with 4hp. Although it was said to carry 3300 pounds many disagreed – presumably this was too much for them?

Because of the lack of interest in Germany Gottleib Daimler tried selling the product in England, as coke and coal was cheaper than in Germany. There may have been a speed issue too. Up to 1896 the speed limit was 4mph. It was advertised as being able to transport 1500Kg but it wouldn’t be until 1901 that a truck could outdo the steam alternative as a test run between a motor truck and a steam truck in Liverpool proved.

They would also be promoted in Paris by the French Automobile Club in 1898. The wooden wheels referred to above were a hazard as they were liable to catch fire.

Süddendeutsche Automobilfabrik’s truck used a steel frame and steel wheels along with wheels and pistons. Before that German trucks had used a belt drive.

Other versions were created by Peugeot and Bussing. Only after the Second World War were things like pneumatic tires and power brakes introduced. The diesel engine was introduced in 1923. All of these were styled as large delivery vehicles, not pick ups as we think of them today.

The First American Truck!

Autocar created the first truck in the US with a choice of either 5 or 8hp and two-cylinder engine in 1899.

The first pickup truck was “vehicle no 42” in 1896. After that a modified Ford Model T called The Runabout had a similar design. The first Chevy truck was created in 1918 also using the Model T chassis. The chassis would continue for some time, in 1935 the same chassis would be used to create a station wagon for Chevy, though they did need to alter the load bearing capabilities of the vehicle and remove some of the body panels. These were open-cab vehicles and included such items as specialist hickory wood wheels.

EV Trucks?

There were a number of electric trucks being produced as early as 1907 with strong suspension and gears, such as a 5-ton truck produced in Indianapolis.

Model T Tow Truck

Tow Trucks

The tow truck was created in 1916, basically from necessity. Created by Ernest Holmes in Tennessee it hooked up cars (either broken or crashed ones) using chains and pulleys to take them to the wreckers. The tow truck company and the associated wrecking business was taken over by Miller Industries.

The Volvo’s first truck in 1928 had a four-cylinder engine and although it was said only to allow 1,500Kg many people overloaded it with little side-effect.

The truck, like all early vehicle styles, was only finding its way at that point since there were no huge freeways and has come a long way since.

Exploring Cars on Various Islands

There are a number of islands that ban cars such as the Mackinac Islands which have to rely on bicycles and horses though they do allow snowmobiles during the winter months and a police car for obvious reasons. Apparently, a car was smuggled onto the island by the secret service in 1975. It was only there in case a quick getaway was needed for the president’s visit.

Although these islands without cars do seem idyllic this post isn’t concentrated on that specifically. More on that topic later though.

Islands that Embrace Cars

There are, after all, other islands which embrace the motor car such as Amelia Island, Florida. They are due to hold an automobile event in May. It includes an auction of various classical cars.

Peel P50 Microcar

Developed on the Isle of Man the Peel P50 microcar is the smallest car in production – though there have been smaller homemade (and garage made) cars. It is designed for an adult and a bag of shopping weighing 59 Kg or 130 pounds. Turning in an enclosed area is impossible, the only thing you can do is pick the whole thing up. It is road legal in the UK if not elsewhere.

Seguin Island in Paris, the site of a medieval abbey farm was the location of a Renault factory up until 2005 when the buildings were demolished and is now a cultural centre.

Shetland off Northern Scotland are to have electric cars powered by tidal power. This was created by Nova Innovation, though the charge point does resemble other electrical charge points.

A Portuguese island in the Atlantic – Porto Santo – charges up cars using solar power which in turn can add electricity to the grid (yes, it is still part of the electricity grid) and gives money back into the community.

For some islands, such as the Big Island, Hawaii renting a car seems to be the best way to get around. Even then you can’t go to such places as Mauna Kea or Green Sand Beach. If you wish to travel by public transport, there are taxis, Ubers and Lyfts available – though the latter is fairly new to the island and operates from the three main airports.

So, what about Car Islands that Don’t Work

So far, so picturesque. But the introduction of cars is bad news for paradise island in the Pacific such as the Marshall Islands or South Tarawa. These are littered with broken down cars, buses and even trucks left on the side of the road. You will also find the detritus of abandoned cars by the beach, which is sad as this is where it is believed to enter the ecosystem.

It’s not just vehicles obviously, but these items are highly visible. There’s no space to dump vehicles, the only real option is to export the car. Repairs that would otherwise be made are not carried out due to the lack of trained mechanics and car knowledge on the islands. It could be changed with a bit of training here, but even getting to the island is proving tricky nowadays.

The Mistake That Was The Edsel

Have you ever heard of the Edsel? Probably not, as they only manufactured for three years during the fifties, but if you work in car manufacture it is hard to forget them.

The Edsel was to compete against the Buick and the Dodge. They were marketed as cars of the future at medium price. In hindsight this seems mad, they were the same price as a Ford Mercury but not considered to be for the same market sector, so why?

It’s possible you do need to innovate during a recession but creating a luxury product?

Ford claimed at the time that was adequate product development involving sophisticated market analysis. In reality no such research had been carried out. The manufacturer of cars was a fairly new enterprise so maybe they should have known better, but they didn’t.

What’s in a name?

Ford Motor Co named this giant mistake after Henry Ford’s own son, which added weight to their claims that they didn’t do this as a joke. Then they created several different versions of the vehicle (four sedans and three station wagons), which had strange working names– for example the Edsel Citation.

The strange names, indirectly because of the influence of comic poet Marianne Moore who worked for the company at the time. Although her names were not used, they still leant the cars a tongue in cheek aura that didn’t help people take the project seriously.

Buzz and Foreshadow.

When Ford previewed beforehand pictures of the Edsel to promote it they appeared slightly blurred, which was probably an accident or an attempt to create an air of mystery, but it felt almost as if the company knew what was going to happen. When the pictures were shipped to the sales agents they were always done under wraps as if it was something illicit. Again, this was likely a sales tactic, but it struck many as if they were postponing the inevitable.

Looks that Kill.

Although the station wagon version had a superficial similarity to other station wagons but with innovative designs such as a rotating dome speedometer and a deep ditch steering wheel, the “horse collar grille” and powertrain features to the hood struck people at the time as bazaar. (It wouldn’t really move the needle by today’s standards but cars at the time were classy and fashionable not “other worldly.”)

September 4, 1957 was known as E-Day. This is where the first inklings of what the public felt about the vehicle was discovered; that it was far too unconventional a build.

It was thought to be reborn “LaSalle” a car also known for its design problems; it didn’t seem to be like any other car. And if it’s not like a car you know, how can you drive it?

Although some of the body panels were toned down in 1959 and it was given a vertical central grille the car still had trouble with its teletouch transmission system, no one could understand it. So still the sales numbers remained extremely small and it was eventually removed from the market.

Where did they Go Wrong?

It’s probably a case of hubris. Ford had a strong record of innovation and leading the car market. To some degree they may have believed that whatever they thought was cool and edgy would be adopted by the public as the next great thing. They may have been hoping that people in the market for a new car during a tough economy were advanced thinkers who would want a car that reflected their iconoclastic success. The truth is when people get their fingers burnt they get a bit cautious for a while.

They leapt to far beyond what people were accustomed to and at the worst possible time. However, looking at pictures of this car one wonders if there was ever a good time for the Edsel.

Given the amount of money involved it seems ludicrous that Ford employed none of the usual business safety procedures, such as getting the proper amount of feedback from the public including or having average consumers test drive it before it hit the market. Although Ford may have learnt its lesson, there will be further disasters masquerading as vehicles to come…

Why The Car Industry Is So Vital

OP-ED By P. Wimsett

The building of cars is the number one industry in the US and other countries. This is why in a pandemic economy it has been protected by the government.

There’s more to it than that though. You need to able to travel to school or work. Then you have business conferences, expos and similar. Added to this, various aspects of the entertainment, travel & leisure industry/hotels, theaters and sports arenas…the list goes on and on. It’s all about people being at the right place when you need to be there. So, there is a definitely an argument to be made that transportation impacts ever other industry on some level.

But is domestic manufacture vital as an industry?

The History of American Car Making

The mass production of cars was famously begun by Henry Ford. He also created large plants or super factories as well as moving assembly line. This was the only way a Model T could be created every 24 seconds.

The superfactory infrastructure was also vital in getting the time down, having a glass factory and a steel mill as well as a number of other plants in the general vicinity. If you have to rely on deliveries the process breaks down.

There is an argument for assembling cars one at a time in a shed using parts (glass frames, radiators etc) but it would be very unlikely to make a profit. Some luxury sports cars are made this way. This business model relies on having a car ordered in advance of making it and these cars are by definition, luxury (not needed) meaning if they aren’t made the buyer can simply get a different car elsewhere.

If we’re only looking at vital cars, then we’re looking at affordable cars or vehicles built to a vital purpose like hauling goods to market. Affordable cars need to be mass produced not made to order. A modern car factory needs to work at 80% capacity just to break even. You also have the difficulty of maintaining working conditions in a small environment. So, a superfactory is better.

Well, this might be an exaggeration as it would be hard to visualize the big-name cars being “clinker-built.” It wouldn’t be safe, it wouldn’t be quick and it wouldn’t be economical. So, it could be said that the superfactory system is the only way.

As well as the factories you also need showrooms and forecourts (auto lots) as well as the annual motor-shows for the system to work. With motor-shows being cancelled (most notably the one in Detroit but there usually hundreds around the world) and car lot sales so restricted that sales in general are breaking down.

Detroit

To examine how vital the industry is, it is probably worthwhile to focus on the city of Detroit. What sort of city would it be without the Big Three-General Motors, Ford and Chrysler? And what would the US economy be without these three names? There are so many questions and because we are still living through it, so few answers as yet.

Although the Big Three are no longer the biggest names in car processing they are still big enough to the US economy to be protected.

So, this is where we are, in a non-industrialized state of limbo. For our own good this state of affairs cannot continue for that much longer. There is the health risk, true, but poverty in a country causes mental complications. How long can the US economy survive on handouts from the government, which is really barrowing against the future? No one knows, but it appears we’re going to find out.