Vanished Vehicles – Part 13

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Pre WW1

Columbia Electric – USA 1897-1913

Columbia Electric 3.5 hp from 1902 built in hundreds per annum whilst petrol powered manufactures were in the dozensBattery propulsion may have made great advances in recent history but voltage rivalled steam and petrol power at the very dawn of motoring. The Columbia Electric Vehicle Company was the third name of five used by a manufacturer in Hartford, Connecticut beginning with Pope Manufacturing in 1897. The factory would be at the forefront of technology with electric powered transport from 1900 and within two years offered a 40 mile range at 15mph. Their electric vehicles would sell across the globe, including the UK where they were marketed as the City and Suburban. A four seat luxury model enjoyed a fabric roof with tasselled edges named the Surrey, ‘with a fringe on top’ or an alternate option for those with ample funds was the ‘Opera’ model with chauffeur seated outside. A twenty cell battery sat in two trays under the body powering five forward and four reverse gears, a foot brake and electric hand brake with pneumatic tyres where standard in 1903. King Edward VII owned a Columbia Electric driven regularly by his wife Queen Alexandra, as did the King of Spain and the world’s first Presidential motorcade was also Teddy Roosevelt’s first car journey, taken in an Electric. Commercial variants of the Electric were used by Police and Fire Departments, also a five-ton delivery truck was adapted to accommodate 48 sightseeing passengers in New York. By 1909 Columbia had become a (Gasoline) Motor Company and continued producing some advanced petrol powered machines with engines of 6.3 litres and seven speed gearboxes. Columbia was absorbed into the ill-fated United States Motor Company in 1910 and disappeared when that collapsed just three years later.

Between the Wars

SCAT Automobiles – Italy 1906-1929

1911 Targa Florio SCAT Type C Racer driven by Andrew Howe-Davies at the 2016 Goodwood Members MeetingThe family name Ceirano is responsible or has influenced most things automobile in Italy. The four Ceirano brothers began a number of car manufacturing companies; the first by oldest brother Giovanni was a continuation of his bicycle business using an English name ‘Well-Eyes’. With a 663cc engine, a two speed gearbox their ‘light car’ enjoyed much interest; the small factory employed a young Vincenzo Lancia and Felice Nazzaro as mechanics. Word spread of Italy’s new horseless carriage encouraging a group of wealthy investors to purchase the designs and prototypes. Introducing the Well-Eyes as their first production car under the marque (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) FIAT. Further makes came courtesy of the Ceirano name including STAR, Itala and in 1906 (Società Ceirano Automobili Torino) SCAT. Technically advanced (Italy’s 1st car with auto starting) the SCAT proved robust and fast, piloted by Ernesto Ceirano the SCAT won the 1911 Targa Florio. The ‘Targa’ race around Sicily was considered a proving ground for the best motor vehicles of the period and to win a great achievement. SCAT returned in 1912 and won again with Englishman Cyril Snipe at the wheel, then again in 1914 prior to WW1. Financial problems forced the sale of SCAT to French investors in 1917 but the marque was repurchased and named SCAT-Ceirano in 1923. Their original customers returned as a comprehensive range of road cars were produced beginning with the N150 in 1924, followed by the 150S offering 40hp. Several improved models arrived before 1929 but again a financial crisis loomed and the FIAT name returned to take control of SCAT for good.

Post WW2

Hotchkiss - France 1903-1955

The luxury pre-war French Hotchkiss 20CV of 1936 powered by the 686 engine that served the marque so wellBenjamin Berkley Hotchkiss was an American arms manufacturer who moved to France and set up business near Paris in 1867. Hotchkiss died in 1885 just prior the company producing quality car parts for early manufacturers; finally entering vehicle production themselves in 1904. The badge the marque chose featured two crossed cannons in recognition of its heritage. The Hotchkiss brand rivalled the finest ‘in period’ and its first car offered mechanical inlet valves, honeycomb radiator and sturdy steel frame; much borrowed from Mercedes designs of the time. Entered in the 1905 Gordon Bennett trails the Hotchkiss enjoyed 18.9 litres and shaft drive and continuing up until WW1 the smallest capacity engine the company sold was of 2.2 litres. After the Great War it continued building vehicles of the highest quality and refinement, from saloons to touring models. In 1928 their engine design AM80 featured a balance-seven bearing crank in a six-cylinder engine. This 3.0 litre unit powered Hotchkiss to Monte Carlo Rally wins on four occasions and although modified over the years was still installed in the marques models up until its demise, 27 years later. The factory was taken over when the Germans invaded in 1940 and post war Hotchkiss struggled to regain its market share with just 100 cars built during 1946 and 47. The milestone six-cylinder engine was up rated to 3485cc and installed in the model 20CV which won the Monte Carlo rally again in 1949 and 50. Production slowed dramatically with no new designs for the 1950s except for the over-priced Gregoire FWD model that failed. Whilst their military vehicles consisting of Willy’s Jeeps built under licence continued until the 70s, their superb cars ceased totally by 1955.
Modern Era
Moskvitch – USSR 1946-2006
More than a Hint of Hillman the 407 put Moskvitch on the world stage thanks to Opel and the Red ArmyAfter WW2 Germany was divided and the Opel factory at Rüsselsheim near Frankfurt fell under Soviet control. Relatively undamaged it contained all the tooling required for the pre-war K38 Kadett model. The Russians shipped everything east and reassembled at their Moscow Factory for Small Displacement Automobiles (MZMA). From the early 1930s poor copies of Ford and other marques were produced there but the ‘all-new’ Moskvitch (son of Moscow) appeared within 12 months; the 400 model offering a striking resemblance to the pre-war Opel. The 400 was still around 18 years later, largely unchanged until the 408 arrived at Earls Court in 1964 powered by the same 1400cc engine that worked so well in 1938. Russia was chasing foreign currency and the 408 sold quite well, mainly due to its low price.  The immense factory was at full capacity from the late 1960s. Four specially adapted 408’s entered the London – Sydney rally of 1968 and all four completed the event with the highest placed in 20th from 100 starters. The OHC engined 412 which offered 1500cc with cigar lighter and the world’s finest car heater arrived in 1969 and the factory was reporting 200k units per annum. The Russians loved them; 80bhp and sturdy enough for the worst roads, reliable plus they were still supplied with a starting handle. A ‘Which’ report in the mid-70s finished the Moskvitch brand in the UK (unsafe transport) but new models arrived elsewhere with FWD and hatchback options in 1986. The Lada/ Chrysler Alpine ‘lookalike’ named 2141 received plenty of French assistance but the Soviet Union was breaking up, the Ruble collapsed in the 1990s. The millennium came and the massive factory was bankrupt, the Moskvitch name was gone by 2002. Grant Ford