Vanished Vehicles – Part 14

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A look back over the past century and beyond at the manufacturers that once produced transport for the masses…

Pre WW1

Thornycroft Cars – England 1903-1913

Final listed production model from Thornycroft the 18HP Tourer from 1912Often overlooked as a car manufacturer due to their decades of success producing every conceivable commercial vehicle, John Thornycroft designed a steam road vehicle as early as 1862. The UK Governments reluctance to encourage motor vehicles meant Thornycroft concentrated on marine transport until 1895. Alongside commercial vehicles built at Basingstoke which benefitted from War department contracts, the first 10hp twin cylinder and 20hp 4 cylinder cars arrived in 1903. Described as well designed and carefully made, the larger 20hp also enjoyed a belt driven dynamo; something of a rarity for the time. Entries in the TT Races from 1905 to 1908 certainly enhanced the company’s reputation, especially with a fifth place for Tom Thornycroft in the last at an average of 44mph. Their 6-cylinder model of 1906 launched the Basingstoke works on a programme of bigger and better with increasing capacity from 6.9 litres to their mighty 45hp model of 7819cc designed to compete with Rolls Royce; selling at (£775) just £225 less than a Silver Ghost. The London Showrooms were closed in 1910 and with ever increasing order books for their lorry and buses, 1912 was the final year of car production after 270 had been delivered. The Thornycroft ‘T’ remained on the grills of commercial and military vehicles until the late 1960s by which time they had become part of AEC (Associated Equipment Company) and truck production moved to Scammell in Watford. It is estimated that less than a dozen of the marques pre-war cars are thought to have survived, although many more of their commercial and military vehicles are still in use, including Corporal Jones butchers van; a special Thornycroft featured in Dads Army.

Between the Wars

Marmon Motor Company - USA 1902-1933

1928 Marmon Model 68 perfectly restored by Joseph Camilleri of MaltaBrothers Howard and Walter Marmon utilised the facilities of Ellis Nordyke (milling machinery) to design and produce their early cars; as the Nordyke and Marmon Company. Advanced and superbly built, Marmon enjoyed mostly ‘in house’ components and advertised as a ‘mechanical masterpiece’ offering a patented three-point suspension for that smoother ride. An air cooled V4 engine of 35hp was installed in the 1907 Model F, supplied from their Indianapolis works at $3500. In 1909 the company adopted the in-line four engine of 40HP with water cooling option and revised their suspension to a more conventional system. For the first running of the Indianapolis 500 in 1911 Marmon engineer Ray Harroun not only designed and built Marmon’s Wasp with its straight-six engine of just under 10 litres, he also drove without a ride-on mechanic. All race machines of the period featured a crew of two, the mechanic tasked with maintaining fuel pressures whilst watching out for others overtaking. Victorious, Harroun averaged 74.6 mph and in doing so invented the rear view mirror, after which Marmon installed them in their production cars. New, improved and ever more expensive models arrived up until the US joined WW1 in 1917; the factory then turned over to aero engine supply. Employing 5000 people and renamed the Marmon Motor Company in 1926 the factory launched the ‘Little Marmon’ and a year later the world’s first straight eight powered model; the Roosevelt in 1929. Sales slowed into the 30s but the company continued with a 9.1 litre V16 of 200hp; Marmon 16 was ‘the best car in the world’ at the time but the Great Depression finished Marmon after over 250,000 units had left Indianapolis.

Post WW2

Autocars Co Ltd – Israel 1950-1971

Autocars Sabra Sport 1963; Israeli badge Reliant built for the US marketHaifa Bay was the ideal venue for car production within the new country of Israel post WW2. Reliant (Tamworth) supported several nations, including Greece, Turkey and offered assistance to a Polish Jew called Yitzhak Shubinsky. Minus any heavy industry, for Israeli manufactures the choice of fibre glass bodies was logical and Reliant designed Autocars first vehicle called the Sussita. With Ford Anglia running gear, Israel’s single model was offered in estate, van and pickup versions to compliment the saloon. Exporting to other Middle-East countries was unlikely, so Autocars looked to the American market renaming their offerings as Sabra (a local cactus plant that became their logo) with 600 orders taken in 1960. The low-profit urban vehicles were not where Shubinsky looked to succeed, although Autocars survival relied heavily on the Israeli Government ‘encouraging’ departments to buy the locally built transport whenever possible. Having spotted the Ashley GT at the London Sports Car Show in 1960 Shubinsky purchased the complete project and asked Reliant to construct a roadster called the Sabra Sport which first appeared at the New York Show of 1961. Reliant produced 144 which were ‘vin-plated’ as Autocars own with 1703cc engines courtesy of the Ford Consul. The Haifa factory struggled to contribute 41 for the American market; under 100 were produced for non-US export or the home market until 1968, the majority finding homes in Belgium. Sporting models forgotten, Autocars returned to basic saloons for the home market whilst collaborating with British Leyland. Reproducing the Triumph 1300 from the late 60s failed to increase profits and receivership was announced in 1971. Rebadged as Urban Industries production staggered on until the early 80s when the Israeli car industry ceased.

Modern Era
Baby-Brousse – Ivory Coast 1963-1987
Citroen’s 1972 Baby-Brousse on display at the Paris Retrofestival in 2015The concept of a ‘buggy’ type vehicle based on the 2CV from Citroen came from two French ex-pats residing and working in Abidjan; the largest city and port location of the Ivory Coast. A rugged ‘no-nonsense’ vehicle that could be constructed without a single weld; all bolt on sheet metals panels and the original versions were based on the Ami 6. Mr. Letoquin and Mr. Lechanteur oversaw the assembly of around 800 Baby-Brousse via parts from Citroen before the factory looked to formalise the relationship and purchased the licence from their West African works. Citroen found they could supply the perfect vehicle for developing nations without the investment of machine tools and heavy industry, using the basis of the 2CV and continued with the name Baby-Brousse from 1970. The design was offered alongside the very similar Citroen FAF range; FAF - facile à fabriquer - easy to build - facile à financer - easy to fund. They supplied kits to Ivory Coast’s neighbours of the Central African Republic and their buggy was called ‘Mehari’ in Senegal and Iran. Asian countries including Vietnam renamed it ‘Dalat whilst Greek factories built and exported nearly 17,000 variants. In 1973 a group of French adventurers drove a team of three Baby-Brousse some 4,500 miles during the Expedition Safari Sun. One of the crew named Paul Alazard was working in Abidjan at the time and photographed the trip taken by three friends in their locally purchased Baby-Brousse through Africa deserts into Europe, finishing in Paris. Total production of the FAF design worldwide fell just short of 1,800 whilst the Baby-Brousse numbers reached 31,000 with the final 30 courtesy of the Indonesian plant in 1987.