Vanished Vehicles – Part 7
A look back over the past century and beyond at the manufacturers that once produced transport for the masses….
De Dion Bouton – France 1883-1932
Automobile pioneers, a fully justified title for financier Comte de Dion and mechanical genius George Bouton, although it was steam power that pushed their interest in the early days. By 1895 the petrol engine had been developed and was powering their tricycles and the first quadricycle enjoyed a 3.5hp single cylinder of 402cc at the turn of the century. Advanced engineering employed the use of coil ignition and contact breakers or points. By 1904 the Puteaux factory on the outskirts of Paris had produced 40,000 power plants and just a year before the companies first twin cylinder engine was built. All machines leaving the plant in 1908 were fitted with conventional gearboxes and in 1910 a 6.1 litre V8 had been developed; this would be increased in stages to 7 litres then 7.8 and finally 14.7. The new V8 enjoyed success at the Targa Florio in 1913 and 1914 finishing 4th
just prior to the outbreak of WW1. Although De Dion Bouton continued producing buses, taxis and commercial vehicles in large numbers the private car demand slowed, not helped by being limited and rather expensive. In 1923 a four-cylinder machine arrived called the 10CV and this offered push rod OHV and aluminium pistons; shortly after both Mercedes and Peugeot looked into buying De Dion Bouton. The final throw of the dice came in 1930 with a 2.5 litre straight eight powered 16CV model but within two years the signs above the Puteaux factory were removed.
Between the Wars
Cord – USA 1929-1937
Erret L Cord wanted to build unique and stylish vehicles and considered this would make huge profits; two of the three wishes he obtained. The first front wheel drive car in America was Cord’s L29 model produced by the Auburn Automobile Company in Indiana; the marque owned by Cord himself. Placed between Auburn’s own brand and the more up-market Duesenberg (another of Cord’s brands) the three marques were aimed towards the more affluent ‘Stateside’ customer. The L29 arrived just in time for the ‘Wall Street Crash’ and although the price was reduced over the next two years from $3295 to $2595 sales were understandably low. The L29 was phased out after 4429 were built concluding production in 1932; where after the marque of Cord remained dormant. Towards the end of 1935 the Gordon Buehrig designed Model 810 arrived, originally designated for the Duesenberg range it received the Cord logo which fitted perfectly, being front wheel drive. Another innovation was the wrap around chrome louvered grill with concealed headlights, something that wasn’t common until the 1960s. Powered by a 3.5 litre V8 the Cord offered 125bhp and stunning, futuristic looks. In 1937 the 812 arrived, this featured a super charged V8 and increased performance to 195bhp but the Cord was a luxury at a time of national hardship and just 2320 examples of the 810 and 812 were sold. The Cord design was appreciated by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and its popularity as America’s favourite classic car has seen a selection of replica models come onto the market. The factory at Auburn ceased production in 1937 and three great automotive names faded into history.
HRG England – 1936-1956
By combining the surnames of three automotive engineer’s E N Halford, G H Robbins and H R Godfrey (of GN fame) many believed the natural successor to Fraser Nash was born; HRG. From their base in Tolworth, Surrey the typical vintage British sports cars would be produced utilising the Meadows 1.5 litre power plant. Available for £395 the HRG offered the British sports car experience, weighing in at 1570lbs it had little trouble in achieving 90mph. In 1938 the company also sampled the 1100cc Singer motor that option increased to include a 1.5 unit the following year. The company raced with success at Le Mans, the Isle of Man and the Spa 24 Hours and although not produced in very high numbers the name HRG was certainly appreciated. Post war, little changed on the design front but in competition the marque took many class wins both on track and in rallies, including the 1949 Belgium 24-hour race. Sales though declined from 40 in 1948 to 25 in 49 and during 1950 a mere 11 HRG’s were sold. The export market remained interested and the company worked on a more modern 1.5 litre with all round independent suspension, a twin OHC engine with more aerodynamic bodywork and superior hydraulic brakes but nothing really came of their endeavours. Car production stalled in 1956 although the engineering shop continued until 1966. Overall about 240 HRG’s were built of which around 225 survive today which is remarkably high for any classic British sports car and emphasises not just the original build quality but also the loyal following the marque has sustained over the decades.
FSO Polonez – Poland 1978-2002
Pronounced as one of the ‘ten cars that should never have been built’ the FSO Polonez (from the Polish word for dance ‘Polonaise’) was a model reborn from the older Polski-Fiat brand. The origins of their car remained the Fiat 125 which dated back to the 60’s and was a great example of how to take a fairly good car and make a bad one. The Polski-Fiats had been built under a licence agreed between the two parties since 1932 but when the Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych factory in Warsaw entered a new era in 1978 they chose a new body for the trusty 125P. The Giorgetto Guigiaro design was initially to enjoy Fiats 2.0 litre twin cam motor but the aged 1.5 unit was installed and remained the mainstay until 1991. 3, 4 and 5 door versions were produced along with a popular pick-up truck and during the 80s limited numbers of 2.0 turbo and VW diesel versions appeared, mainly for the home market. Their appeal was price and exports around the globe brought in some much needed foreign currency just as the iron curtain was crumbling. Ford, Citroen and even Rover supplied engines to FSO into the 1990s, the latter being the 1.4 K series unit which also found its way into the 1994 Prima race car. Quality increased slightly and GM took an interest in the plant but it was Daewoo that took over production in 1995 using the Warsaw factory to assemble its European products. When Daewoo itself collapsed in 2000 the future for the FSO Polonez looked bleak, alternate owners were sought but the official end of production went unnoticed by most in 2002.Tags:Vintage Cars