Vanished Vehicles – Part 9
A look back over the past century and beyond at the manufacturers that once produced transport for the masses….
White Automobiles – USA 1900-1918
Thomas H White produced sewing machines during the late 1800s but after purchasing his first steam powered automobile in 1898 he entrusted his son Rollin to improve its reliability. Utilising a small section of their Ohio factory Rollin produced the White Sewing Machine Companies first steam powered automobile in 1900. Initial production saw 193 vehicles sold in 1902, a year later a new model offered steering wheel, shaft drive and a boiler that would offer 100 plus miles between water top ups. Racing driver Webb Jay became a household name with his White steamer ‘Whistling Billy’ which earnt its title due to the howl the burners made on the straights. Dirt track and hill climb ‘Whistling Billy’ won races against the most powerful petrol powered machines of the day and could cover one-mile oval dirt track in 48 seconds, 4 mph under the previous record at a speed of 74.07mph. In 1905 White Automobile Company separated from the sewing machine business and the following year President Roosevelt acquired a White automobile and this was often used by his Secret Service entourage on official duty. It seems those holding high office in the US enjoyed the White vehicles as 27th
President W H Taft purchased one in 1911. In 1906 record sales of 1534 White cars was recorded and production of steam power continued until 1911, averaging out at 1000 machines per year across the decade. Trials of a new combustion engine followed of both 4 and 6 cylinders including a 60hp six with four speed gearbox and electric light plus starting. In 1917 the models were of 6.5 litre capacity, 16 valve over four cylinders selling for $5000, it would be the grand finale for White car production. Available by special order only until 1936 the company concentrated on trucks, tractors and buses until 1980 when the remaining truck business was taken over by Volvo.
Between the Wars
BNC - France 1923-1931
Bollack, Netter & Cie, three names that made up BNC and sporting car manufacturers who set up production in Paris. Their early cars were powered by SCAP engines (Société de Construction Automobile Parisienne) very popular with most fledgling auto pioneers, choosing their side valve four-cylinder engine of 900cc. By 1925 SCAP produced a Cozette super charged 1100cc unit, unique in France at the time and BNC secured these for their model named after the famous banked French circuit Montlhery. They also produced another sporting two seater named the Monza and the company enjoyed limited success within motorsport. French medal winning female athlete Violette Morris entered a BNC in the 1927 Bol d’Or 24-hour race and won the following year, another BNC entered Le Mans 24 hours and finished 8th
. In 1929 the head BNC was leading its class with just a few hours left but was classified as 12th
after breaking down; just ten entries completed the race. Bollack and Netter were forced from the company in the late 1920s and in stepped automotive businessman Charles de Ricou and the company released their ‘Aigle’ model. This large eight-cylinder machine was in contrast to the small sporting machines BNC were known for and whilst the model enjoyed some interest it came just in time for the Great Depression. De Ricou would struggle on for the next couple of years but by the end of 1931 all production stopped although one of BNC’s drivers had begun producing a similar style of body. André Siréjols also took the parts discarded within the factory and would continue to produce BNC type machines into the 1950s; they would become known as "B.N.C. Siréjols and were usually Ford powered.
Z.I.S Zavod Imieni Stalina – Russia 1936-1956
The AMO or Moscow Automotive Society drew plans for a vehicle production works just after WW1 but the Russian revolution ensured it would be late 1924 before the first AMO F15 truck rolled out. Fiat trucks built under licence, the F15 remained until the factory was re-equipped in 1931 to build luxury limousines (in Russian terms) very much in line with American Packard designs. Adopting its new name Z.I.S in 1936 the factory produced their 101 Model, with a very Buick 5.8 litre straight eight combined with a three speed all synchromesh gearbox. The Stalin Works operated on a special order basis for high ranking officials, producing one or two completed cars each day; in real terms the 101 Model would have cost near to Rolls Royce values. A facelift version 102 Model was planned for 1940 but production ceased when the Germans invaded, although plans for a post war 110 Model were drawn as early as 1942. Rumours abound of a Russian trade delegation purchasing the ‘dies’ for Packard’s popular Series 180, known to be admired by Stalin himself. The Packard was the first car to have power windows fitted and so did the Model 110 and the chassis would be adapted to take ambulances and even a touring version as well official transport for the Soviet Party. Stalin himself enjoyed a ZIS Model 115, upgraded from a 110, the heavily armoured black limosine weighed 4 tons with each hydraulically powered window contributing 200kgs. No surprise that the engine was upgraded to 6 litres and the 115 resides at the Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum in Southern Germany. After Stalin’s death the factory name changed to ZIL Zavod Imieni Likhacheva after Ivan A Likhacheva, former plant director and pioneer in experimental car construction in the 1920s. As the country removed anything attached to the Stalin name, one thing remained unchanged, vehicle production for the high ranking Russian officials; the cars they drove in were still totally inspired by their arch enemy’s automakers.
DeLorean Motor Company - UK 1975-1982
The DeLorean debate has hung around for years but rumours abound of a new version arriving in the next couple of years, who knows, it could be coming ‘Back in the Future’. The story ‘beggar’s belief’ as John DeLorean was actually a huge success in the American motor industry; starting with the ailing Packard brand he moved quickly through Pontiac (courtesy of the GTO) and onto Chrysler. Destined for a top job within the mighty GM, the ambitious DeLorean decided to build his own car. Somehow he managed to strike a deal with Lotus, build a factory on swampland in trouble ravaged Northern Ireland and secure £80 million of tax payer’s money from the then Labour Government. The car would be no less surprising with gullwing doors, stainless steel panels and a V6 engine that even manufacturer Renault wasn’t very impressed with. A prototype of sorts arrived in 1976 but factory construction in Dunmurry near Belfast didn’t proceed until 1978, the first cars were two years late in 1981. It had taken 24 months for DeLorean to receive a US safety certificate whilst early production cars faced a host of alterations; the DMC12 would become the car to own ‘Stateside’ where most chassis were destined. A massive down-turn in the US automobile market spelt the end for DeLorean in late 1982, ironically just when the cars achieved reliability and recognised build quality. John DeLorean was arrested for drug trafficking and the plant closed with parts still available for 100 cars. After buying up company shares and acquiring the old stock Stephen Wynne originally from Liverpool has built a successful DeLorean service/sales business across America. Following the original design closely (except the engine) a new DeLorean at around £67k is planned for 2017; production levels much lower than the original at around 50 cars per year.