All the Makes: Cadillac to Cunningham
(1902 - present
Founded by Henry Leland in 1902, who named the company
after the seventeenth-century French explorer who founded
Detroit. Quickly established a reputation for innovation,
even after being absorbed into the GM conglomerate in
1909. In 1912 the company introduced the Delco electric
ignition and lighting system, and the powerful V8 engine
was also a Cadillac first. Legendary automotive designer
Harley Earl was responsible for giving Cadillac’s
their elegant, streamlined look in the 1920s.
He is credited
with introducing the first tailfin on the new designs
in the late 1940s, inspired in part by the fighter planes
of World War II, an automotive fashion trend that would
take other car manufacturers a decade to catch up. During
the 1950’s Cadillac's became extremely expensive,
and heavy, attributable not only to the cars enormous
size but the long list of luxury appointments fitted,
such as imported leather seats, state-of-the-art climate
and stereo systems and power windows. The brand also
began to take hold in popular culture: Chuck Berry sang
of besting one in a race in his 1955 hit "Maybellene," and
Elvis Presley began driving a pink Caddy not long after
his first few chart successes.
Cadillac's hold on the
status-car market began to wane in the 1960s when both
Lincoln and Chrysler began making inroads with their
models. Mismanagement by GM engendered further decline.
Cadillac production reached 266,000 cars in 1969, one
of its peak years. That model year's popular Coupe
DeVille (with a wheelbase of over ten feet) sold for
$5,721; by contrast the best-selling Chevrolet, the
Impala, had a sticker price of $3,465.
There were media-generated
rumors that people sometimes pooled their funds in
order to buy a Cadillac to share. In the 1970s, the
brand became indelibly linked with the urban American
criminal element, the ride of choice for pimps and
mob bosses alike. This in turn led well-heeled Americans
to opt for European luxury marques.
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(1973 - present)
A single model marque, that came about through the
dogged determination of Graham Nearn, who wanted
to keep the Lotus Seven in production. Colin Chapman
was looking to move the Lotus marque more up market,
and was ready to drop the Seven altogether, however
it enjoyed a huge following of loyal devotees, and
Nearn was not about to let it all go asunder. He
purchased all the spares, jigs and moulds from Lotus,
then renamed the car the "Caterham Seven".
The car then went through quiet evolution, care taken
not to dilute the formula that had proved so successful.
A stronger Ford RS2000 rear axle was fitted, but
the engine options remained as the Ford 1600GT or
Lotus 98ci 1.6 liter twin cam unit. In the late 1980's
came the 123kW engine borrowed from the Vauxhall
Astra GTE - and then came the awesome Jonathan Palmer
Evolution model of 1992, using a tuned variant of
the Vauxhall engine making it good for a whopping
186kW+. Eventually a long cockpit version was released
for those with long legs, along with De Dion independent
rear suspension replacing the live rear axle setup.
CENSUS (1998 - present)
Founded by Andrew Baker and Robin Hall to manufacture a composite bodied sports
car. The standard version uses a 2.5 liter V6 engine, while in 2003 the company
would release a track special for the weekend warriors, fitted with the necessary
gear to allow compliance both on road and at race day.
(1904 - 1916
Founded by Lee Sherman Chadwick, a innovator who
started out as an engineer for a ball-bearing manufacturer.
To better demonstrate the potential and quality of
his employers product, he chose to manufacture cars
as a means of demonstrating the ball bearings to
potential clients. He would soon move to the Searchmont
Motor Company, where he would design a four cylinder
car, however this would never make it into production,
and a disillusioned Chadwick would decide to go it
alone. Forming the Fairmont Engineering Works in
1904, the business enjoyed initial success, not only
in the manufacture of Chadwick automobiles, but also
in the repair of other makes.
By 1906 the company
had manufactured a total of 40 cars, not a huge number
but for the day, not a trifling number either. Two
years later and the company had expanded to employ
90, and was renamed the Chadwick Engineering Works.
Never lured by the fast buck to be had by implementing
the production style used to manufacture the Model
T, the Chadwick cars were by contrast painstakingly
hand built, fitted with powerful engines and featured
luxurious hand-stitched leather seats. Their performance
was very good, leading Chadwick to experiment in
both hill-climbing and motor racing - an expensive
pass-time that would soon lead the company into financial
When suppliers started to ask for money
up-front, the writing was on the wall. Disillusioned,
Chadwick left the automotive industry altogether
in 1912, then taking up a role with a stove manufacturer.
The Chadwick concern would struggle on for another
(1908 - 1979
William A. Schaum started out producing an odd two-cylinder
high-wheeler named the Seven Little Buffaloes in 1908
which, in a complicated sequence of events, led to
the formation of Checker Motors Corporation in 1922.
Just how complicated you ask, well in September 1911
the Deschaum-Hornell Co. became the Suburban Motor
Car Corp, then in 1912 a Mr. Palmer became involved
with the corporation, the company then becoming the
Palmer Motor Car Co. Not having a good dealer network,
Palmer went into partnership with Partin cars, from
which the Partin-Palmer Manufacturing Co. was formed.
Two years later it became the Commonwealth Motor Co.
and moved to Joliet, Illinois, when the first links
with Checker were formed – the year was 1919.
Shortly after their move the American taxicab industry
entered a boom time, and Checker Taxi of Chicago quickly
acquired the smaller players in the greater Chicago
area. Needing stronger more durable cabs, Checker approached
the Commonwealth Motor Co. in 1920, awarding them a
contract to assemble taxicabs using bodies supplied
by another Joliet based company, Markin Auto Body Corp.
Markin was to merge with the faltering Commonwea1th
Motor Co. at the end of 1921, and by May of 1922 the
Checker Cab Manufacturing Co. was born.
manufacturing 3 cabs a day, by 1924 they had lifted
production to over 4,000 units. Many trials and tribulations
were to follow in the following decades, but it was
in 1960 that Checker manufactured two private passenger
car models, the Superba and Superba Special. These
morphed into the vehicle the company is best known
for today, the Marathon. Lagging sales and tougher
government regulation forced Checker to cease production
in 1979, but such was the strength of their vehicles
that they would remain a part of the American automotive
landscape for decades to come.
(1911 - present
Brothers Louis, Arthur and Gaston Chevrolet migrated
to the US from their native Switzerland as young men.
Having worked for Mors, Louis was able to find plenty
of work in the automotive industry, at the same time
garnering a reputation as one of the countries leading
race drivers. Building his own racer based on Buick
running gear, the car would catch the attention of
William Durant, founder (but no longer owner) of General
Motors. The two quickly formed a partnership, which
led to the development of the Classic Six in 1911.
Some 3000 had been manufactured by 1912, their popularity
encouraging Chevrolet and Durant to expand their line-up,
the Little Four based on Durant’s
own Little Runabout, the first to carry the now familiar
blue-and-white badge, while a single seat version was
aptly called the Royal Mail. Forming the Chevrolet Aircraft
Corporation with brother Arthur, Louis would have little
to do with the company that bore his name, apart from
a brief spell in the 1930’s, and would die in almost
total obscurity in 1941.
In the meantime the Chevrolet
company had gone from strength to strength, first acquiring
the Maxwell Motor Company factory in New York in 1914,
then releasing the incredibly popular 490 – with
a for the time bargain basement price of, you guessed
By 1916 the company had manufactured 70,000
vehicles, and was quickly becoming a real challenger
for Ford. In 1919 the company was absorbed by General
Motors, who helped bolster production to almost 150,000.
The depression would take its toll on the company, Chevrolet
boss Pierre S. DuPont ignoring a consultants report to
close the company, and helping it emerge from the depression
in better financial shape than most.
The post-war Bel
Air was responsible for the company’s dominance
of the US highways through the 1950’s, while
the Corvette was every bit the match for the Ford Thunderbird.
The one bump in the road came courtesy of investigative
journalist Ralph Nader, his book Unsafe at Any Speed
bringing about the demise of the Corvair, but being
merely a blip on the radar of the now global giant.
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(1923 - present
Founded by Walter Percy Chrysler in 1925 by using what
was left from the Maxwell Motor Company. Chrysler wanted
to compete with General Motors, and so needed to create
a range of product lines in sync – thus in 1928
a multi-tiered range would be introduced, Plymouth at
the lower end, DeSoto in the lower-middle, then Dodge
and Imperial at the upper end with Chrysler being the
flagship. As if shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic,
management could never decide just where each division
sat within the Chrysler empire, and by the end of the
1930’s the order had been changed (from lowest
to highest) to Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler and
The 1934 Chrysler Airflow was somewhat of a
revolution in automobile design, the beautifully elegant
streamlined body being designed in the auto industries
first ever wind tunnel to meet aerodynamic principles.
There are plenty of cars throughout the Unique Cars & Parts
gallery pages that have proven to be too far ahead of
their time for their own good, and the Airflow was such
Despite the divine looks and streamliner
appearance, it was the lower ranked Plymouth and Dodge
divisions that would help secure the companies tenure
through the depression era. During these tough economic
times, only Plymouth would make an increase in sales,
while the company would create a formal parts division
under the Mopar brand (short for Motor Parts).
so much effort and financial investment had been put
into the spectacularly unsuccessful Airflow, Chrysler
opted to take a far more conservative approach to later
iterations, although the 1942 DeSoto’s did feature
a remarkable hidden headlight system. Engineering advances
would see the introduction of the wonderful Hemi V8’s
in 1951, and in 1955 Chrysler unveiled the Forward Look
style penned by Virgil Exner. Wonderful models would
follow, including the 1957 Plymouth Fury and 1957 Chrysler
300C. In 1960 Chrysler introduced unibody construction,
the first of the big three, then the new compact line
of Valiant’s would win critical acclaim (and none
more so than in Australia).
By 1966 Chrysler had expanded
into Europe by acquiring the British Rootes Group along
with Simca of France, to form Chrysler Europe. In hindsight
this was not such a good move, industrial problems afflicting
the British auto industry would take a heavy toll on
the once great Chrysler conglomerate. It would be forced
to sell the Simca division, despite it turning a handy
profit, to PSA Peugeot Citroen in 1978. The downfall
had begun, but thankfully a 1998 merger with Daimler
Benz would ensure the survival of the marque.
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(1946 - 1965
Founded just before World War 2 by Piero Dusio, a professional
footballer whose career in sport was cut short by injury.
Dusio's passion was racing, fortunately his business
acumen allowed him the financial freedom to run his own
racing team, Scuderia Torino. Following the war Dusio
decided to create his own automobiles, employing ex Fiat
employee Dante Giacosa to create one.
Based almost entirely
on Fiat running gear, the D46 was cheap, powerful and
quick. Competition success soon followed, including a
second place in the 1947 Mille Miglia
. Orders for the
D46 were flooding in, but Dusio turned his attention
to the Grand Prix and, inevitably, this would send him
and the marque bankrupt.
CITROËN (1919 - present)
Founded by André-Gustave
Citroën, who possessed the genius for organising
mass-production, arguably second only to Henry Ford.
Educated at Ecole Polytechnique, France's top technical
university, Citroën then had a spell in the French
army as an engineering officer and then landed a job
as chief engineer at Mors. By 1913 he had set up his
own business manufacturing helix gear wheels (and thus
evolved the double chevron badge), and during the first
World War was assisted by the French government to
set up a large production facility in Paris in exchange
for munitions manufacture.
Following the war, Citroën's
factory was left full of American machine tools, so
he began the design of his first car, the 1919 Type
A. Cheap, reliable and hugely successful, the Type
A was quickly followed by the B2, and then in 1921
by the Type C. The wonderful Rosalie was released in
1934, and then the car that would launch Citroën
as a global auto manufacturer, the Traction Avant.
War would intervene yet again, but the car to ensure
the survival of the marque was in fact a rival to Hitler's
Beetle, the ever popular 2CV.
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(1993 - 1995)
Supercar manufacturer from Italy that actually managed
to get a car into production. A single model manufacturer,
but what a model it was - the mid-mounted V16 engine
was the brainchild of ex Lamborghini employee Claudio
Zampolli, who had been planning the manufacture of
the Cizeta sine 1985 as a car to shame the likes of
Ferrari. Drawing upon the abundant talent in the Modena
area of Italy, Zampolli was able to obtain the financial
backing of composer Giorgio Moroder (who had 3 film
score Oscar's to his name, and had composed the music
for the Los Angeles and Seoul Olympics).
The 16 cylinder
6 liter engine was developed from two Ferrari V8's
being spliced togther, it combining to total some 64
valves, eight camshafts and even twin radiators! So
long was the engine that it had to be mounted transversley
so as not to make the car too lengthy, the gearbox
sticking out of the middle to form a truncated "T",
thus giving the car its name as the V16T.
With 378kW on tap in a body able to slice through the
air without so much as a whisper, it could out-run
But there were simply not enough people
around, Sultan of Brunei excluded, that could afford
the car. Only twenty would be manufactured over a three
year period, and the company would fold. And as for
the Sultan, well he purchased three of the twenty.
CLYNO (1922 - 1929)
Founded by Frank Smith as a manufacturer of motorcycles,
the small UK concern turned its attention to automobile
manufacture from 1922, and quickly garnered a reputation
robust and high quality vehicles. Its main rival was
the then giant Morris concern, however
you got a lot more for you money with a Clyno; priced
the same as the Morris Cowley it came with four wheel
brakes instead of two.
The astute purchaser soon favoured
the Clyno, and the company repeated the success with
the larger 12/28 model targeting the Morris
Oxford. But the competition was fierce, and Clyno simply
did not make enough money to re-invest in development
of their cars. They soon started to look and feel dated,
and people deserted the marque in their droves. A new
prototype was manufactured, but it never made it into
CONTINENTAL (1955 - 1960)
A short lived attempt by Ford to create a superior up-market
brand to compete with GM's
Cadillac and Chrysler's DeSoto. The Lincoln Continental
had been all but forgotten since production ended in
1948, but Ford were determined to breathe new life back
into the marque, and so many outside design teams were
engaged to come up with a suitable design for the all-new
Continental. Ford chose the one from their own Special
Products Division, headed by Harley F. Copp.
Continental's were hand built and used a Lincoln V8 mated
to a three speed automatic transmission. The MkII Continental
went on sale for a staggering $10,000, priced to be exclusive
but, as it turned out, also priced out of the market.
The MkIII of 1959 was much cheaper, at a more respectable
$6,000, but to help reduce the price Ford had chosen
to rely heavily on the Lincoln parts bin. It was difficult
to differentiate the two, and soon the Continental marque
was re-absorbed by Lincoln.
CORD (1929 - 1937)
The high point of 1930's American auto style was courtesy
of Erret Lobban Cord, a successful salesman who, as
a teenager, had traded Model T Ford's around his native
Los Angeles. He went on to sell Victory cars at a Moon
dealership in Chicago, but his big break came when
he was asked to restructure the moribund Auburn company,
then in the hands of a receiver. Within 5 years he
had not only turned the company around, but had released
the L-29 featuring a big Lycoming straight-eight engine
producing 125 bhp (93 kw).
Revolutionary in its front-wheel-drive
configuration, the power from the Lycoming proved too
much for the universal joint, such failures tarnished
the reputation of the marque before production ceased
at the onset of the depression in 1932. They bounced
back in 1936 with the release of the 810, and although
they stuck with the front-wheel-drive configuration,
Cord choose to give the new model a futuristic streamlined
appearance so beautiful, it was cited as a work of
art by the Musuem of Modern Art. Powered by a supercharged
Lycoming V8 offering 195bhp (145 kw) the car was expensive
and, perhaps, too good looking for its own good. Production
would finally draw to a close in 1937.
CROSLEY (1939 - 1952)
The Crosley automobile was the brain child of Powel
Crosley, who had already made his fortune as a radio
and appliance manufacturer, owner of WLW the "Nation's
Station" and the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.
Crosley set up an engineering facility in Cincinnati
Ohio, with assembly of the cars taking place in Richmond
Indiana (Crosley Corporation) from 1939 to 1942, and
then Marion Indiana (Crosley Motors) from 1946 to 1952.
Sold to General Tire in 1952 who halted production,
although sporadic efforts were made to acquire the
automotive tooling and fixtures to resume production,
these efforts were all in vain.
(1907 - 1937)
One of the pioneering UK automobile companies, Crossley
started out manufacturing a chain-driven 22 hp car as
early as 1904. Engineers J.S. Critchley and W.M. MacFarland
switched to the use of a shaft drive
setup by 1906, and then afforded the cars 4 wheel brakes
by 1910, demonstrating just how visionary this small
company was. The company was heavily involved with the
manufacture of large models as part of the War effort;
unfortunately after the war the company seemed to lose
its way, although there were some wonderful iterations
There was a 19.6 hp (14.6 kW) version designed
by T.D. Wishart, along with a sports 20/70 version guaranteed
to reach a then impressive 75 mph (120 km/h). In 1926
the company switched from using side valve 4 cylinder
engines to overhead-valve six cylinder units. But the
cars did not find favour from the buying public, and
the company found it difficult to create interest in
their models - production ended in 1937.
CUNNINGHAM (1907 - 1937 and 1951 - 1955)
The first foray into car manufacture would come from
James Cunningham, Son & Co. of Rochester, New York;
a company that had been in the carriage building business
since 1842. The 1907 Electric Car would soon be followed
by a petrol powered iteration, using engines sourced
from Continental or indeed built by Cunningham themselves.
Progress was rapid, and by 1915 the company was manufacturing
their own V8's.
But the depression hit hard, particularly
with the niche up-market car manufacturers, and Cunningham
would cease the manufacture of cars in 1931, although
it would continue to make car bodies for other manufacturers
chassis until 1937. Just on 14 years later, one Briggs
Swift Cunningham, a natural athlete who excelled in
everything from bobsledding to golf and yachting, would
re-launch the company. Cunningham’s burning ambition
was to build American cars and have them driven by
American drivers in premier European motor-sport events.
His Holy Grail was naturally enough the Le Mans 24
hour race, but Le Mans race regulations stated that
prototypes could only be entered by an established
motorcar manufacturer. Undaunted, in 1949 he hooked
up with Phil Walters and Bill Frick who had also experimented
with engine swapping, and in 1950 they formed Cunningham,
Inc. For the next four years he would race his cars
with mixed fortunes, worst being the 1951 Le Mans where
all three Cunninghams entered failed to finish the
race. In 1955 he decided to cease manufacture of his
own cars, and concentrate on racing other manufacturers
cars - he would go on to take out the GT category of
the 1960 Le Mans in a Chevrolet Corvette.