Car Marques
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 14:02

Lotus

Racing car constructor Colin Chapman´s first proper car was true to Lotus core values: light, agile, fast and technically advanced. Sadly it could also be fragile, and because of its higher cost of manufacture it wasn´t the financial success that Chapman had hoped for.

LotusThe Elite was a monocoque design in an era when separate chassis were still common, but what made it even more unusual was that the entire body/chassis unit was made from a glassfibre reinforced plastic. The spectacularly pretty styling, by John Frayling, was also very efficient aerodynamically. Suspension was all-independent, by wishbones and coils at the front and struts at the rear. Disc brakes were fitted all round, the rears inboard.

A race derived all-alloy engine from Coventry-Climax provided the power, at first about 71bhp from just four cylinders and 1216cc. The 1960 Special Equipment model was tuned to give 85bhp and also had a close-ratio ZF gearbox.
The super 95, Super 100 and Super 105 models came in for further tuning, which increased power to as much as 105bhp.

It was a compelling package, though not always a reliable one. Quality control of the bodyshells was sometimes lacking (not least because Lotus chose cheaper suppliers over better ones) and the Coventry-Climax engine could be somewhat temperamental if maintenance was skipped.
In the end a little over a thousand were sold. The model was replaced in 1963 by the Elan, which promised more performance and more reliability thanks to a steel backbone chassis and a bigger-capacity twin-cam engine based on Ford components-and also offered the option of a convertible body.

Published in Great Classics
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 11:32

Rolls-Royce

 

 

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The History of Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a British manufacturer of luxury cars based in Goodwood, England. It is the current producer of Rolls-Royce branded cars, whose historical production dates back to 1904. The factory is located across from the historic Goodwood Circuit in Goodwood, West Sussex, England. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BMW Group.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd began manufacturing cars in 1903. The factory at Goodwood is the fifth Rolls-Royce UK based car production facilty since the company was founded in 1904. The previous four were located in Manchester, London, Derby, and Crewe.

Previous iterations of the company include Rolls-Royce Limited and Rolls-Royce Motors.

Rolls-Royce Limited was a British car and aero-engine manufacturing company founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce on 15 March 1906 as the result of a partnership formed in 1904. In 1971, Rolls-Royce was crippled by the development of the advanced RB211 jet engine, resulting in the nationalisation of the company as Rolls-Royce (1972) Limited. In 1973, the car division was separated from the parent company as Rolls-Royce Motors. Rolls-Royce (1972) Limited continued as a nationalised company until it was privatised in 1987 as Rolls-Royce plc.

In 1884, Henry Royce started an electrical and mechanical business. He made his first car, a two-cylinder Royce 10, in his Manchester factory in 1904, and was introduced to Charles Rolls at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on 4 May of that year. Rolls was proprietor of an early motor car dealership, C.S.Rolls & Co. in Fulham. In spite of his preference for three or four cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the Royce 10, and in a subsequent agreement of 23 December 1904 agreed to take all the cars Royce could make. The first Rolls-Royce car, the Rolls-Royce 10 hp, was unveiled at the Paris Salon in December 1904.

Rolls-Royce Limited was formed on 15 March 1906, by which time it was apparent that new premises were required for production of cars. A new factory in Derby was largely designed by Royce, and production began in early 1908. On 6 December 1906 GBP 100,000 of new shares were offered to the public. In 1907, Rolls-Royce bought out C.S. Rolls & Co (the non-motor car interests of Royce Ltd. continued to operate separately.)

During 1906 Royce had been developing an improved six cylinder model with more power than the 30hp. Initially designated the 40/50hp, this was the company's first all-new model. In March 1908 Claude Johnson, Commercial Managing Director and sometimes described as the hyphen in Rolls-Royce, succeeded in persuading Royce and the other directors that Rolls-Royce should concentrate exclusively on the new model, and all the earlier models were duly discontinued. Later renamed the Silver Ghost, the new car was responsible for the company's early reputation with over 6,000 built. In 1921, the company opened a second factory in Springfield, Massachusetts in the United States (to help meet demand), where a further 1,701 "Springfield Ghosts" were built. This factory operated for 10 years, closing in 1931. Its chassis was used as a basis for the first British armoured car used in both world wars.

After the First World War, Rolls-Royce successfully avoided attempts to encourage the British car manufacturers to merge. Faced with falling sales of the Silver Ghost caused by the deteriorating economic situation, the company introduced the smaller, cheaper Twenty in 1922, effectively ending the one-model policy followed since 1908.

In 1931, the company acquired rival car maker Bentley, whose finances were unable to weather the Great Depression. From then until 2002, Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars were often identical apart from the radiator grille and minor details.

In 1933, the colour of the Rolls-Royce radiator monogram was changed from red to black because the red sometimes clashed with the coachwork colour selected by clients, and not as a mark of respect for the passing of Royce as is commonly stated.

Rolls-Royce and Bentley car production moved to Crewe in 1946, and also to Mulliner Park Ward, London, in 1959, as the company started to build bodies for its cars for the first time: previously it had built only the chassis, leaving the bodies to specialist coachbuilders.

In 1973 the motor car business was spun off as a separate entity, Rolls-Royce Motors. The main business of aircraft and marine engines remained in public ownership until 1987, when it was privatised as Rolls-Royce plc.

In 1998, owners Vickers decided to sell Rolls-Royce Motors. The most likely buyer was BMW, who already supplied engines and other components for Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars, but BMW's final offer of £340m was beaten by Volkswagen's £430m.

A stipulation in the ownership documents of Rolls-Royce dictated that Rolls-Royce plc, the aero-engine maker would retain certain essential trademarks (the Rolls-Royce name and logo) if the automotive division was sold. Rolls-Royce plc chose to license not to VW but to BMW, with whom it had recently had joint business ventures. VW had bought rights to the "Spirit of Ecstasy" bonnet ornament and the shape of the radiator grille, but it lacked rights to the Rolls-Royce name necessary to build the cars. Likewise, BMW lacked rights to the grille and mascot. BMW bought an option on the trademarks, licensing the name and "RR" logo for £40m, a deal that many commentators thought was a bargain for possibly the most valuable property in the deal. VW claimed that it had only really wanted Bentley anyway.

BMW and VW arrived at a solution. From 1998 to 2002 BMW would continue to supply engines for the cars and would allow use of the names, but this would cease on 1 January 2003. From that date, only BMW would be able to name cars "Rolls-Royce", and VW's former Rolls-Royce/Bentley division would build only cars called "Bentley". The Rolls-Royce's Corniche ceased production in 2002.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 11:11

Lotus

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The History of Lotus

Lotus Cars is a British manufacturer of sports and racing cars based at Hethel, Norfolk, England. The company designs and builds race and production automobiles of light weight and high handling characteristics.

It is currently owned by Proton, the Malaysian carmaker, who took Lotus over in 1994 on the bankruptcy of its former owner Bugatti.

The company was formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. by engineer Colin Chapman, a graduate of University College, London, in 1952. The first factory was in old stables behind the Railway Hotel in Hornsey, North London. Team Lotus, which was split off from Lotus Engineering in 1954, was active and competitive in Formula One racing from 1958 to 1994. The Lotus Group of Companies was formed in 1959. This was made up of Lotus Cars Limited and Lotus Components Limited which focused on road cars and customer competition car production respectively. Lotus Components Limited became Lotus Racing Limited in 1971 but the newly renamed entity ceased operation in the same year.

The company moved to a purpose built factory at Cheshunt in 1959 and since 1966 the company has occupied a modern factory and road test facility at Hethel, near Wymondham. This site is the former RAF Hethel base and the test track uses sections of the old runway.

In 1986, the company was bought by General Motors. On 27 August, 1993, GM sold the company, for £30 million, to A.C.B.N. Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli, who also owned Bugatti Automobili SpA. In 1996, a majority share in Lotus was sold to Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton), a Malaysian car company listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.

The company encouraged its customers to race its cars, and itself entered Formula One as a team in 1958. A Lotus Formula One car driven by Stirling Moss won the marque's first Grand Prix in 1960 at Monaco in a Lotus 18 entered by privateer Rob Walker. Major success came in 1963 with the Lotus 25, which with Jim Clark driving won Lotus its first F1 World Constructors Championship.

The first car that we now call a Lotus was built in 1946 or 1947 and called an Austin Seven Special. The first car actually called a Lotus, at the time, was built in 1949 and was fitted with a more powerful Ford engine than the Austin Seven unit used in the previous car. Chapman made sure that it could also be used as a practical road car, and in 1950 entered it in his first race at Silverstone, where he took on a Type 37 Bugatti and won. This changed his whole interest in motor sport, and he decided to build a road racing sports car to compete in the new 750 Formula in 1951.

This car was called the Lotus Mk III, and the previous car became the Lotus Mk II, and the original Austin Seven Special became the Lotus Mk I. The new racer was started in the same small factory, but then Chapman met the Allen brothers, Michael and Nigel, who had a very well equipped workshop beside their house, and were persuaded to join him in building a team of three racers for the new Formula. They only had time to finish one, and it was an enormous success in 1951, winning every race it finished in the 750 Formula, and often beating cars of double the engine size in other races.

The first production Lotus was the Mark VI. In 1952, fitted with the new 1.5 litre Ford Consul engine, it raced twice before being written off in a road accident. Several orders had ben received from customers, and an order for six chassis frames was placed by Lotus with two friends who formed the Progress Chassis Company to build them. Lotus Engineering Company became a limited liability company on 25th September 1952.

Racing success with the Mark VI in 1953 encouraged Chapman to build a streamlined version for 1954, and fitted with a 1.5 litre MG engine, this car, and the earlier Mark VI, beat the works Porsche in the sports car race before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Lotus had arrived, and new cars were now being ordered in sufficient numbers for the company to take off.

The Eleven sports cars followed, and with the new Coventry Climax engine they were the cars to have if you wanted to win races. In 1957 an updated version of the Mark VI appeared called the Seven. This was so successful that it is still in production now (called the Caterham Seven).

A single seat Lotus appeared in 1957 and Lotus won the Index of Performance at Le Mans. Lotus had outgrown the tiny premises at Hornsey, and in 1959 moved to a purpose built factory at Cheshunt.

The new factory was needed to assemble the revolutionary new Lotus Elite, a two seater coupe with integral glassfibre body/chassis. Lotus entered Formula 1 in 1958 and by 1960 with their first rear-engined car, the Eighteen, a Lotus won its first Grand Prix, driven by Stirling Moss.

The 1960s showed steady growth of Lotus both on the race track, where Jim Clark won two World Championships, and in the market place with the new Lotus Elan, still thought by many to be the best ever sports car, and in collaboration with Ford, the Lotus-Cortina. The new DFV engine from Cosworth brought further F1 success, and Lotus won at Indianapolis.

The rear engined Europa followed, and Chapman, keen to be rid of his kit-car image, sold off the Seven to Caterham Cars and prepared to start building cars for a higher income bracket. Cheshunt was too small, and the final move was made to Hethel, near Norwich in Norfolk in 1966 where a new four seater car, also named the Elite, entered production with their own 2 litre Lotus engine.

On the track the 70s were a continuing success story in all the single seat formulae, but sports car racing had virtually ceased with the unsuccessful Lotus 30 and 40.

The Elite was followed by the lower priced Eclat, the Esprit two seat Coupe, and the Sunbeam Lotus which won the Rally Championship in 1981. Then in 1982 came the shattering news that Colin Chapman had died at the age of only 54. To many of those interested in historic Lotus cars that was the end of the era, and Team Lotus withdrew from Formula 1 in 1995. Group Lotus continues to be a leading figure in the world of automotive engineering, and recent success with the Elise has done much to restore their deserved prestige.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 11:10

Land Rover

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The History of Land Rover

Land Rover is a 4x4, all-terrain vehicle manufacturer, based in Gaydon, Warwickshire, England, now operated as part of the Jaguar Land Rover business owned by Tata Motors of India.

Originally the term Land Rover referred to one specific vehicle, a pioneering civilian all-terrain utility vehicle launched on 30 April 1948, at the Amsterdam Motor Show, but was later used as a brand for several distinct models, all capable of four-wheel drive.

Starting out as a model in the Rover Company's product range, the Land Rover brand developed, first as a marque, then as a separate company, developing a range of four-wheel drive capable vehicles under a succession of owners, including British Leyland, British Aerospace and BMW. In 2000, the company was sold by BMW to the Ford Motor Company, becoming part of their Premier Automotive Group. In June 2008, Ford sold its Jaguar and Land Rover operations to Tata Motors.

The first Land Rover was designed in 1948 in the United Kingdom (on the island of Anglesey in Wales) by Maurice Wilks, chief designer at the British car company Rover on his farm in Newborough, Anglesey. The first Land Rover prototype, later nicknamed 'Centre Steer', was built on a Jeep chassis. A distinctive feature is their bodies, constructed of a lightweight rustproof proprietary alloy of aluminium and magnesium called Birmabright. This material was used because of the post-war steel shortage and the plentiful supply of post-war aircraft aluminium. This metal's resistance to corrosion was one of the factors that allowed the vehicle to build up a reputation for longevity in the toughest conditions. The early choice of colour was dictated by military surplus supplies of aircraft cockpit paint, so early vehicles only came in various shades of light green; all models until recently feature sturdy box section ladder-frame chassis.

The early vehicles, such as the Series I, were field-tested at Long Bennington and designed to be field-serviced; advertisements for Rovers cite vehicles driven thousands of miles on banana oil. Now with more complex service requirements this is less of an option. The British Army maintains the use of the mechanically simple 2.5 litre 4-cylinder 300TDi engined versions rather than the electronically controlled 2.5 litre 5-cylinder TD5 to retain some servicing simplicity. This engine also continued in use in some export markets using units built at a Ford plant in Brazil, where Land Rovers were built under license and the engine was also used in Ford pick-up trucks built locally. Production of the TDi engine ended in the United Kingdom in 2006, meaning that Land Rover no longer offers it as an option. International Motors of Brazil offer an engine called the 2.8 TGV Power Torque, which is essentially a 2.8 litre version of the 300TDi, with a corresponding increase in power and torque. All power is combined with an All-Terrain Traction Control which gives active terrain response; Ferrari uses a similar system in race traction.

Since its purchase by Ford, Land Rover has been closely associated with Jaguar. In many countries they share a common sales and distribution network (including shared dealerships), and some models now share components and production facilities.

On 11 June 2007, Ford Motor Company announced its plan to sell Land Rover, along with Jaguar.

On 26 March 2008, Ford announced that it had agreed to sell its Jaguar and Land Rover operations to Tata Motors, and that the sale was expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2008. On 2 June 2008, the sale to Tata Motors was completed by both parties. Included in the deal were the rights to three other British brands: Jaguar's own Daimler, as well as two dormant brands Lanchester and Rover. BMW and Ford had previously retained ownership of the Rover brand to protect the integrity of the Land Rover brand, with which 'Rover' might be confused in the US 4x4 market; the Rover brand was originally used under license by MG Rover until it collapsed in 2005, at which point it was re-acquired by the then Ford Motor Company owned Land Rover Limited.

Land Rovers were manufactured primarily at the Solihull plant, near Birmingham, but production of the "Freelander" was moved to the Jaguar car factory at Halewood near Liverpool, a former Ford car plant. Defender models are assembled under licence in several locations worldwide, including Spain (Santana Motors), Iran (Pazhan Morattab), Brazil (Karmann)and Turkey (Otokar). The former BL/Rover Group technical centre at Gaydon in Warwickshire is home to the corporate headquarters.

The use of Land Rovers by the British and Commonwealth military, as well as on long term civilian projects and expeditions, is mainly due to the marque's off-road performance. For example, the short wheelbase version of the Land Rover Defender is capable of tackling a gradient of 45 degrees, an approach angle of up to 50 degrees, a departure angle of 53 degrees and a ramp break-over of up to 25 degrees. A distinctive feature of all Land Rover products has been their exceptional axle articulation (the degree to which the wheels have vertical travel, with high amounts allowing them to maintain contact (and traction) with the ground over uneven surfaces), which is currently 7 inch (178 mm) at the front axle and 8.25 inch (210 mm) at the rear on basic Defender models. Despite the development of more car-like, road-orientated vehicles over years, Land Rover continues to market all its vehicles as fully off-road capable- even the Range Rover, which in its current guise competes with luxury saloons is equipped with a two-speed transfer box and long-travel suspension, as well as an array of electronic aids such as Land Rover's 'Terrain Response' system and traction control. The drivetrain and structure is capable of sustained heavy off-roading in all conditions as well as a towing loads of up to 4 tons.

Right from the start in 1948, PTOs (Power take-off) were integral to the Land Rover concept, enabling farm machinery and many other items to be run with the vehicle stationary.

PTOs remained regular options on Series I, II and III Land Rovers up to the demise of the Series Land Rover in 1985. It is still possible to order an agricultural PTO on a Defender as a special order.

One of the other capabilities of the utility Land Rover (the Series/Defender models) is that they are available in a huge variety of body styles, ranging from a simple canvas-topped pick-up truck to a 12-seat fully trimmed Station Wagon. Both Land Rover and out-of-house contractors have offered a huge range of conversions and adaptations to the basic vehicle, such as fire engines, excavators, 'cherry picker' hydraulic platforms, ambulances, snowploughs, and 6-wheel drive versions, as well as one-off special builds including amphibious Land Rovers and vehicles fitted with tracks instead of wheels.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 11:02

Ford

 

 

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The History of Ford

Henry Ford was 40 years old when he founded the Ford Motor Company, which would go on to become one of the world's largest and most profitable companies. As one of the largest family-controlled companies in the world, Ford has been in continuous family control for over 100 years.
After two unsuccessful attempts to establish a company to manufacture cars, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903 with Henry Ford as vice-president and chief engineer. The infant company produced only a few cars a day at the Ford factory on Mack Avenue in Detroit. Groups of two or three men worked on each car from components made to order by other companies.

Henry Ford pioneered concepts of mass-production that are now taken for granted in today's world. He realized his dream of producing an car that was reasonably priced, reliable, and efficient with the introduction of the Model T in 1908. This vehicle initiated a new era in personal transportation. It was easy to operate, maintain, and handle on rough roads, immediately becoming a huge success.

By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts. To meet the growing demand for the Model T, the company opened a large factory at Highland Park, Michigan, in 1910. Here, Henry Ford combined precision manufacturing, standardized and interchangeable parts, a division of labour, and, in 1913, a continuous moving assembly line. Workers remained in place, adding one component to each car as it moved past them on the line. Delivery of parts by conveyor belt to the workers was carefully timed to keep the assembly line moving smoothly and efficiently. The introduction of the moving assembly line revolutionized car production by significantly reducing assembly time per vehicle, thus lowering costs. Ford's production of Model Ts made his company the largest car manufacturer in the world.

Today, Ford Motor Company manufactures cars under several names including Lincoln and Mercury in the United States. In 1958, Ford introduced a new marque, the Edsel, but poor sales led to its discontinuation in 1960. Later, in 1985, the Merkur brand was introduced to market Fords from Europe in the United States; it met a similar fate in 1989.

Ford has major manufacturing operations in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, the People's Republic of China amongst others.

Initially, Ford Motor Company models sold outside the U.S. were essentially versions of those sold on the home market, but later on, models specific to Europe were developed and sold. Attempts to globalize the model line have often failed, but one recent exception is the European model of the Focus, which has sold strongly on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ford Europe has broken new ground with a number of relatively futuristic car launches over the last 50 years.
Its 1959 Anglia two-door saloon was one of the most quirky-looking small family cars in Europe at the time of its launch, but buyers soon became accustomed to its looks and it was hugely popular with British buyers in particular. It was still selling well when replaced by the more practical Escort in 1967.

The third incarnation of the Ford Escort was launched in 1980 and marked the company's move from rear-wheel drive saloons to front-wheel drive hatchbacks in the small family car sector. It also offered levels of style, comfort and refinement which were almost unmatched on comparable cars of this era.

The 1982 Ford Sierra - replacement for the long-running and massively popular Cortina and Taunus models - was a style-setter at the time of its launch. Its ultramodern aerodynamic design was a world away from a boxy, sharp-edged Cortina, and it was massively popular just about everywhere it was sold. A series of updates kept it looking relatively fresh until it was replaced by the front-wheel drive Mondeo at the start of 1993.
Ford sports cars have been visible in the world of sports car racing since 1964. Most notably the GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in the 1960s and is the only American car to ever win overall at this prestigious event.

Ford has a long history in rallying and has been active in the World Rally Championship since the beginning of the world championship, the 1973 season. Ford took the 1979 manufacturers' title with Hannu Mikkola, Bjorn Waldegard and Ari Vatanen driving the Ford Escort RS1800. In the Group B era, Ford achieved success with Ford RS200. Since the 1999 season, Ford has used various versions of the Ford Focus WRC to much success. In the 2006 season, BP-Ford World Rally Team secured Ford its second manufacturers' title, with the Focus RS WRC 06 built by M-Sport and successfully defended this in the 2007 season.

Ford was heavily involved in Formula One for many years, and supplied engines to a large number of teams from 1967 until 2004. Ford-badged engines won 176 Grands Prix between 1967 and 2003 for teams such as Team Lotus and McLaren.
The Ford Mustang has arguably been Ford's most successful sports car.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 10:55

Daimler

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The History of Daimler

Daimler AG (formerly DaimlerChrysler, which was formerly Daimler-Benz AG) is a German car corporation (not to be confused with the British Daimler Motor Company). In addition to cars, Daimler manufactures trucks and provides financial services through its Daimler Financial Services arm. The company also owns major stakes in aerospace group EADS, high-technology and parent company of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes racing team McLaren Group, and Japanese truck maker Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation.

DaimlerChrysler was founded in 1998 when Mercedes-Benz manufacturer Daimler-Benz (1926-1998) of Stuttgart, Germany merged with the US-based Chrysler Corporation. The deal created a new entity, DaimlerChrysler. However, the buyout failed to produce the trans-Atlantic automotive powerhouse dealmakers had hoped for, and DaimlerChrysler announced on May 14, 2007 that it would sell Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management of New York, a private equity firm that specializes in restructuring troubled companies. On October 4, 2007 a DaimlerChrysler Extraordinary Shareholders' Meeting approved the renaming of the company. From October 5, 2007, the company has been titled Daimler AG. The US company adopted the name Chrysler LLC when the sale completed on August 3, 2007.

Daimler produces cars and trucks under the brands of Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, Smart, Freightliner and many others.

An Agreement of Mutual Interest was signed on May 1, 1924 between Benz & Cie (founded 1883) of Karl Benz and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (founded 1890) of Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach.

Both companies continued to manufacture their separate car and internal combustion engine brands until, on June 28, 1926, when Benz & Cie. and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft AG formally merged becoming Daimler-Benz AG and agreed that thereafter, all of the factories would use the brand name of Mercedes-Benz on their cars.

In 1998 Daimler-Benz AG "merged" with the American car manufacturer Chrysler Corporation, and formed DaimlerChrysler AG. In 2007, when the Chrysler group was sold off to Cerberus Capital Management, the name of the parent company was changed to simply Daimler AG.

On November 16, 2009 Daimler purchased a 75.1% stake in Brawn GP. The company was rebranded as Mercedes GP. The purchase of Brawn meant that Daimler will sell its 40% stake in McLaren back in phases which will end in 2011. Mercedes will continue to provide sponsorship and engines to McLaren until 2015 when McLaren will probably have to find an engine supplier or make its own engines.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 10:54

Citroen

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The History of Citroen

Citroen is a French car manufacturer. Founded in 1919 by André Citroen, it was one of the world's first mass-production car companies outside of the USA. Since 1976 it has been part of PSA Peugeot Citroen, and its headquarters is on rue Fructidor,in Saint-Ouen, Seine-Saint-Denis, near Paris. The brand celebrated its 90th Anniversary in 2009.

Originally a mass-market car maker with relatively straightforward designs, Citroen shocked the world in 1934 with the innovative Traction Avant, the world's first mass-production front wheel drive car (1934-57). Other significant models include the H Van (1947-81), the 2CV (1948-90), the DS (1955-1975) and the CX (1974-91).

Citroen was a keen marketer,he used the Eiffel Tower as the world's largest advertising sign, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. He also sponsored expeditions in Asia and Africa, intended to demonstrate the potential for motor vehicles equipped with the Kégresse track system to cross inhospitable regions. The expeditions conveyed scientists and journalists.

In 1924, Citroen began a business relationship with American engineer Edward G. Budd. From 1899, Budd had worked to develop stainless steel bodies for railroad cars, for the Pullman in particular. Budd went on to manufacture steel bodies for many car makers, Dodge being his first big auto client. In 1928, Citroen introduced the first all-steel body in Europe.

The cars were initially successful in the marketplace, but soon competitors (who were still using a wooden structure for their bodies), introduced new body designs. Citroen did not redesign the bodies of his cars. Citroens still sold in large quantities in spite of not changing the body design, but the car's low price was the main selling point and Citroen experienced heavy losses.

In an attempt to remedy the situation, Citroen developed the Traction Avant. The Traction Avant had three revolutionary features: a unitary body with no separate frame, front wheel independent suspension, and front wheel drive. Citroen commissioned Budd to create a prototype, which evolved into the 7 horsepower (CV), 32 hp (24 kW) Traction Avant of 1934.

In 1933, Citroen also introduced the Rosalie, a passenger car with the world,s first commercially available diesel engine.

Achieving quick development of the Traction Avant and its production facilities at the same time was too costly and overly ambitious, causing the financial ruin of the company. In 1934, debt forced the company into foreclosure and it was then taken over by its biggest creditor, the tyre company Michelin. Fortunately for Michelin, the Traction Avant met with market acceptance and the basic philosophy that had led to this design continued.

During the German occupation of France in World War II, Citroen researchers continued their work in secret and developed the concepts that were later brought to market in the 2CV and DS. These were widely regarded by contemporary journalists as avant garde, even radical, solutions to automotive design.

This began a period of unusual brand loyalty, normally seen in the car industry only in niche brands, like Porsche and Ferrari. The cult-like appeal of the cars to Citroenistes took almost two decades to fade, from 1975 to about 1995.

Citroen unveiled the 2CV (2 fiscal horsepower, initially only 12 HP) at the Paris Salon in 1948. The car became a bestseller, achieving the designer's aim of providing rural French people with a motorized alternative to the horse. This car remained in production, with only minor changes, until 1990 and was a common sight on French roads until recently.

1955 saw the introduction of the DS, the first full usage of Citroen's now legendary hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension system that was tested on the rear suspension of the last of the Tractions. The DS was the first European production car with disc brakes.

The DS featured power steering, power brakes and power suspension, and from 1968 directional headlights. A single high-pressure system was used to activate pistons in the gearbox cover to shift the gears in the transmission and to operate the clutch on the Citromatic, Citroen's semi-automatic transmission.

This high-pressure hydraulic system would form the basis of many Citroen cars, including the SM, GS, CX, BX, XM, and Xantia. These vehicles shared the distinguishing feature of rising to operating ride height when the engine was turned on, like a "mechanical camel" (per Car & Driver magazine). A lever located just ahead of the driver's door allowed the driver to adjust the height of the car. On right-hand drive models, this lever was located behind the driver's right foot. The height-adjustability of the suspension allowed for clearing obstacles, and changing tyres. This type of suspension was uniquely able to absorb road irregularities without disturbing the occupants.

In 1963, Citroen negotiated with Peugeot to cooperate in the purchase of raw materials and equipment. Talks were broken off in 1965.

That year Citroen took over the French carmaker Panhard in the hope of using Panhard's expertise in midsize cars to complement its own range of very small, cheap cars (e.g., 2CV/Ami) and large, expensive cars (e.g., DS/ID). Cooperation between both companies had begun 12 years earlier, and they had agreed to a partial merger of their sales networks in 1953. Panhard ceased making vehicles in 1967.

That year Citroen purchased the Italian sports car maker Maserati and launched the grand tourer SM, which featured a V6 Maserati engine and a fully powered steering system called DIRAVI. The SM was engineered as if it were replacing the DS, a level of investment the GT sector alone would never be able to support, even in the best of circumstances. Circumstances became more unfavorable as the 1970s progressed. Citroen suffered another financial blow in the 1973 energy crisis. In 1974, the carmaker withdrew from North America, due to design regulations that outlawed core features of Citroen cars.

Huge losses at Citroen were caused by failure of the Comotor rotary engine venture, plus the strategic error of going the 15 years from 1955 to 1970 without a model in the profitable middle range of the European market, and the massive development costs for the GS, CX, SM, Birotor, Maserati Bora, Maserati Merak, and Maserati Khamsin models each a technological marvel in its own right.

Citroen was weak and unable to withstand the softening of the automobile market that accompanied the 1973 oil crisis. That year FIAT withdrew from PARDEVI and returned its 49% stake to Michelin. This was an ominous sign of things to come and, less than a year later, Citroen went bankrupt. The French government feared large job losses and arranged talks between Michelin and Peugeot, in which it was decided to merge Automobiles Citroen and Automobiles Peugeot into a single company. In 1974, Peugeot purchased 38.2% of Citroen and became responsible for managing the combined activities, in particular their research, purchasing, and investments departments.

Peugeot sold off Maserati to DeTomaso in May 1975, and the Italian firm was quickly able to exploit the image of the Maserati brand to sell tens of thousands of newly-designed Bi-Turbo models.

The takeover was completed in May 1976, as Peugeot SA purchased a 90% stake of Citroen SA and the companies were combined into a holding company, known as PSA Peugeot Citroen.

The PSA venture was a financial success from 1976 to 1979. Citroen had two successful new designs in the market at this time (the GS and CX), a resurgent Citroen 2CV, and the Citroen Dyane in the wake of the oil crisis, and Peugeot was typically prudent in its own finances, launching the Peugeot 104 based Citroen Visa and Citroen LNA. PSA then purchased the aging assets of Chrysler Europe, which it rebranded as Talbot, leading to losses from 1980 to 1985.

PSA gradually eliminated Citroen’s ambitious attitude to engineering and styling in an effort to rebrand the marque as an economy brand. In the 1980s, Citroen models were increasingly Peugeot-based, which was part of a worldwide motor industry trend called "platform sharing." The 1982 BX used the hydropneumatic suspension system and still had a Citroenesque appearance, while being powered by Peugeot-derived engines and using the floorpan later seen on the Peugeot 405. By the late 1980s, many of the distinctive features of the marque had been removed or diluted - conventional Peugeot instruments, switchgear and dashboards replaced clean sheet ergonomic designs, complete with self cancelling indicators that Citroen had previously refused to adopt on ergonomic grounds.

Citroen has expanded into many new geographic markets. In the late 1970s, the firm developed a small car for production in Romania known as the Oltcit, which it sold in Western Europe as the Citroen Axel. Sales were adversely affected by poor build quality. That joint venture has ended, but a new one between PSA and Toyota is now producing cars like the Citroen C1 in the Czech Republic. In China, the C3 and Xsara are sold alongside the Fukang and Elysée local models. Citroen is still a global brand except in North America, where the company has not returned since the SM was effectively banned in 1974 for not meeting NHTSA bumper regulations.

Production of the versatile 2CV was ended in 1990. Companies like Chrysler with the CCV concept car, Toyota with the Scion xB and Honda with the Element have recognized the 2CV concept and translated it to the modern era. More recently, Citroen has introduced the C3 Pluriel, an unusual convertible with strong allusions to the 2CV, both in body style (such as the bonnet) and in its all-round practicality. A "retro style" C3-based, post-modern 2cv like the new VW Beetle and BMW MINI is under active consideration by Citroen.

The Pluriel is but one example of Citroen's return to innovation, after launching somewhat dull (although efficient) models throughout the 1990s. Other examples are the C2, C4, and C6. The introduction of newer models, such as the long-awaited XM replacement, the C6, indicates Citroen's continued commitment to innovation in the 21st century. But the days of clean-sheet thinking and truly radical innovation are long gone. Being too avant-garde and too far ahead of public taste is too risky.

At the beginning of 2009, Citroen announced that is was setting up a luxury brand called DS that would run parallel alongside its current car range. This brand (or marque) would use the name of the 1955 car to represent its future cars starting with the DS 3, a high quality small car based on the floor plan of the new C3. This car will début in early 2010 quickly followed by the larger DS 4 and the large DS 5 respectively. They will all be badged with the new DS logo rather than the familiar Citroen double chevron and all will have markedly different styling from their equivalent sister car.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 10:53

Chrysler

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The History of Chrysler

Chrysler Group LLC is a U.S. car manufacturer headquartered in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, Michigan. Chrysler was first organized as the Chrysler Corporation in 1925. From 1998 to 2007, Chrysler and its subsidiaries were part of the German based DaimlerChrysler AG (now Daimler AG). Prior to 1998, Chrysler Corporation traded under the "C" symbol on the New York Stock Exchange. Under DaimlerChrysler, the company was named "DaimlerChrysler Motors Company LLC", with its U.S. operations generally referred to as the "Chrysler Group". On May 14, 2007, DaimlerChrysler announced the sale of 80.1% of Chrysler Group to American private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, L.P., although Daimler continued to hold a 19.9% stake. This was when the company took on the name, Chrysler LLC. The deal was finalized on August 3, 2007. On April 27, 2009, Daimler AG signed a binding agreement to give up its 19.9% remaining stake in Chrysler LLC to Cerberus Capital Management and pay as much as $600 million into the carmaker's pension fund.

On April 30, 2009, Chrysler LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced a plan for a partnership with Italian carmaker Fiat. On June 1, Chrysler LLC stated they were selling some assets and operations to the newly formed company Chrysler Group LLC. Fiat will hold a 20% stake in the new company, with an option to increase this to 35%, and eventually to 51% if it meets financial and developmental goals for the company.

On June 10, 2009, the sale of most of Chrysler assets to "New Chrysler", formally known as Chrysler Group LLC was completed. The federal government financed the deal with US$6.6 billion in financing, paid to the "Old Chrysler", formally called Old Carco LLC, which remained in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The transfer does not include eight manufacturing locations, nor many parcels of real estate, nor equipment leases. Contracts with 789 U.S. car dealerships, who are being dropped, were not transferred.

The company was founded by Walter Chrysler (1875-1940) on June 6, 1925,when the Maxwell Motor Company (est. 1904) was re-organized into the Chrysler Corporation.

Walter Chrysler had originally arrived at the ailing Maxwell-Chalmers company in the early 1920s, having been hired to take over and overhaul the company's troubled operations (just after a similar rescue job at the Willys car company).

In late 1923 production of the Chalmers car was ended.

Then in January 1924, Walter Chrysler launched the well-received Chrysler car. The Chrysler was a 6-cylinder car, designed to provide customers with an advanced, well-engineered car, but at a more affordable price than they might expect. (Elements of this car are traceable back to a prototype which had been under development at Willys at the time that Walter Chrysler was there). The original 1924 Chrysler included a carburetor air filter, high compression engine, full pressure lubrication, and an oil filter, at a time when most autos came without these features. Among the innovations in its early years would be the first practical mass-produced four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a system nearly completely engineered by Chrysler with patents assigned to Lockheed, and rubber engine mounts to reduce vibration. Chrysler also developed a road wheel with a ridged rim, designed to keep a deflated tire from flying off the wheel. This safety wheel was eventually adopted by the auto industry worldwide.

Following the introduction of the Chrysler, the Maxwell was dropped after its 1925 model year run, although in truth the new line of lower-priced 4-cylinder Chryslers which were then introduced for the 1926 model year were basically Maxwells which had been re-engineered and rebranded. It was during this time period of the early 1920s that Maxwell was ultimately incorporated under the Chrysler name.

Chrysler is also currently planning at least three hybrid vehicles, the Chrysler Aspen hybrid, Dodge Durango hybrid, and the Dodge Ram hybrid including HEMI engines. Chrysler plans to use hybrid technology developed jointly with General Motors and BMW AG in vehicles beyond the two hybrid SUVs it had already announced to introduce in 2008.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 10:43

Alvis

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The History of Alvis

Alvis cars were produced by the manufacturer Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd of Coventry, United Kingdom from 1919 to 1967. The company also produced aero-engines and military vehicles, the latter continuing long after car production ceased.

The original company, TG John and Co. Ltd., was founded in 1919. Its first products were stationary engines, carburettor bodies and motorscooters. The company's founder T.G. John was approached by Geoffrey de Freville with designs for a 4-cylinder engine with aluminium pistons and pressure lubrication, unusual for the period. Some have suggested that de Freville proposed the name Alvis as a compound of the words "aluminium" and "vis" (meaning "strength" in Latin) although de Freville himself vigorously denied this theory. Perhaps the name was derived from the Norse mythological weaponsmith, Alviss, but the true origin is unknown.

The first car model, the 10/30, using de Freville's design was an instant success and set the reputation for quality and performance for which the company became famous. Following complaints from the Avro aviation company whose logo bore similarities to the original winged green triangle, the more familiar inverted red triangle incorporating the word 'Alvis' evolved. In 1921, the company changed its name and became the Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd. and moved production to Holyhead Road, Coventry where from 1922 to 1923 they also made the Buckingham car.

The original 10/30 side-valve engine was developed progressively becoming by 1923 the famous overhead-valve 12/50, produced until 1932 and one of the most successful vintage sports cars of all time. Exhilarating performance and rugged reliability meant that around 350 of these 12/50hp cars and 60 of the later (and latterly concurrent) 12/60hp survive today representing some 10 percent of total production.

1927 saw the introduction of the six-cylinder 14.75 h.p. and this engine became the basis for the long line of luxurious six-cylinder Alvis cars produced up to the outbreak of war. Not only were these cars extremely elegant but they were full of technical innovations. Independent front suspension and the world's first all-synchromesh gearbox came in 1933 followed by servo assisted brakes. A front wheel drive model was introduced (from 1928 to 1930), a model bristling with innovation with front wheel drive, in-board brakes, overhead camshaft and, as an option, a Roots type supercharger.

In 1936, the company name was changed to Alvis Ltd and by the beginning of the war, aero-engine and armoured vehicle divisions had been added to the company.

In September 1939 following the outbreak of war car production was suspended, but was later allowed to resume and production of the 12/70, Silver Crest, Speed 25, and 4.3 Litre continued well into 1940. During World War II the car factory was severely damaged in the German Luftwaffe raid on Coventry in 1940 though strangely the armaments factory emerged fairly unscathed. Much valuable gear cutting and other equipment was lost and car production was suspended for the duration of the war only resuming during the latter part of 1946. Despite this, Alvis carried out war production on aero engines (as sub-contractor of Rolls-Royce) and other aeroplane equipment.

In 1950 a new chassis and six-cylinder 3 litre engine was announced and this highly successful engine became the basis of all Alvis models until production ceased in 1967. Saloon bodies for the TA21, as the new model was called, again came from Mulliners of Birmingham as they had for the TA14, with Tickford producing the dropheads. But with the first of these becoming part of Standard Triumph and the second being acquired by Aston Martin Lagonda it was clear by 1954 that new arrangements would have to be made. By this time some of the most original and beautiful designs on the three litre chassis were being produced by master coachbuilder Hermann Graber of Switzerland and indeed these one-off designed cars are highly sought after today. With a licence in place, from 1955 all Alvis bodies became based on Graber designs. Early examples, the TC108/G, were built by Willowbrook of Loughborough but at such a high price that very few were made. Only after 1958 with the launch of the TD21 did something resembling full scale production resume as Park Ward, coachbuilders for Rolls-Royce and Bentley, contracted to build the bodies at a much lower price. These cars, the TD21 and its later variants, the TE21 and finally the TF21 are well built, attractive and fast cars. However it was clear by the mid sixties that with a price tag of nearly double that of the mass produced Jaguar the end could not be far off.

Rover took a controlling interest in Alvis in 1965 and a Rover-designed mid-engined V8 coupé prototype named the P6BS was rumoured to be the new Alvis model but with the takeover by British Leyland this too was shelved. By the time the TF21 was launched in 1966, (available, like its predecessors in both saloon and drophead form and with either manual or automatic gearbox), the model was beginning to show its age despite a top speed of 127mph - the fastest Alvis ever produced. With only 109 sold and with political troubles aplenty in the UK car manufacturing business at that time, production finally ceased in 1967. The Alvis name lived on with armoured fighting vehicle production.

As part of Rover, Alvis Limited was incorporated into British Leyland but was bought by United Scientific Holdings plc in 1981. Subsequently the company's name changed to Alvis plc. In 1998, the armoured vehicle business of GKN plc was taken on and the main UK manufacturing operation moved from Coventry to Telford.

In 2002 Alvis group purchased Vickers to form the subsidiary Alvis Vickers Ltd which was subsequently purchased by BAE Systems in 2004. BAE Systems have ended the use of the Alvis distinctive 'red triangle' trademark.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 10:41

Alfa Romeo

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The History of Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A. is an Italian automaker founded on June 24, 1910 in Milan. Alfa Romeo has been a part of the Fiat Group since 1986, and since February 2007 a part of Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. The company was owned by Italian state holding company Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between the end of 1932 to 1986. The company was originally known as A.L.F.A., which is an acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili.

The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as Societ Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. The firm's initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be a more suitable location and accordingly a tract of land was acquired in the Milan suburb of Portello, where a new factory of 6,700 square metres (8,000 sq yd) was erected. Late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and Stella, with the other Italian co-investors, founded a new company named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Giuseppe Merosi, hired in 1909 for designing new cars more suitable to the Italian market. Merosi would go on to design a series of new A.L.F.A. cars, with more powerful engines (40-60 HP). A.L.F.A. also ventured into motor racing, drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24 HP models. In 1914, an advanced Grand Prix car was designed and built, the GP1914 which featured a four cylinder, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and twin ignition. However, the onset of World War I halted automobile production at A.L.F.A. for three years.

When the war was over, car production resumed in 1919 since parts for the completion of 105 cars were still lying at the A.L.F.A. factory since 1915. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo with the Torpedo 20-30 HP becoming the first car to be badged as such.

The Alfa factory (converted during wartime to the production of Macchi C.202 Folgore engines) was bombed during World War II, and struggled to return to profitability after the war. The luxury vehicles were out. Smaller mass-produced vehicles began to be produced in Alfa's factories beginning with the 1954 model year, with the introduction of the Giulietta series of berline (saloons/sedans), coupes and open two-seaters. All three varieties shared what would become the classic Alfa Romeo overhead Twin Cam four cylinder engine, initially in 1300 cc form. This engine would eventually be enlarged to 2 liters (2000 cc) and would remain in production through 1995.

In 1952, Alfa-Romeo had experimented with its first front-wheel drive compact car named "Project 13-61". It had the same transverse-mounted, forward-motor layout as the modern front-wheel drive automobiles. Alfa-Romeo made a second attempt toward the late 1950s based on Project 13-61. It was to be called Tipo 103. It even resembled the smaller version of its popular Alfa-Romeo Giulia. However, due to the financial difficulties in post-war Italy, the Tipo 103 never saw the production. Had Alfa-Romeo succeed in producing Tipo 103, it would precede the Mini as the first "modern" front-wheel drive compact car.

By the 1970s Alfa was again in financial trouble. The Italian government company Finmeccanica bowed out in 1986 as Fiat Group bought in, creating a new group, Alfa Lancia Industriale S.p.A., to manufacture Alfas and Lancias. Models produced subsequent to the 1990s combined Alfa's traditional virtues of avant-garde styling and sporting panache with the economic benefits of product rationalisation, and include a "GTA" version of the 147 hatchback, the Giugiaro-designed Brera, and a high-performance exotic called the 8C Competizione (named after one of Alfa's most successful prewar sports and racing cars, the 8C of the 1930s).

In 2005 Maserati was bought back from Ferrari and brought under Fiat's full control. The Fiat Group plans to create a sports and luxury division from Maserati and Alfa Romeo. There is a planned strategic relationship between these two; engines, platforms and possibly dealers will be shared in some market areas.

In the beginning of 2007, Fiat Auto S.p.A. was reorganized and four new automobile companies were created; Fiat Automobiles S.p.A., Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., Lancia Automobiles S.p.A. and Fiat Light Commercial Vehicles S.p.A. These companies are fully owned by Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.

In 1910 a draughtsman named Romano Cattaneo was given the job of coming up with a badge for a new Milan-based company, ALFA. It is generally accepted that the badge is based on the coat of arms of the House of Visconti and the red cross on a white background of Milan. In the early part of the 5th century AD a serpent that devoured humans was said to be at large in the area around Milan and terrifying the local populace. It was slain by Ottoni Visconti and this heroic deed was celebrated as part of the coat of arms. The red cross on a white back ground celebrates the deeds of Giovanni Da Rio, who is reputed to have been the first to climb the walls of Jerusalem and erect a cross there during the first crusade. The badge can be seen as a shield, reversed, above the great door of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan.

In 1918, after the company was purchased by Nicola Romeo, the badge was redesigned with the help of Giuseppe Merosi to include the emblem of the City of Milan and that of the Visconti family in a circular motif, bordered by a dark blue metallic ring containing the inscription "ALFA ROMEO" and "MILANO" separated by two Savoy dynasty knots to honour the Kingdom of Italy. After the victory of the P2 in the inaugural Automobile World Championship in 1925, Alfa added a laurel wreath around the logo. In 1946 after the victory of the Italian Republic Savoy knots were replaced with two curvy lines.

Alfa Romeo motorcars are recognised by all Motor enthusiasts as being the first "supercar", with the term being coined in the 1920s by a British journalist to describe an Alfa Romeo.

Until the 1980s, Alfa Romeos, except for the Alfasud, were rear-wheel-drive.

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