Car Marques
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 14:12

Austin Healey

Austin HealeyThe six – cylinder Austin – Healey 100/6 was more refined amd more grown up than the original four-cylinder 100, but enthusiasts were disappointed to learn that it was also a shade slower.

Even the later versions with six – port cylinder heads and more power struggle to outpace the earlier cars. Those looking for a faster Healey had to wait until 1959, and the introduction of the Austin – Healey 3000.

As its name implies, the 3000 was fitted with a 3.0 litre engine in place of the 2.6 litre unit in the 100/6 – actually a 2912cc straight – six developing 124bhp. Disc front brakes, now becoming common on performance cars, were also fitted. Like the 100/6, the 3000 was available in two-seater and two-plus-two forms, though most buyers opted to have the extra seats.

Austin HealeyThe next significant development was the MkIIa, which introduced a curved windscreen, wind up windows instead of the earlier removable affair.

The gentrification of the “Big Healey” continued with the MkIII of 1964, which was given a more luxurious interior featuring a wooden dashboard, and a brake servo to lighten pedal pressures – but also had a 148bhp engine for swifter performance.

The big Healeys were a major sales success, attracting thousands of enthusiasts in the home market – where the cars many rally victories kept them in the public eye – and tens of thousands more in the US. Today these are fondly remembered and eagerly sought cars which command premium prices.

Published in Great Classics
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 14:09


SunbeamThe Alpine name, dormant since 1955 reappeared on a new two-seater sports car in 1959. The monocoque body shared its floorplan with nothing more exciting than the Hillman Husky, a utilitarian Minx derivative. But the styling was sharp (with prominent fins on early cars) and there was a twin-carb 1494cc to provide reasonable performance.

In 1960 the Alpine was upgraded with a 1592cc engine, and the following year a fastback coupe version built by Harrington was approved by Sunbeam´s parent company Rootes as an official model. Three distinct types were offered between 1961 and 1963, all of them rare.

In 1963 a host of detail improvements were made to the Alpine including revised suspension, better seats, quarter lights and an optional hardtop. The fins were trimmed in 1964, and the final cars built from 1965 to 1968 gained a 1725cc twin-carb engine with 92.5bhp.

SunbeamIf you wanted more power than that, you needed a Sunbeam Tiger – effectively an Alpine fitted with a 260ci (4261cc) Ford V8 engine developing 164bhp, turning it into 120mph (193km/h) motor car.

The Tiger II of 1967 offered even more pace, thanks to a larger 289ci (4727cc) Ford Mustang engine with 200bhp. But the Tiger was killed off in its prime, in 1968, after Rootes was taken over by the American Chrysler company. Chrysler objected to the use of a Ford engine in one of its products, and Chrysler´s own V8 wouldn´t fit.

Both the Alpine and Tiger are underrated cars, lacking the image of flashier MG,Triumph and Austin-Healy rivals. As classic sports cars go, they´re bargains.

Published in Great Classics
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 14:06

Mercedes Benz

Mercedes- Benz dominated European sports car racing in 1952, finishing second on its debut in the Mille Miglia and then winning at Le Mans, the Nurburgring and in the South American Carrera Panamericana. The successful car was a lightweight coupe designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, known internally as W194. It took its engine and suspension from the existing 300 saloon and mounted them in a lightweight spaceframe chassis, clothed in a wind-cheating alloy body. Conventional doors were impossible because of the chassis design, so lift up “gullwing” doors were provided instead. The world soon knew it as the 300SL, the letters standing for “sports lightweight”.Mercedes Benz

For 1953 Uhlenhaut planned a series of improvements to the SL, including bigger wheels and tyres, a new form of swing-axle rear suspension and fuel injection for the 3.o litre straight-six engine. But before the revised car could appear in competition Daimler-Benz management turned its focus away from sports cars to Formula 1 Grand Prix racing.

That might have been the end of the SL, had it not been for Austrian émigré Max Hoffman, importer of Mercedes-Benz cars to the US. Legend has it that Hoffman told Daimler-Benz management that if they built a road going 300SL he could sell a thousand of them, and backed up is argument with a down payment.

The production car used the new fuel-injected engine and a slightly longer version of the spaceframe chassis, but reverted to the conventional swing-axle rear suspension of the earlier racing SLs. It was also given a steel body with aluminium opening panels, resulting in a significant increase in weight. Racing SLs had been comfortable trimmed but the road car was even more luxurious, and was given a tilting steering wheel to aid entry and exit. The new car made its debut at the International Motor Sports Show in New York in January 1954.

Production began later that year and continued until 1957, by which time nearly 1400 examples of the “gullwing” SL had been built. It was replaced by a 300SL Roadster, but the folding top and the conventional doors with their wind-down windows were just part of the package of changes which made the new version far easier to live with.

Mercedes BenzThe spaceframe chassis was revised with lower sills to accommodate the normal doors, and extra bracing was introduced into the front bulkhead and above the transmission tunnel to restore the lost stiffness. Though the modifications were effective, they added about 220lb (100kg) to the weight of the car. Engine revisions produced an increase in power to compensate. Another significant change was the adoption of the low-pivot swing-axle design, which improved the Roadster´s on-the-limit handling.

Nearly 1900 Roadsters were built between 1957 and 1963, alongside more than 25,000 of the much cheaper – but visually smaller – 190SL. Both were replaced by another Uhlenhaut masterpiece, the “Pagoda roof” 230SL of 1963. By then the 300SL had established itself as a favourite of the rich and famous: filmstars Tony Curtis and Sophia Loren, King Hussein of Jordan, comedian Tony Hancock and jazz pianist Oscar Peterson all had them. The 300SL was the car to be seen in.

Published in Great Classics
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 14:02


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 13:56

Rolls Royce

Silver Ghost

The car which earned Rolls Royce the subriquet “the best car in the world” was the 40/50hp – more commonly known as the Silver Ghost. For nearly two decades, the Silver Ghost was for many people the ultimate in motoring luxury.
Launched at London´s Olympia motor show in November 1906, the Silver Ghost was lavishly engineered, neatly detailed and exquisitely manufactured. It provided an almost unmatched blend of comfort, smoothness and performance.

Silver GhostThe key to the Silver Ghost´s ability was its engine, an in-line six-cylinder unit with the cylinders cast as two blocks of three. Unusually for the time the crankshaft had a full complement of seven bearings, further aiding smoothness and reliability. The bore and stroke were both 4.5in (114mm) resulting in a capacity of 7036cc and an output of 58bhp, with vast reserves of torque available at very low engine speeds.

In 1907 that flexibility was demonstrated by Rolls Royce managing director Claude Johnson driving from Bexhill to Glasgow using only third and fourth gears, in the silver 40/50hp which was the first to be called “Silver Ghost”. The same car proved its quality time and time again in long-distance reliability runs.
More than 6000 40/50hp models were built before Rolls Royce moved on to other models in 1925.

The original Silver Ghost, Johnson´s 40/50hp, was sold by Rolls Royce in 1908 but bought back 40 years later and today it is still owned by the company. It is unlikely ever to be sold again, but must be one of the most valuable cars in the world.

Silver Shadow

Silver ShadowModern Rolls Royce’s started here. Crew´s staple product from 1965 was a crisply styled four door saloon with a monocoque steel body, while two door saloons were available from coachbuilders James Young and Mulliner Park Ward, the latter with a kink in the rear wings behind the B-post.

Behind the famous radiator grille surmounted as ever by the spirit of Ecstacy mascot (or the rounded Bentley radiator with a winged “B”) sat the established 6230cc V8 with “sufficient” power, probably about 200 bhp. Power steering, automatic transmission, self levelling rear suspension and all round disc brakes were standard.

A two door convertible arrived in 1967, in 1971 joining the two door hardtop under the name Corniche. A 4in longer wheelbase was offered in 1968 to add extra rear legroom, all the long wheelbase cars also getting an Everflex vinyl roof covering.

Silver ShadowA bigger, 6750cc engine arrived in 1970. Flared arches accommodating wider tyres were brought in for 1974. In 1975 Rolls Royce introduced the Shadow based Camargue coupe with a controversial Pininfarina styling.

In 1977 numerous revisions were incorporated into the Silver Shadow II and long wheelbase Silver Wraith, including an air dam under the nose, a new fascia, rack and pinion steering and split level air conditioning.

The Shadow and Wraith continued until 1980, when they were replaced by the Silver Spirit and Spur. The Corniches survived much longer, with revised Spirit rear suspension from 1979. Bentley versions adopted the name Continental in 1984, and the cars finally bowed out in 1994.

Published in Great Classics
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 12:36


Morgan Plus 8

Pre war styling, traditional craftsman construction and modern performance combine in the Morgan plus 8, providing a unique blend which was a consistent sales success for Morgan for more than a quarter of a century. Morgan built three wheelers until 1935 when it moved to four wheels with the 4/4.

Morgan Plus 8In the 1950's Morgan introduced the more powerful Plus 4, using Triumph TR four cylinder engines, but when Triumph adopted a six cylinder engine for the TR5 Morgan was unable to follow – because the longer engine would not fit into the Morgan engine bay.

Instead Morgan adopted Rover´s ex-Buick 3.5 litre all alloy V8 engine, which provided an unstressed 160bhp. That gave the new Plus 8 acceleration in the E-Type class, though the top speed of 125 mph (201km/h) reflected the high drag induced by the attractive, but old fashioned, body shape.
At first the Plus 8 body followed Morgan´s usual practice, with an ash frame covered with steel outer panels, but in 1976 a lightweight alloy body was made available as an option. In 1977 the Moss four speed gearbox was replaced by a Rover unit which offered a more precise gear change and an extra ratio.

Engine revisions followed in the 1980s, with fuel injection offered as an option and eventually as standard, and a 3.9 litre engine adopted in 1990. Ultimately a 4.6 litre Rover V8 was offered for the top of the range model.
Production of the Plus 8 came to an end in 2004 when a Ford V6 engine replaced the Rover V8 in a model simply called the Roadster.

Published in Great Classics
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 12:33


Corvette Sting Ray

A new generation Corvette was unveiled for 1963, with a new box section chassis on a slightly shorter wheelbase and an all independent suspension. The 250bhp, 327ci (5358cc) V8 engine was carried over from the previous generation Corvette. But the biggest news was the new car´s outrageous styling, which had clear influences from Chevrolet´s 1958 Stingray racing car and the 1959 XP 720 concept car, both styled by Bill Mitchell who had now taken over from Harley Earl as GM´s design boss.

Corvette Sting RayThe outlandish shape of the Sting Ray, still in glass fibre, as with previous generations had boldly curved wings with a hint of Jaguar E-Type about them, concealed headlamps and dummy air ducts in the front wings. Previous Corvettes had all been roadsters, but the new car was available either as an open two seater or as a rakish fastback coupe, with a controversial split rear window. Although the split window made for a more cohesive shape it lasted only until 1964 when a conventional rear window was substituted, and some early cars were modified to the later style.

But today it is the early cars that are more sought after, and many a later Corvette has been given the early style window.
In 1965 Chevrolet introduced a new all disc braking system and a 396ci (6489cc) V8 engine, and in 1966 an even more powerful 427ci (6997cc) V8 appeared. The Sting Ray was offered until 1967, and when a new Corvette appeared for “68 it would drop the Sting Ray name – but it would reappear, as one word for 1969.

Published in Great Classics
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 12:31

Dr Barnea - Oldtimertreff

Tom G John Ltd. acquired the business of Holley Brothers, Coventry in 1919 and built a 50cc motor scooter known as the Stafford Mobile Pup. The company was also an agent for stationary engines from the Hillman Motor Car Company, this agency survived until 1921.

Shortly after starting his business Tom John was approached by Geoffrey de Freville with designs for a 4-cylinder car. The design called for aluminium pistons and pressure lubrication, unusual for the period. It is suggested that de Freville thought of Alvis as being a truly international name.

Alvis CarsGeoffrey De Freville, founder of the Aluminium Alloy Piston Company during the war, had no further connections with Tom John. Tom G John Ltd. Became the Alvis Car & Engineering Company Ltd. in 1921 and moved to Holyhead Road, Coventry. The first Alvis was the 10/30 and soon set the reputation for quality and performance for which the company became famous.

In 1922 the Buckingham cyclecar was an attempt to enter the lower end of the market but was soon abandoned.

Captain GT Smith-Clarke joined from Daimler as Chief Engineer & Works Manager in 1923 and was soon joined by WM Dunn as Chief Draughtsman. This partnership lasted for 25 years and was responsible for many designs.

Despite the quality of their products Alvis went into receivership in June 1924 and the Board was reorganised with Sir Arthur Lowes Dickinson, an accountant, as chairman while Tom John remained as Managing Director.

During the 1930's the Speed 20 led to a series of sporting cars capable of 90 mph (145 kph), and eventually to the fastest pre-war Alvis, the 4.3 litre six-cylinder model of 1936-1940 which could reach 100 mph (161 kph).

During the Second World War Alvis carried out war production. But after the war the market for cars such as the 4.3 litre was gone and a car designed before the war, the 1892cc 12/70, was produced as the TA14.

In 1950 a new chassis and six-cylinder 3 litre engine was announced. This engine was used until the company ceased car production in 1967.

Rover took over Alvis in 1965 and were working on the Rover designed, Alvis built P6BS mid-engined V8 coupe prototype in 1968.

The Alvis Company continued in business making military vehicles.

Published in Austria Dealers
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 11:40



The History of Volkswagen

Volkswagen (VW) is an automobile manufacturer based in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. Volkswagen was originally founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront). Volkswagen is the original marque within the Volkswagen Group, which includes the car marques Audi, Bentley Motors, Bugatti Automobiles, Automobili Lamborghini, SEAT, koda Auto and heavy goods vehicle manufacturer Scania. In 2009, the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG endorsed the creation of an integrated automotive group with Porsche under the leadership of Volkswagen.

Volkswagen means "people's car" in German. Its current tagline or slogan is "Das Auto". Its previous German tagline was "Aus Liebe zum Automobil", which translates to: "Out of Love for the Car", or, "For Love of the Automobile".

In November 2009, Volkswagen and Porsche overtook Toyota to become the world's largest car manufacturing group in terms of production.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler declared his intentions for a state-sponsored "Volkswagen" program. Hitler required a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph). The "People's Car" would be available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings scheme at 990 Reichsmark, about the price of a small motorcycle (an average income being around 32RM a week).

Despite heavy lobbying in favor of one of the existing projects, Hitler chose to sponsor an all new, state owned factory. The engineer chosen for the task was Ferdinand Porsche. By then an already famed engineer, Porsche was the designer of the Mercedes 170H, and worked at Steyr for quite some time in the late 1920s. When he opened his own design studio he landed two separate "Auto for Jedermann" (car for everybody) projects with NSU and Zndapp, both motorcycle manufacturers. Neither project come to fruition, stalling at prototype phase, but the basic concept remained in Porsche's mind time enough, so on 22 June 1934, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche agreed to create the "People's Car" for Hitler.

Changes included better fuel efficiency, reliability, ease of use, and economically efficient repairs and parts. The intention was that ordinary Europeans would buy the car by means of a savings scheme ("Fnf Mark die Woche musst Du sparen, willst Du im eigenen Wagen fahren" "Save five Marks a week, if you want to drive your own car"), which around 336,000 people eventually paid into. Prototypes of the car called the "KdF-Wagen" (German: Kraft durch Freude "strength through joy"), appeared from 1936 onwards (the first cars had been produced in Stuttgart). The car already had its distinctive round shape and air-cooled, flat-four, rear-mounted engine. The VW car was just one of many KdF programs which included things such as tours and outings.

VW Type 82EErwin Komenda, the longstanding Auto Union chief designer, developed the car body of the prototype, which was recognizably the Beetle known today. It was one of the first to be evolved with the aid of a wind tunnel, in use in Germany since the early 1920s.

The building of the new factory started 26 May 1938 in the new town of KdF-Stadt, now called Wolfsburg, which had been purpose-built for the factory workers. This factory had only produced a handful of cars by the time war started in 1939. None was actually delivered to any holder of the completed saving stamp books, though one Type 1 Cabriolet was presented to Hitler on 20 April 1938 (his 49th birthday).

The company owes its post-war existence largely to one man, British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, REME. In April 1945, KdF-Stadt, and its heavily bombed factory were captured by the Americans, and subsequently handed over to the British, within whose occupation zone the town and factory fell. The factories were placed under the control of Oldham-born Hirst. At first, the plan was to use it for military vehicle maintenance. Since it had been used for military production, and had been in Hirst's words a "political animal" rather than a commercial enterprise, the equipment was in time intended to be salvaged as war reparations. Hirst painted one of the factory's cars green and demonstrated it to British Army headquarters. Short of light transport, in September 1945 the British Army was persuaded to place a vital order for 20,000. The first few hundred cars went to personnel from the occupying forces, and to the German Post Office.

By 1946 the factory was producing 1,000 cars a month, a remarkable feat considering it was still in disrepair. Owing to roof and window damage, rain stopped production and new vehicles were bartered for steel required for more production.

The car, and its town changed their Second World War-era names to "Volkswagen", and "Wolfsburg" respectively, and production was increasing. It was still unclear what was to become of the factory. It was offered to representatives from the British, American and French motor industries. Famously, all rejected it.

As mentioned above, the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg came under British control in 1945; it was to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. Thankfully for Volkswagen, no British car manufacturer was interested in the factory so it survived by producing cars for the British Army instead.

From 1948, Volkswagen became a very important element, symbolically and economically, of West German regeneration. Apart from the introduction of the Volkswagen Type 2 commercial vehicle (van, pickup and camper), and the VW Karmann Ghia sports car, the company pursued the one-model policy until 1968.

Volkswagens were first exhibited and sold in the United States in 1949, but only sold two units in America that first year. On its entry to the U.S. market, the VW was briefly sold as a "Victory Wagon". Volkswagen of America was formed in April 1955 to standardize sales and service in the United States. Production of the Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle increased dramatically over the years, the total reaching one million in 1955.

On February 17, 1972 the 15,007,034th Beetle was sold. Volkswagen could now claim the world production record for the most-produced, single make of car in history. By 1973, total production was over 16 million.

In 1964, Volkswagen succeeded in purchasing Auto Union, and in 1969, NSU Motorenwerke AG (NSU). The former company owned the historic Audi brand, which had disappeared after the Second World War. VW ultimately merged Auto Union and NSU to create the modern day Audi company, and would go on to develop it as its luxury vehicle marque. However, the purchase of Auto Union and NSU proved to be a pivotal point in Volkswagen's history, as both companies yielded the technological expertise that proved necessary for VW to survive when demand for its air-cooled models went into terminal decline as the 1970s dawned.

Volkswagen was in serious trouble by 1973. The Type 3 and Type 4 models had sold in much smaller numbers than the Beetle and the NSU-based K70 also failed to woo buyers. Beetle sales had started to decline rapidly in European and North American markets. The company knew that Beetle production had to end one day, but the conundrum of replacing it had been a never-ending nightmare. VW's ownership of Audi / Auto Union proved to be the key to the problem - with its expertise in front-wheel drive, and water-cooled engines which Volkswagen so desperately needed to produce a credible Beetle successor. Audi influences paved the way for this new generation of Volkswagens, known as the Polo, Golf and Passat.

However, the pivotal model which would turn Volkswagen's fortunes emerged as the Volkswagen Golf in 1974, marketed in the United States and Canada as the Rabbit for the 1st generation (1975-1985) and 5th generation (2006-2009). This was a car unlike its predecessor in most significant ways, both mechanically as well as visually (its angular styling was designed by the Italian Giorgetto Giugiaro). Its design followed trends for small family cars set by the 1959 Mini the Golf had a transversely mounted, water-cooled engine in the front, driving the front wheels, and had a hatchback, a format that has dominated the market segment ever since. Beetle production at Wolfsburg ended upon the Golf's introduction, but continued in smaller numbers at other German factories (Hanover and Emden) until 1978, but mainstream production shifted to Brazil and Mexico.

In the 1980s, Volkswagen's sales in the United States and Canada fell dramatically, despite the success of models like the Golf elsewhere. Four years after signing a cooperation agreement with the Spanish car maker SEAT in 1982, Hahn expanded the company by purchasing a majority share of SEAT up to 75% by the end of 1986, which VW bought outright in 1990.

By the early 1990s, Volkswagen's annual sales in the United States were below 100,000, and many car buyers found the company's products to be lacking in value. Some automotive journalists believed that Volkswagen would have to quit the North American market altogether. VW eventually realized that the Beetle was the heart and soul of the brand in North America, and the firm quickly set about creating a new Beetle for American and Canadian showrooms.

In 1994, Volkswagen unveiled the J Mays-designed Concept One, a "retro"-themed car with a resemblance to the original Beetle but based on the Polo platform.

In the late 1990s Volkswagen acquired the three luxury brands Lamborghini (through Audi), Bentley and Bugatti which were mainly due to Ferdinand Pich and added to the group portfolio. Audi's plans for Lamborghini included a small supercar later to be named the Gallardo, and a new halo vehicle, the Murciélago, and later the Reventon limited edition halo car. In late 2008 the idea of a 4-door saloon for the Lamborghini brand was shown in the form of the Lamborghini Estoque concept.

The VW 1L will be available in 2010, in limited numbers. The 1L is a lightweight two-person vehicle made out of a magnesium frame covered by an unpainted carbon-fiber skin. Every component of the vehicle is intended to reduce the vehicle's weight. Aluminum brakes, carbon-fiber wheels, titanium hubs, and ceramic bearings all contribute to the vehicle's light weight of a mere 290 kg. To reduce the weight even further, and to increase the aerodynamics of the vehicle, there are no rearview mirrors. Instead, the car is equipped with cameras that display visual information to the driver through the internal LCD screen. The car is extremely fuel-efficient, each gallon of fuel will take you over 235 miles. The fuel tank holds just 1.7 gallons, making the entire travel distance capability about 400 miles per tank. Its top speed is 120 km/h (75 mph), which although not very fast is a welcome tradeoff for the huge savings in fuel consumption.

By the end of Quarter 3, 2009, Volkswagen had overtaken Toyota as the world's largest car manufacturer, selling c. 4.8m vehicles (4.4m estimated by IHS Global Insight) in the 9 months to the end of September. By comparison Toyota had sold just 4m in the same period. Toyota later challenged this claim, stating that their production figures were 4.9m. However, the independent source for the data, IHS Global Insight, re-stated its belief that Volkswagen had overtaken Toyota in the first 3 quarters of 2009. Whilst this is a significant change in the global pecking order, it's widely believed that Toyota will overtake Volkswagen again, as production is ramped up as the world emerges from its economic slump. However, Volkswagen should retain the number two spot, having also overtaken GM in recent months. Volkswagen is aiming to become, sustainably, the world's largest car maker by 2018.

In December 9, 2009, Volkswagen AG and Suzuki reach a common understanding to establish a close long-term strategic partnership.

Volkswagen has always had a close relationship with Porsche, the Zuffenhausen-based sports car manufacturer founded in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche, the original Volkswagen designer. The first Porsche car, the Porsche 64 of 1938, used many components from the Volkswagen Beetle. The 1948 Porsche 356 continued using many Volkswagen components, including a tuned engine, gearbox and suspension.

The two companies continued their collaboration in 1969 to make the VW-Porsche 914 and 914-6, whereby the 914-6 had a 6-cylinder Porsche engine, and the standard 914 had a 4-cylinder Volkswagen engine, and in 1976 with the Porsche 912E (USA only), and the Porsche 924, which used many Audi components and was built at an Audi Neckarsulm factory. Most 944s also were built there, although they used far fewer VW components.

In September 2005, Porsche announced it would increase its 5% stake in Volkswagen to 20% at a cost of €3 billion, with the intention that the combined stakes of Porsche and the government of Lower Saxony would ensure that any hostile takeover by foreign investors would be impossible. Speculated suitors included DaimlerChrysler, BMW, and Renault. In July 2006, Porsche increased their ownership again to 25.1%.

Published in Car Guides
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 11:39



The History of Vauxhall

Vauxhall Motors Limited is a British car manufacturer, owned by General Motors. Most current Vauxhall models are right-hand drive derivatives of GM's German Opel marque; however, production of left-hand drive vehicles also takes place for export to other parts of Europe, and certain marginal markets. Vauxhall is headquartered in the Griffin House in Luton.

Alexander Wilson founded the company in the Dusian Road, Vauxhall, London in 1857. Originally named Alex Wilson and Company, then Vauxhall Iron Works, the company built pumps and marine engines. In 1903, the company built its first car, a five-horsepower model steered using a tiller, with two forward gears and no reverse gear. This led to a better design which was made available for sale.

To expand, the company moved the majority of its production to Luton in 1905. The company continued to trade under the name Vauxhall Iron Works until 1907, when the modern name of Vauxhall Motors was adopted. The company was characterised by its sporting models, but after World War I the company's designs were more austere.

In 1925, Vauxhall was bought by GM for US$2.5 million. The company's pre-war image and target market were abruptly changed - with the introduction in 1931 of the first Bedford truck, which was Chevrolet based, along with the low-cost two litre Vauxhall Cadet. As the first significant post acquisition passenger car, the Cadet is generally mentioned in connection with Vauxhall's newly acquired interest and expertise in controlling production costs, but it was also noteworthy as the first British car to feature a synchromesh gearbox.

From the 1970s, most models were based on models made by Opel in Germany. The Chevette, Cavalier and Carlton were basically restyled versions of the Kadett, Ascona and Rekord, featuring a distinctive sloping front end, nicknamed the "droopsnoot", first prototyped on the HPF Firenza. The Carlton/Viceroy and Royale were simply rebadged versions of Opel's Opel Commodore C and Senator, imported from Germany.

This was the starting point for the "Opelisation" of Vauxhall. With the 1979 demise of the Viva, GM policy was for future Vauxhall models to be, in effect, rebadged Opels, designed and developed in Rsselsheim, with little engineering input from Luton. In the late '70s and early '80s, GM dealers in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland sold otherwise identical Opel and Vauxhall models alongside each other. This policy of duplication was phased out, beginning with the demise of Opel dealerships in the UK in 1981. The last Opel car (the Manta coupe) to be "officially" sold in Britain was withdrawn in 1988.

Similarly, the Vauxhall brand was dropped by GM in Ireland in favour of Opel in 1982, with other right hand drive markets like Malta and Cyprus soon following suit. In New Zealand, the brand was withdrawn in favor of Holden after the demise of the Chevette. Many new Opel-badged cars have been privately imported into the UK from Ireland, and other EU countries, while many Vauxhalls have been imported second hand into Ireland.

GM Europe then began to standardise model names across both brands in the early 1990s. The Vauxhall Astra and Opel Kadett, for example, were both called Astra from 1991 onwards; the Vauxhall Cavalier and Opel Vectra were both called Vectra from 1995 etc. With the exception of the VX220, sold by Opel as the Speedster, all of Vauxhall's models now have the same names as those of Opel.

Since 1994, Vauxhall models differ from Opels in their distinctive grille - featuring a "V", incorporating the Vauxhall badge. The "V" badging is an echo of the fluted V-shaped bonnets that have been used in some form on all Vauxhall cars since the very first. The "V" grille is not however used on the Vectra-replacing Insignia, unveiled in 2008 and the 2009 Vauxhall Astra.

Vauxhall announced on 12 December 2000, that car production at Luton would cease in 2002, with the final vehicle being made in March 2002 following the end of production of the Vectra B and the moving of its replacement to Ellesmere Port alongside the Astra. Manufacture of vans (sold under the Vauxhall, Opel, Renault and Nissan badges throughout Europe) continues at the IBC Vehicles plant in Luton.

The VXR range is analogous to the OPC range made by Opel Performance Center, the HSV range made by Holden and the SS range made by Latin America Chevrolet. The models include the Corsa VXR, Astra VXR, Insignia VXR, Meriva VXR, Zafira VXR, VXR8, VX220 (no longer in production), and the Australian-built Holden Monaro (also no longer in production). These vehicles are high performance machines, and are ideally aimed for younger buyers. Vauxhall unveiled a new model based on the Australian HSV Maloo at the 2005 National Exhibition Centre motor show in Birmingham, England. It was claimed that the monstrous V8 Ute had a top speed around 200 mph (320 km/h) - which is extremely fast for a utility vehicle. However, the model never got to the showroom in the United Kingdom. The Monaro is also no longer made, but a new version (a four door saloon) is now on sale called the VXR8. The VXR8 is based on Australia's Holden HSV Clubsport R8. This car reaches 0-60 in 5 seconds, in similar territory to other muscle car contemporaries such as the Dodge Viper (SRT-10) and Corvette Z06 - and marginally slower than Fords FG F6 Falcon. The VXR badge is a symbol of the combined technological resources of the global General Motors group, and the recognised expertise of consultants Lotus and the Triple Eight Racing Team.

The griffin emblem, which is still in use, is derived from the coat of arms of Falkes de Breauté, a mercenary soldier who was granted the Manor of Luton for services to King John in the thirteenth century. By marriage, he also gained the rights to an area near London, south of the Thames. The house he built, Fulk's Hall, became known in time as Vauxhall. Vauxhall Iron Works adopted this emblem from the coat of arms to emphasise its links to the local area. When Vauxhall Iron Works moved to Luton in 1905, the griffin emblem coincidentally returned to its ancestral home.

The logo as pictured used to be square, but it is now circular, to enable it to fit in the same recess designed for the circular Opel emblem. Since the 1920s, the griffin has been redesigned and released 9 times. 2008 saw the release of a revised version of the 2005 logo. Bill Parfitt, Vauxhall's Managing Director, said, "While the new-look Griffin pays homage to our 100 year-plus manufacturing heritage in the UK, it also encapsulates Vauxhall's fresh design philosophy, first showcased in the current Astra, and set to continue with Insignia."

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