Archive for January, 2012

Daimler (England) has no technical connection with Daimler (Germany) except for the use of the Daimler name and purchase of a few engines for power boats in 1890s.

The creation of Daimler (England) can be credited to 2 people – Frederick Richard Simms (1863 – 1944) and Harry J Lawson (1852 – 1925). In 1891 , Frederick Simms formed the company Simms & co to manufacture power boats. In 1893, he renamed the company as Daimler Motor Syndicate, after purchasing the rights to use the Daimler name from Gottilleb Daimler and engines from DMG. In 1895, Harry Lawson formed the company British Motor Syndicate with aim of buying patents and controlling the motor industry in Britain. In 1896 , Harry Lawson merged British Motor Syndicate with  Daimler Motor Syndicate to form   Daimler Motor Company.

In 1896/97 , Daimler Motor Company used Daimler engines on Panhard & Levassor vehicles to create motor cars for sale in England. One of the first Daimler cars , a 4 HP , 2-Cyl , 4-speed gear box car

In 1900 , HM  King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) bought the early  Daimler, a 2-cyl, 6 HP version,  and thus started the Royal relationship with Daimler . Daimlers were used by the Royal family in England and as state cars in many other countries across the world till Rolls-Royce & Bentley took over the Royal duty.

In 1910, Daimler was taken over by BSA group and was integrated in to their automotive business.

Daimler was known for introducing new technology & luxury in their cars. Daimler was considered to be the pioneer of car radio when they tried out this as early as 1922. One of the most famous, pre-war models was the 1926 Double Six.  The Double Six was fitted with a Knight Sleeve valve V12 engine – 2 straight 6 cylinder engines combined side by side to create a V12 engine. It was also equipped with a fluid flywheel (fore-runner to the current torque converter) and a Wilson Pre-selector gearbox (fore-runner to the current automatic transmission with paddle shift).  The car was constructed in variable wheel bases to meet customer needs.

One of the distinguishing features of Daimler cars and later Jaguar cars is the Fluted radiator grill. In 1907, Daimler cars were made with radiator cooling tubes arranged vertically in the front. This became the current radiator grill and is one of the most important styling elements in modern cars.

In 1932 , BSA/Daimler acquired Lanchester and Lanchester formed the mid brand between an expensive Daimler and a cheap BSA car. In 1960 , Jaguar cars acquired BSA/Daimler/Lanchester and in between 1966 & 1968 were a part of BMC (British Motor Corporation) and BMH (British Motor Holdings). In 1968, they became a part of the reorganized and nationalized British Leyland. In 1984, Jaguar cars along with Daimler/Lanchester became independent of British Leyalnd. Ford PAG acquired Jaguar cars in 1989 and in 2007 , was sold to Tata Motors of India.

Jaguar and Daimler were involved in “Badge Engineering” , where Daimler cars were sold as Jaguars and vice-versa. One of the famous re-badged Daimler cars was the Double Six which was re-badged as Jaguar XJ12.

The Daimler Logo –

In 1850, Ignac Schustala (1822 – 1891), a Czech pioneer founded the company Schustala & Co to manufacture horse-drawn coaches and carriages.  In 1891, the company branched out to manufacture rail road cars and the company was renamed as Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft. NW employed Hans Ledwinka and Edmund Rumpler as Engineers , who showed interest in developing an automobile. In 1897 they developed the first  Nesselsdorfer – a Benz-engined car named “Prasident”.

Nesselsdorfer manufactured  series of cars, identifiable by an alphabet – NW-A to NW-U. The most famous being NW-S manufactured between 1913 and 1917. These cars could reach speeds up to 100 Kms/hr.

During the war, NW manufactured trucks and tank engines.  In 1918 , the company was renamed as Koprivincka Vozovka a.s . From 1919 , the cars were badged as TATRA , after the Tatra mountain ranges.

Tatra  cars were known for new and innovative concepts, driven by bright Engineers like Ledwinka, Rumpler  and Ubalacker. Tatra T11 was one of the famous cars with a revolutionary concept of “Back-bone chasis” – a single central tubular structure on to which suspension and power train are mounted. The back-bone chassis structure brings in off-road capability for which Tatra trucks are known for.

Tatra brought in Aerodynamics to cars in the 1930s through Engineer Paul Jaray’s licensed designs – the tear drop shape. Tatra T77 was one example of an aerodynamically optimised car, reported to be with drag co-efficient of 0.245 in a scale model – Later verification in the 1970s in a wind tunnel proved to be in the range of 0.31 – 0.32, a major achievement in those times. However, due to the long tail and an unfavourable F/R weight split, the car was unstable while cornering and prone to skid and rollover. It is mentioned that many German Nazi officers died on these cars.

Fine tuning the design of T77 , Hans Ledwinka designed a revolutionary small car , Tatra  V570 , with the engine in rear and shaped like a Beetle. It is argued that Ferdinand Porsche copied the design elements to design and manufacture the famous VW Beetle.  Tatra sued VW and the case was finally settled in 1961 with VW paying Tatra 3 million Deutsche Marks as compensation.

The original NW logo and the current Tatra logo –

Tatra ceased manufacture of cars in 1999 but continues to produce off-road capable trucks. Indian Army is a user of Tatra trucks

Spijker – Cars and Aircrafts

In 1880, brothers , Jacobus Spijker and Hendrik-Jan Spijker decided to get in to the business of manufacturing horse-drawn coaches. In 1898, they built a Golden carriage for the Dutch Royal family.  The  “Gouden Koets” is  being used by the Dutch Royal family even now.

The “Gouden Koets” brought fame to the Spijker brothers and they decided to get in to manufacture of motor cars. In 1899, they manufactured their first Benz-engined motor car. The Spijker cars became famous for their performance and in 1903 , they introduced the 6-cylinder ; 60 HP car – the first car with 6 cylinder engine and permanent four-wheel drive.

In 1903, they changed the name of the company from Spijker to Spyker so that name can be pronounced easily in other countries. During the war, Spyker manufactured aircraft and aircraft engines. The Spyker logo with an aircraft propeller is an indication of the aircraft connection –

While the propeller indicates aircraft lineage , the Latin words indicate a road car lineage “Nulla Tenaci Invia Est Via” means “For the tenacious, no road is impassable

By 1926 , Spyker ceased production and was closed

In 2000, the Spyker brand was resurrected as Spyker Cars by Victor Muller and Maarten de Brujin to manufacture sports cars – one of the well-known and famous car being the C8.

In 2006, the Midlands F1 team was acquired by Spyker cars and renamed as Spyker F1 . Spyker F1 participated in the 2007 Formula 1 season. In 2007, Spyker F1 was sold to UB group and renamed as Force India F1. In 2010, Spyker cars acquired Saab from General Motors and in 2011 formed the parent company called Swedish Automobile (SWAN) , which holds Spyker Cars and Saab automobiles.

At present, both Saab and Spyker cars are up for sale.

RENAULT – Electric Future ?

In 1898 , Louis Renault (1877 – 1944) converted a De-Dion cycle by modifying the then prevalent chain drive system to a propeller shaft system and challenged others for a race up a steep gradient. Renault won the race and in the process generated 13 orders for the propeller shaft driven car. Louis Renault along with his brothers Marcer Renault and Fernand Reanault formed the company Renault Freres in 1899 to manufacture and sell these “Renault Little cars

Renault is to be pronounced as “Reh-no” in English.

Below are the 1899 Renault Type A and a 1901 Renault

In 1908 the name of the company was changed to Societe Automobiles Renault and continued to manufacture small cars, taxis, buses and trucks. During the wars they shifted to manufacture of ammunition and battle tanks. After the WWII , Louis Renault was accused of conspiring with the Germans and was arrested and imprisoned in a French prison. Louis Renault died in prison within 4 weeks, under mysterious circumstances.

After the death of Louis Renault , the company was taken over by the French government and nationalised. Renault continued to manufacture Cars & Trucks, some of the well-known cars of that era being the 4CV and the Dauphine.

In 1999 , Renault acquired controlling stake in Nissan Motors , Japan and later saved Nissan from bankruptcy in a restructuring process planned and driven by Carlos Ghosn. Renault-Nissan alliance also acquired Dacia of Romania in 1999; Samsung Motors of South Korea in 2000; AvtoVAZ of Russia in 2008 and is one of the top automobile manufacturers in the world, currently.

Renault-Nissan alliance has invested heavily in the electric mobility , which according to them is the future. RN alliance have launched the Nissan Leaf , a Battery electric vehicle, Renault Fluence ZE – another battery electric vehicle. Apart from developing Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) , they are also developing charging systems & infrastructure in certain countries and also pioneering battery swapping technologies.

The first logo of Renault had the initial of the three brothers – Louis , Fernand & Marcel. The Diamond started appearing in 1925 and the Yellow later , indicating Dynamism & Quality.

In the earlier years, Renault was also in to manufacture of commercial vehicles and tractors. In 1955 , Renault truck operations acquired other truck manufacturers like Souma & Latil (a 4×4 pioneer) to form a company named Saviem (Societe Anonyme de Vehicules Industriels et de Equipments Mecaniques). Saviem acquired Berliet and was renamed as Renault Vehicules Industriels (RVI) in 1978. The RVI was sold off to Volvo in 2001 and now is part of Volvo group. The Logo of RVI – Renault diamond in RED background.

FIAT – Cars for the common man

Giovanni Agnelli (1866 – 1945), along with some of his friends speculated on producing cars. In 1899,  a new company by name FIAT was formed – FIAT being the acronym for Soceita Anonima Fabbrica Italiana di Avtomobili Torino. In English , it means Italian Automobile manufacturing company of Turin. In 1899, they made 8 units of their car fitted with a cylinder, 3.5 HP vehicle , called the FIAT 3 1/2  CV.

1899/1900 – FIAT 3 1/2  CV

FIAT was an active participant in racing and by mid 1900s , they had already toppled the Panhard cars in racing. Vincenzo Lancia (founder of Lancia) was one of the star race car drivers for FIAT.

In the 1920s, FIAT built one of the world-famous car factory in Lingotto. This factory had 5 floors and a test track on the top floor. Raw material entered the ground floor and finished cars appeared in the top floor , ready to be tested in the test track on the top floor. This factory operated till it was closed down in 1982.

Top view of the Lingotto factory

FIAT manufactured many famous models which sold many million copies across the world – Fiat 300, Topolino, Fiat 600, Fiat 500, Fiat 1100, Fiat 124 , Fiat Uno.

The Logo of FIAT – the first and the current –


Fiat acquired Ferrari & Lancia in 1969/70 , integrated Abarth in to Lancia , acquired Maserati in 1993. In 2009 , FIAT started acquiring stake in Chrysler and now has about 60% stake.

FIAT continues to be one of  the top 10 Automobile manufacturers in the world today.


Ransom E Olds (1864 – 1950) experimented with steam carriages in the mid 1880’s and moved to experimenting with IC engines in the early 1890’s.  He started building an IC engine car for the 1895 Times-Herald race but could not complete the car in time for the race. In 1897, the Old Motor Vehicle Co was formed and the first car was built. In 1899 , the company name was changed to Old Motor Works and was incorporated to build and sell “perfect” cars.

The famous Curved Dash was introduced in 1901 and was an immediate best seller, selling more than 400 units in the first year. To be able to meet the rising demand, Olds invented the “First Automotive Assembly Line” with interchangeable parts, to mass produce cars. In all 19000 Curved Dash cars were made between 1901 and 1907.

1901 – Curved Dash. 

A video explaining the parts of the Curved Dash (Engine, gearbox, chain etc) is here –

In 1904 , Ransom E Olds quit the company over disputes with the directors. He started a new company ,  named REO which continued to manufacture cars Ransom Old designs.

Old Motor Works was integrated in to General Motors in 1908 and continued to manufacture cars under Oldsmobile brand. Some of the famous cars being Oldsmobile 88, F-85, Cutlass , 442 etc


Oldsmobile 88                                                                                    Oldsmobile Cutlass

In 1949 , Oldsmobile introduced a new OHV  V8 Engine, named Rocket in the Oldsmobile 88 cars and the engine came to be known as the Rocket 88 engine. This engine was one of the last carburetted engines operating till the early 1990’s. The Rocket engine was so famous that even the logo of Oldsmobile started changing to depicting a rocket, during this period.

The logo of Oldsmobile , past and the last –


The Oldsmobile brand was retired in 2004 by General Motors after 96 years.

Elwood P Haynes (1856 – 1925) was an American inventor in the field of metallurgy and was credited with the invention of Stellite and stainless steel.  In 1893 , he got interested in IC engines, procured a 1 HP Stint engine and tries to experiment fitting the engine on to a buggy. He enlisted the help of a local machine shop run by the Apperson brothers – Elmer Apperson & Edgar Apperson to complete the build.

The first car , Pioneer I , was completed in 1894 and was successfully tested.


A second car, Pioneer II , was completed  for the 1895 Times-Herald race and while diving to the starting line, the wheel of the car got damaged and could not participate in the race.

In 1898 , the Haynes-Apperson company was incorporated to manufacture and sell cars. In 1901, the Apperson brothers quit the company and in 1905, the company was renamed as Haynes Automobile company.

Haynes continued to manufacture cars known for their reliability and long distance running capability. Below is an example – a 1914 Haynes.

The Logo of Haynes –

Haynes Automobile company ceased manufacture in 1925. While the car company closed its doors , the  STELLITE lives on  in the Engine valve seats of most engines, even today.

Whoever created America’s first car – Duryea or Winton or Haynes , these were the pioneers of American Automotive legacy.


WINTON – Famous but forgotten

Alexander Winton (1860 – 1932) immigrated to US (from Scotland) in 1880. In 1890 , he started his own business of manufacturing and selling bicycles. In 1893, he developed a motor-bicycle and continued his efforts to build four-wheeled motor car. In 1896 he manufactured his first car , fitted with pneumatic tyres supplied by B.F. Goodrich rubber company.

In 1897, he further refined the design and introduced the second Winton car.

Alexander Winton is credited with many innovations apart from proving that his cars are reliable by driving 1300 Kms in one of his cars. He could reach speeds up to 35 mph , which was an unheard of speed during those times. Some of his innovations include compressed air starting system , where compressed air is let in the engine which pushes the piston downward and brings the adjacent piston to firing stroke – a system nowadays used to start large marine diesel engines. Winton is also credited with using the first steering wheel , replacing the tiller mechanism in use till then.

Winton was America’s first automobile manufacturer to make and sell automobiles as a standard product even though Duryea brothers were making custom made automobiles, on order.

Car no 12 was sold to one Mr James Ward Packard and  had to experience  lot of faults in his car. He met Alexander Winton and complained , to which Winton got angry and challenged him to build a better car. That challenge resulted in another car company – Packard Motorcar co.

Some of the famous and large selling cars of Winton were 1899 – Winton Stanhope and 1910 Winton Six.



The Winton Logo –

Winton stopped making cars in 1924, unable to compete with the cheaper car available in the market. However, they continued to make large , marine diesel engines and was taken over by General Motors in 1930.