We all know the success of the Big Three, but way back in the golden age of cars they had more rival brands that ultimately ended, either they went bankrupt, merged into other companies, or just simply shut down. A lot of these brands have made a mark in the history of classic cars that contributed to the advancement of modern automobile technology and were incredibly popular in their days. Here are 10 of the most popular and influential automobile companies that deserve to be remembered fondly. Some real classics that I wish were still around!
Studebaker was a popular horse carriage builders from Indiana and in 1902, they began producing electric and gas powered cars. 2 years after they expanded their production and started building large size coupes and limousines that had four-cylinder engines. Studebaker’s success was undeniable and by 1927, they built cars with the big-block 6-cylinder engines that had rumble seats and two-tone finish. These models were named Dictator and was then followed by Commander and President.
Studebaker, like most of the automobile companies, was greatly affected by World War II and only started to recover in 1958 when they introduced the small Lark. This inspired the spacious and sporty Hawk and weird but charming Avanti hardtop which has earned a lot of fans around the country.
During 1902, Harry Stutz made a small car with a steering wheel that replaced the tiller which was widely used at that time. Harry Stutz founded his company after this 1st car placed 11th in the first Indy 500 with an average speed of 68 mph. In 1912, the Bearcat roadster which was a two-seater coupe showed what a true sports car should be.
Eventually, Stutz cars focused on performance and the 1927 Black Hawk was the company’s first stock race car champion. In 1929, Stutz produced the fastest stock car in the country that had a record of 106 mph. unfortunately, Stutz did not make it during the Great Depression and ended their production in 1934.
Kaiser Motor’s had smooth styles that what set it apart from other brands but was not really popular to the mass even with the help of the famous designer, Dutch Darrin, who designed the 1954 two-door roadster that had a supercharged six-cylinder engine that become a rare collectible classic today. Kaiser Motors became a partner of Willys who made the historic Jeep during WWII. In 1954, the partnership moved their production to Toledo Jeep factory when GM purchased Kaiser Factory located in Michigan. Kaiser last production run in the U.S. was in 1955 but they were able to continue in Argentina were they produced and sold cars until 1961.
General Motors was forced to abandon Pontiac in 2008 after it went bankrupt. Bob Lutz, vice president of GM, compared it to the airmen during WWII when they were forced to throw away parts when the planes were badly damaged. “A lot of great equipment went out the doors of those planes just to keep them flying” Lutz said.
Pontiac gave us gave us the legendary classics such as the GTO and Trans-Am, and the modern Solstice and G8. Pontiac had great potential but unfortunately it did not make it.
Founded by Ransom Eli Olds in 1897 that was located in Lansing, Michigan, Oldsmobile was the oldest automobile company in the U.S. The Old’s family business started with making gas-powered engines. According to history, Oldsmobile built America’s first mass produced automobile which was a small “Curved Dash” car with a single-cylinder engine that produced 7 horsepower and a 2-speed transmission.
Oldsmobile became a part of the General Motors group when William Durant bought the company in 1908. In 1940, Oldsmobile built the HydraMatic transmission which was a very reliable and popular 4-speed transmission. In 1964, they released the 442 muscle-car series. In 1966, the famous front drive Oldsmobile Toronado was introduced.
In the 70s, the Oldsmobile brand was the 3rd largest sales. It sold a record sales of over a million cars in 1986. Several years after, it released the very innovative Oldsmobile Aurora which helped GM survive some hard times. Unfortunately, Oldsmobile was shut down by GM in 2004.
1899, Packard was founded by the brothers, James Ward and William Packard. Together with their partner, George Lewis Weis, they produced 400 cars in their factory in Warren, Ohio from 1899 to 1903. They then transferred to Detroit in 1903 and by 1916, Packard built the first production car with a 12-cylinder engine which continued until 1939. They also built the Liberty aircraft engine which was famous in World War I.
Packard was famous for being the most expensive brand of its time. After WWII ended, the quality of their cars did not fade but the pre-war engine was becoming less popular. They did not also have the V8 engine which was the trend during that time. Packard finally closed down in 1958.
Pierce-Arrow used to be a bird-cage company from Buffalo that made a small Motorette in 1901. They eventually built larger cars that had innovative designs such that includes hydraulic lifters, power brakes, aluminum bodies, and headlights mounted on the fenders. Pierce –Arrow was known for its large but silent 6-cylinder engines. They also built a V12 engine that set a record in the Bonneville deserts, and cars with 8-cylinder engines and large custom luxury designs.
Pierce-Arrow partnered with Studebaker but still did not survive and finally closed down in 1938.
Duesenberg started in 1922 but only gained popularity in 1926 when Errett Lobsban Cord bought the company and produced the Duesenberg Model J which become one of the most historic car in American automobile history. The 5000 pound Model J was ahead of its time with is self-lubricating chassis, and twin-overhead-cam four-valve-per-cylinder inline eight-cylinder engine that made a record speed of 110 in the Indianapolis racetrack. For reasons unknown, E. L. Cord sold Duesenberg in 1937 and the company ended.
In 1910, former employees of Olds Motor Works and with financial assistance from a department store owner built a tiny brass roadster that had a max speed of 50 mph and in 1916, it set a 102 mph record at Daytona beach. It took 5 days 3 hours and 31 minutes to make the trip from San Francisco to New York. The racing achievements helped made the Hudson popular and increased the sales. During WWII, Hudson’s factory in Detroit was converted into a parts factory for bombers. The company barely recovered when the Hudson Hornet became a NASCAR champion in the early 50s. In 1953, Hudson joined Nash and later Hudson models were based from Rambler models. After a short while, the Hudson name was completely erased.
Before Koenigsegg, Spyker, Saleen, Noble, Gumpert, Pagoni, Shelby SSC, and Cizeta-Moroder, Vector already existed. It was known for building cars with stunning designs but has been described to lack in power and can be unreliable. Vector only built very few cars that was mainly used for car shows and displays. Although it lacked it performance, the Vector cars were used to advertise fast-lane products, it was so popular in ads that kids in the 80s thought it was the world’s fastest car.
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