If you include prototypes, Britain has spawned some 1,300 makes of car since the dawn of motoring, most of which have long since joined that big factory in the sky or been swallowed up by bigger enterprises.
British Motor Heritage’s Motoring Classics magazine produced a series of features on the ‘missing monikers’ between Winter 2011 and Spring 2020.
The history of AC Cars is a tangled web, from which has spun items as diverse as the ‘Bag Boy’ (an all-alloy, independently-sprung, golf trolley), trains for Southend pier and invalid carriages constructed for the Ministry of Health. Incredibly, this is the same AC that brought us the mighty Cobra, a derivation of which beat Ferrari to the 1965 World Sports Car Championship.
Amphicar Model 770
Commander Bond’s ‘swimming’ Lotus from The Spy Who Loved Me is probably still most people’s favourite vision of an amphibious car. Unsurprisingly, so sophisticated a machine remains beyond the scope of affordable mass manufacture. Many attempts have, however, been made, by far the best known being the Amphicar Model 770 – 770 denotes 7 knots on water and 70mph on land.
Back in the early ‘50s, Berkeley Coachworks of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire was one of the most prolific caravan manufacturers in Europe, with invaluable experience of fibreglass and lightweight construction techniques. It was these USPs that prompted microcar master Lawrie Bond to approach owner Charles Panter with the idea manufacturing lightweight affordable cars.
At last year’s Frankfurt Motorshow the grandson of Borgward’s founder heralded the return of this once prominent German marque that had lain dormant since being forced into liquidation in 1961. Its sudden demise was decidedly controversial, and sad too – it had produced over a million cars and at its zenith employed some 23,000 people.
The quintessentially British marque Bristol has been missing from the sales charts since 2011, but is due to bounce back with a new high-tech offering during 2017 – reason enough, we felt, to delve into the history of this extraordinary business, whose roots date back to the Bristol Tramways Company of the 1870s.
David Lean’s unforgettable opening sequence to Lawrence of Arabia immortalised the Brough Superior motorcycle in the most dramatic of ways. The example on which T E Lawrence CB DSO lost his life was his seventh Brough; such was the allure George Brough had managed to create for his eponymous brand, which H D Teague of the The Motor Cycle magazine christened ‘The Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles’.
Largely unheard of by today’s competition drivers, the products of Derek Buckler’s eponymous car company provided many post-war enthusiasts with their first taste of motorsport.
Back in 1927 car design and aerodynamics were still relatively unacquainted with each other – unless that is the vehicle in question was penned by somebody with aeronautical knowledge. That is certainly the back story to the extraordinary Burney Streamline, which was the brainchild of Sir Charles Dennistoun Burney, who’d previously been the driving force behind the R100 airship.
The fascinatingly successful story of Elva Cars is best known in the US where most of the c.1,070 made were sold, despite the company being founded and based in England throughout its 14-year existence.
Try as we might, most of us fail to leave that indelible mark on life that separates the achievers from the also-rans. Don Bennett’s 76 years on earth created many legacies, however, including Fairthorpe.
For a marque that was placed third at Le Mans and achieved victory in both the Targa Florio and Sebring 12 Hours, Frazer Nash remains surprisingly off-radar for all but the ardent devotees of this fascinating manufacturer.
Some 250 automotive companies are based in Wales, employing 20,000 people. And while these firms include such manufacturing giants as Toyota and Ford, none produces complete road cars.
Once heard, the splendid name of Goggomobil is never forgotten, yet these cute little microcars have remained relatively unknown outside of their native Germany – as has the story of their place in BMW’s history.
Motor described the GK1 as an ‘electrifying four-seater’ while Cars & Car Conversions found the later IT version to be the ‘fastest accelerating car we have ever tested’, so how come only 100 Gordon-Keebles were manufactured?
It may have the taken the 1952 collaboration agreement between Austin and Healey to make the latter a household name, but its much vaunted sporting DNA was established six years earlier, by the high quality products of the Donald Healey Motor Company.
Britain has spawned all manner of car builders over time, many of whom shunned the mainstream market, preferring to serve one of numerous niches instead. HRG was just such a marque, and aimed fairly and squarely at enthusiasts wanting to drive to their chosen branch of motorsport and, God willing, motor home again afterwards.
Seeking something constructive to do following WWI, car–loving friends Hugh Eric Orr-Ewing and Noel Campbell Macklin founded, in quick succession, the Eric-Campbell and Silver Hawk marques. However,neither satisfied the restless Macklin who aspired to create the ‘top gear’ car.
Isetta (‘little Iso’ in Italian) was the endearing name Iso Autoveicoli SpA gave to the innovative egg-shaped two-seater it unveiled to an astonished press in November 1953. Home market sales flagged after an initial flurry so, more impassioned by his upcoming Iso Rivolta sports car, the company’s boss Renzo Rivolta secured licencing deals for his Isetta with Romi (Brazil), VELAM (France) and BMW (Germany).
Mentioning the name Jensen to most enthusiasts will most likely recall the last of the Interceptors that was the company’s flagship model from 1966 to 1976, but the company had enjoyed a fascinating and largely successful history long before that.
Jowett is not the first name that springs to the minds of most classic car buffs, yet the Yorkshire-based manufacturer produced vehicles from 1906 to 1954, including the decidedly futuristic Javelin.
In common with the makers of many early British cars, Richard Lea and Graham Francis originally manufactured pedal cycles, for which they acquired a strong reputation. Their first foray into cars was less successful, and just three of the 1903 design powered by a bizarre three cylinder engine mounted horizontally below the occupants’ feet were made – none of which survive today.
It was the experience of a 1952 sprint meeting at Bottisham, Cambridge that persuaded Brian Lister to enter racing car construction. He was competing in a JAPengined Tojeiro and was amazed to find his times virtually equalled by young Archie Scott Brown in a standard MG TD.
Some people mistakenly believe the classic Morgans to have wooden chassis, but a manufacturer that did successfully employ such frames was Marcos.
Production estimates for the Marendaz cars vary from 80 to 100. Marque registrar Graham Skillen owns the two remaining London-built models, and reckons 21 to 22 of the Maidenhead-manufactured 13/70 and 15/80 ranges have stood the test of time. They doubtless still cut quite a dash wherever they go.
Bon vivant Captain Raymond Flower was the author of over 20 books on subjects as diverse as: Lloyds of London, of which he was an underwriter; the Chianti region of Italy, where he eventually lived in a 1000-year-old castello; and motorsport, of which his personal experience included placings in Alpine rallies and RAC Tourist Trophy races. He was also the father of the Meadows Frisky microcar.
Peel Engineering Company
To grossly misquote George Orwell, ‘all microcars are equal, but some are more equal than others’, and the three wheeled Peel P50 has the distinction of being the smallest production car ever made. Penned by Cyril Cannell and built at Peel (hence the name) on the Isle of Man from 1962 to 1964, it was a mere 52.8 inches long and 39 inches wide.
According to the Piper Sports & Racing Car Club, some 57 of the 90(ish) Piper road cars produced between 1968 and 1974 still exist, together with a number of the 20 or so racing ones. The marque was established in 1966 at Campbell’s Garage. The new car’s name was inspired by the establishment’s logo of a kilted bagpiper.
It’s easy to be confused by Reliant, the unique Midlands-based car company that survived an impressive 66 years and brought us cars as diverse as: the three-wheeled Regal that was primarily aimed at bikers who could drive it on a motorcycle licence; and the sporting four-wheeled Scimitar GTE that found favour with Princess Anne and such stars of the day as Noel Edmonds, David Nixon and Rita Tushingham.
The rise and fall of Singer is akin to that of many other once great British marques – bicycle manufacture leading to that of motorcycles and motorcars, followed by financial woes, takeover and eventual demise. The legacy is, however, to be treasured and includes a number of landmark car models.
The Doretti may never have crossed your radar, as production lasted a mere 18 months before this much admired British two-seater succumbed to industry politics.
Turner Sports Cars
In production terms the Turner moniker has been missing since Jack Turner closed the doors on his eponymous company in January 1966. However, examples of the breed are still collecting silverware and some 317 of the c.670 manufactured exist today.
Not long ago, TVR was the largest remaining British-owned motor manufacturer, yet by December 2006 was in administration. Now in new hands, it is about to rise from the ashes once more. The roller-coaster story of this uniquely British and much-loved brand is like no other.
There’s a bit of journalistic licence in choosing WSM as the second manufacturer in our Missing Moniker series – although the last of the original cars was built in 1965, the marque made an unexpected, phoenix-like re-emergence 44 years later and is therefore missing no longer.