Car History 4U

History of British Motor Car / Automobile Manufacturers

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8.7 Great Britain (UK)

  • 8.7.1. Aston Martin

    • The company was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford and the first car to bear the name was ready by 1915.

    • After encountering financial difficulties during 1924/5  the company was sold in 1926 and renamed “Aston Martin Motors”. Seven years later, in 1933, the company changed ownership again.

    • Up to the start of World War 2, in 1939, about 700 Aston Martin cars had been produced. 1937 Aston Martin 2 Litre Sports

    • In 1947 the company was purchased by David Brown Limited, who also acquired the Lagonda car company the same year.

    • The DB range of cars started in 1948 with the 2-Litre Sports DB1. This was followed by the 2,580 cc DB2 (1950-53) and the racing model DB3 in 1957.

    • The 240 hp (179 kW) 3,670 cc DB4 was first produced in 1958; a car with a top speed of 140 mph (224 kph).  
      Aston Martin DB4 1958

    • By 1963, when production of the DB4 ceased, 1,110 had been made (from 1962 70 were convertibles). 100 short wheelbase DB4 GT/Zagoto models were also built.

    • The lightweight DB4 GT version was introduced in 1959. 75 of these cars, which had a top speed of 153 mph (240 kph), were built. Is 75 correct?

    • In 1961 the company launched the DB4 Vantage model. The 266 hp (198 kW) car was fitted with three SU carburettors. 136 saloons and 32 convertibles were built.  

    • Between 1961 and 1963 19 DB4 GT Zagato models were produced, the bodies of which were built by Zagato in Italy

    • The 3,995 cc DB 5 model was produced from 1963 to 1965. The 282 hp (210 kW) version, which was fitted with three SU carburettors, had a top speed of 141 mph (226 kph).

    • In 1964 the company produced the high performance, 314 hp (234 kW), DB5 Vantage coupe model. 65 were built.

    • A total of 1,024 DB5 models were produced; 901 two-door coupes and 123 convertibles. A figure of 1,063 has also been quoted. Which is correct?

    • 19 of the convertibles were left-hand drive. 12 special estate car versions were also built.

    • A DB5 car was used in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger (Ian Fleming’s book featured a DB Mark III).

    • 1,567 DB6 models were produced from 1965 to 1970.

    • The 325 hp (242 kW) 3,996 cc car had a top speed of 150 mph (240 kph). It accelerated from 0-60 mph (96 kph) in 8.4 seconds.

    • A Mark 2 version was launched in 1969.

    • Having been sold in 1972 to a British consortium, the company was bought in 1975  by two American  businessmen, who produced the V8 Vantage in 1977 and the the convertible Volante in 1978.

    • Between the early 1980s and 1987 the company changed ownership three  more times until the Ford Motor Company initially purchased 75% of the company (gaining full control in 1993).

    • Between 1968 and 1988 approx. 5,000 Aston Martin cars were made.

    • In 1993 the company announced the DB7. In 2002, when production reached 6,000, the DB7 became the top selling DB model. The DB9 coupe was introduced in 2003, followed by a convertible version the following year.

    • In March 2007 the Ford Motor Company sold Aston Martin to a British consortium led by David Richards.

  • 8.7.2. Austin

    • The Austin Motor Company was founded in 1905 by Herbert Austin, becoming a private limited company in 1908.

    • In 1906 the company produced a large 5 litre family sized model, the first of about 8 different models that were produced in this first decade. In its first year the company produced 23 cars.

    • By 1917 the company’s factory at Longbridge was the largest of its type in Great Britain.

    • The first model introduced after the end of World War 1 was the Austin 20 in 1919. In 1922 a scaled down version, the Austin 12, was produced.

      Austin Twenty Tourer 1920

    • Another model introduced in 1922 was the Austin 7, which remained in production until 1939 by which time over 375,000 had been made. It was also being built in Germany, U.S.A and France.

      Austin Seven 1926

    • In the early 1930s it was the most popular car in the world. The car had a 747 cc engine and a top speed of 42 mph (67 kph).  

    • The first cars produced after World War 2 were based on pre-war designs. These were the Austin 8, 10, 12 & 16 models.

    • The 1,200 cc Austin A40 was the company’s first post war designed car and was produced between 1947 and 1951.

    • By 1952 Austin had produced some 28 different models since it started production in 1906 and two million cars.

    • In 1952 the company merged with Morris Motors to form the British Motor Corporation (which was taken over in 1968 and renamed the British Leyland Motor Company).

    • Whilst part of British Leyland the Austin-Healey 100 (1953-56), Sprite (1958-70) and 3000 (1959-67) sports cars were manufactured.

    • In 1959 the Austin Mini was introduced and 5,387,862 were produced by the year 2000.

    • These cars had an 848 or 1,275 cc 4-cylinder transverse engine and a top speed of 72 or 96 mph (115/154 kph), dependent on which engine was fitted.

    • Between 1952 and 1989, when the last car to carry the Austin name was built, about 14 new models were introduced, including the Austin A30, A40, A60 Cambridge, 1100/1300, 1800, Maxi, Allegro and Metro.

  • 8.7.3. Bentley

    • The Bentley Motor Company was founded in 1918 by two brothers; Walter and H Bentley.

    • Most of the early models were very successful racing cars, one of the most famous being the 3.0 litre Bentley, which had a top speed of 80 mph (128 kph).

    • It won the 24-hour Le Mans race in 1924, with other models winning from 1927 to 1930.

    • Between 1921 and 1927 the company produced 1,633 of these 3 litre cars.

      Bentley 3 Litre Tourer 1925

    • The Company was seriously affected by the 1929 stock market crash, having just launched its ultra-luxury 8-litre model and only 100 were made.

    • After producing just over 3,000 cars the company was bought by Rolls-Royce in 1931.

    • The first model produced after the end of World War 2 bearing the Bentley name was the 4.3 litre Mark Vl (1946-52), with a convertible version introduced in 1951.

      Bentley Mark VI 1946

    • In 1952 the R Type was introduced and 2,320 of these 4,566 cc cars were made.

    • The 4,887 cc Continental version was produced for the European market; the first Bentley car to carry the Continental name, and 207 were made by 1955. 1953 Bentley R Type Continental

    • The S2 Type was produced between 1959 and 1962, followed by the S3 (1962-65), the T1 (1965-77), and the T2 (1977-81).

    • 2007 Models include the Brooklands, Arnage, Azure and Continental.

  • 8.7.4. Jaguar

    • In 1932 the Swallow Sidecar Company produced its first car; the two-door SS 1.

    • In the mid 1930s the company produced the Jaguar SS100, the first car to carry the Jaguar name.  Just over 300 of these 2.5 and 3.5 litre cars were made.

      Jaguar ss100 1937

    • Immediately after World War 2 the company changed its name to Jaguar Cars Limited due to the link between the initials “SS” and Nazi Germany.

    • The first cars bearing solely the Jaguar name were the pre-war designed 1.5/2.5/3.5 litre models that were produced from 1945 to 1948.

    • The Mark V, produced in 1948, was the first post war designed model. Shortly afterwards the company launched the XK120. XK120

    • This was followed by the XK140 in 1954 and the XK150 in 1957.

    • About 72,500 E-Type Jaguars were produced between 1961 and 1973. The car had a top speed of 150 mph (240 kph) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds.

      Jaguar E Type

    • In 1968 the top selling XJ6 entered service and by 1979 over 155,000 had been made.

    • After various mergers during the 1960s and then nationalisation, the company became a separate company again in 1984. Five years later it was acquired by the Ford Motor Company.

    • Other models produced between 1950 and 1980 include the S Type, 240, 420, Mk 1, Mk 2 (over 90,000 produced), Mk V11/Vlll/lX and the XJ12.

    • Models produced since 1980 include the XJS 5.3, XK8 and XJ8. The 2007 range includes the XK, XJ, and XF range, the S Types and the X Types.

  • 8.7.5. Rolls-Royce

    • Rolls-Royce Limited was formed in 1906 by Charles Rolls and Henry Royce.

    • In 1904 an agreement had been reached that C S Rolls & Co would sell only cars manufactured by Royce Limited and that the cars would bear the name “Rolls-Royce”.

    • Between 1904 and the start of World War 2 in 1939 about 22,200 cars were produced.

    • In 1907 the company launched the six-cylinder Silver Ghost, selling 6,173 by 1925.

      Rolls Royce Silver Ghost

    •  Between 1906 and 1972 the company produced some 20 different models, including the Phantom, Wraith, Silver Wraith, Silver Dawn and Silver Shadow range.

      Rolls Royce Phamtom 1 1927

    • In 1971 Rolls-Royce Limited was nationalised by the British Government when it encountered serious financial problems.

    • Two years later, in 1973, it was de-nationalised with the formation of  “Rolls-Royce Motors” and “Rolls-Royce Limited” (aero-engine business).

    • In 1975 “Rolls-Royce Motors” launched the Camargue, production of which ceased in 1986.

    • “Rolls Royce Motors” was acquired by the British company Vickers in 1980 and then, in 1998, by Volkswagen.

    • The rights to the Rolls-Royce name and logo were, however, licensed to BMW and “Rolls-Royce Motors” were only allowed to use the name and logo until 1 January 2003

    • In 2002 the Volkswagen owned “Rolls-Royce Motors” ceased production of their Corniche model.

    • In January 2003 BMW’s subsidiary “Rolls-Royce Motor Cars” launched their Phantom model.

  • 8.7.6. MG

    • The MG letters are derived from the initials of Morris Garages Ltd, which was a distributor for Morris Cars Ltd from 1913 until the late 1920s.

    • In 1922 Cecil Kimber became General Manager of Morris Garages and in 1923 he started to produce customised Morris cars.

    • These “specials” became known as “Morris Garage Chummys”. Within a year, possibly initially along with the Morris badge, the distinctive octagon MG badge started to appear.

    • The 1924 14/28 MG Super Sports Morris is considered by many to be the first car fitted with the MG badge (fitted on the car’s running boards). 440 were built between 1924 and 1927.

    • This 1,802 cc model, which had a top speed of 65 mph (104 kph), consisted of a new sports body fitted to a Morris Oxford chassis.

    • Just before Cecil Kimber’s death in 1945 he referred to a car called “Old Number One” (FC 7900) as the “first M.G. car I ever built.” The MG badge was fitted on the side of the car.

    • The car had a 1,496 cc Hotchkiss four-cylinder engine and produced about 38 bhp. The car was registered in March 1925, just prior to the competitive event for which it was built.

    • In 1927 Morris Garages introduced the MG 14/40 model.

    • This was followed in 1928 by the MG 18/80, a car considered to be the first purpose built MG. In addition to its specially designed chassis, the Morris type bullnose radiator was replaced on this model with the now traditional MG grille.

      MG 18-80 Mk1 1930

    • In 1929 MG cars produced M-Type Midget, the first in a long line of “Midget” sports cars models.

  • 1930s

    • Company records are said to indicate that the M.G. Car Company Ltd (Reg # 249645) was formed in 1930In what month? In that year MG built about 1,000 cars.

    • The first car produced in 1930 by the newly formed Company was the MG 18/100 “Tigress” racing car. Two further racing cars were produced in the 1930s, the Q-Type in 1934 and the R-Type in 1935.

    • In 1935 the M.G. Car Company was sold to Morris Motors Ltd.

    • Up to the start of World War 2 in 1939 the company produced more than 10 different sports models, a small salon car, the MG KN (1933-34), another medium sized car, the MG VA (1937-39) and the two larger salon cars, the MG SA (1936-39) and the WA (1938-39).

  • 1940s

    • The first car produced after World War 2 was the 1,250 cc MG TC Midget, a sports car that had a top speed of 78 mph (125 kph). Between 1945 and 1949 over 10,000 were built.

      MG TC 1948

    • In 1947 MG introduced the YA Type, a medium sized saloon car that had been developed by late 1939. Nearly 6,200 of these cars were built up to 1951.

  • 1950s 

    • During the 1950s MG also produced 3 models of the TD Midegt (1950-53); a total of 29,566 + 98 in 1949, the TF Midget (1953-55); a total of 9,600 (including 3,400 1,466 cc models), the 1,488 cc MGA (1955-62); a total of 101,081 and three Magnette models, the ZA, ZB & Mk lll (1953-61).

  • 1960s

    • Between 1961 and 1968 the company produced the Mk lV Magnette.

    • The 1,798 cc MGB was produced from 1962 to 1980, a car with a top speed of 105 mph (168 kph). Including a GT version, over 500,000 of these cars were built. In 1975 an MGB became the one millionth MG car. 

    • In 1962 the company also started production of their MG 1100 model, with nearly 117,000 being built by 1967. MG also produced the 1300 model from 1967 to 1973.

  • Other Models

    • Other models produced up to 2007 include the MG Midget, MGC, RV8, MGF & TF, Maestro, Montego, Metro, MG ZR, ZS & ZT, MG 3, MG 7 and the MG XPower SV.

  • Ownership  

    • Between 1935 and 2007 t MG has been owned by Morris Motors & the Nuffield Organistion (1935-52), BMC (1952-68), BLMC (1968-86), Rover Group (1986-88), BAe (1988-94), BMW (1994-2000), the MG Rover Group (2000-05) and the Nanjing Automobile Group of China since 2005

  • 8.7.7. Morris

    • William Richard Morris formed WRM Motors in 1912 and by 1913 he had produced his first car, the 1018 cc two-seater Morris Oxford (Bullnose).

    • By the end of 1914, including a coupe version, over 1300 of these cars had been built.

    • In 1915 the company introduced a larger car, the 1.5 litre 4-seater Morris Cowley. Between 1915 and 1917 just over 1,140 Morris Cowley and Oxford cars were produced.

    • In 1919 WRM Motors ceased trading and Morris Motors Ltd was established. 

    • In 1926, just before the renowned “Bullnose” radiator was replaced by a flat one, the Cowley and Oxford models accounted for over 40% of all British car production. Production of these first two models ceased in the mid 1930s.

      Morris Cowley

    • In 1928 the company produced the first in a range of Morris Minor models. Between 1928 and 1933 over 86,000 of these 847 cc cars were built. The model was replaced by the Morris Eight. 

    • Production of the Morris 8 (hp) started in 1935, with the 100,000th being delivered on 30 June 1936. Within 3 years nearly 220,000 were built, including the updated Series 1, Series 2 and Series E.

    • A wide range of other models were produced during the 1930s, including the 1,938 and 2,062 cc Oxford Six (1929-33), the Isis (1930-35), the 16 & 20 models, with over 6,300 produced (1934-35), the 14/16/18 range (1935-39), the Morris 10 (1933-48) and the Morris 8 (1935-48).

      Morris 10-4 1933

    • In 1937 the Morris Company became Europe’s largest vehicle manufacturer and by 1939 it was the first British company to produce one million vehicles.

    • In 1938 Morris Motors Ltd merged with the MG Car Company and Riley to form the Nuffield Organisation.

    • Production resumed after World Two (1939-45) with the pre-war Morris 8 and 10. In 1948 the model 8 was replaced by the Morris Minor and the model 10 by the Morris Oxford. The Morris Six MS was also introduced in 1948.

    • Between 1948 and 1971 three versions of the Morris Minor were produced; the 918 cc MM model (1948-53), the 803 cc Series 2 (1952-56) and the 948 and 1098 cc Morris 1000, of which nearly 850,000 were built (1956-71).

    • In 1961 the one millionth Morris Minor was built, the first British car to achieve this figure.

    • The 1,476 cc Morris Oxford MO model was produced from 1948 to 1954 and nearly 160,000 were built. The 40.5 hp (30 kW) car had a top speed of 72 mph (115 kph). 

    • Between 1954 and 1961 four further versions of the Morris Oxford, all with a 1,489 cc engine, were produced.

    • The Hindustan Ambassador produced in India (1958 and still in production in 2007) was based upon the Oxford lll model. See Part 2, Section 8.9.1

    • The final version was the 1,622 cc Oxford Vl (1961-71), of which over 208,000 were built.

    • In 1952 the Nuffield Organisation merged with the Austin Motor Company to become the British Motor Corporation (BMC). In 1968 BMC became part of British Leyland Motor Corporation and then British Leyland in 1975.

    • The “Mini” car was first produced in 1959 and was originally sold by BMC as both the Austin 7 and the Morris Mini-Minor. In North America and France it was called the Austin 850 and Morris 850. 

    • The car was first named the “Mini” in 1961.

    • It was the first front wheel drive car in the world with a traverse fitted engine. This two-door car had an 848 cc engine and was only 10 feet (305 cm) long. It had a top speed of 72 mph (115 kph).

    • The Mini Cooper version was produced in 1964 with a 997 cc engine, which was later increased to 1,275 cc, giving the car a top speed of 98 mph (157 kph).

    • When production of the Mini Cooper ceased in 1971 150,000 had been built. A newer version was introduced in 1990

    • In 2000, when production of the Mini ended, over 5.3 million had been built.  During this time three upgrades had taken place; the Mk ll, the Clubman and the Mk lll, plus an estate version and the Mini Moke. 

    • In 2001 BMW produced a newly styled Mini One and Mini Cooper.

    • Other Morris cars produced include the 1100, with over 800,000 built (1962-71), the 1300 (1967), the 1800 (1966-75) and the Marina (1971-80).

    • The Ital model (1980-84) was the last car to carry the Morris name.

  • 8.7.8. Other British Car Manufacturers

    • AC, Alvis, Argyll, Armstrong Siddley, Bond, Bristol, BSA, Healey, Hillman, Humber, Jenson, Jowett, Lagonda, Lanchester, Lea Francis, Lotus, Metropolitan, Morgan, Napier, Panther, Reliant, Riley, Rover, Singer, Standard, Sunbeam, Triumph, TVR, Vanden Plas, Vanguard, Vauxhall and Wolseley.

  • 8.7.9. British Car Web Sites

    • British Motor Manufacturers

      • Historical information on over 1000 British motor manufacturers from 1894 to 1960, plus more than 500 photographs.
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