There is a lovably oddball character to the British motor industry that is epitomized by Aston Martin. Aston Martin DB4While their American cousins quickly produced automobiles in mass manufacture, starting with Ransom E. Olds before the turn of the last century, the British seemed perfectly satisfied to approach car building as a cottage industry. Hammer out a few here, put together a few there, and perhaps build a little bit of earnings into the enterprise. This was the ourlin for many British car builders, from Morgan to Jaguar to MG to Triumph to Aston Martin.

Marking its name

The original Aston Martin partners,  Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, completed the first car in 1914, didn’t register it with the British government until 1915 and didn’t assemble a second car until 1920. Bamford was an engineer and Martin was a driving enthusiast, and both men competed fairly triumphantly in hill climbs, including a famous event at Aston Clinton, which would ultimately give the marque half its name. After campaigning Singers, Bamford & Martin Ltd, as their leisurely automotive enterprise was called, decided to Read more . . .

Citroen is  commonly acclaimed for introducing the first front-wheel-drive production automobile. That would be quite a difference, but the fact is it’s not true. Citroen Traction Avant BerlineCord, Ruxton and Gardner all  proposed production front-wheel-drive automobiles several years before Citroen joined the party. The importance of Citroen’s involvement  is not that it was first with front-wheel-drive, but that it was the first company to make front-wheel-drive a true success. Unfortunately, that victory came almost simultaneously with Andre Citroen’s death, so the legendary French auto magnate never got to enjoy the fruits of his gamble.

Henry Ford of France

By the way, there is no doubt,  that Andre Citroen was a gambling man. The son of a Dutch diamond broker, Citroen was born in 1878 and by the time he reached the age of 25, he was a force to be taken seriously in French industry. After graduating from technical college, he obtained a license for a Russian process of machining gear teeth and, license in hand, set up a machine works. The gears rapidly gained a reputation for silence and strength, and Citroen’s business, which he manage with great vigor, became very profitable. Soon the prominent French automobile producer Mors asked him for technical assistance, his first foray into the car industry. Read more . . .

Sometimes great cars achieve significant commercial victory. Witness the Volkswagen Beetle and Model T Ford  as obvious examples.BMW 507 RoadsterOther times, great cars make virtually no impression on the market, save to point the way for others to follow. The Chrysler Airflow and Cord 810 are prominent examples of this phenomenon. Sadly, the BMW 507 roadster also belongs into this significant but ill-fated category. Born in the glory days of the true sports car, raised with a distinguished pedigree and built to the highest of standards, the 507 failed miserably at achieving commercial accomplishment, which is a great shame considering its many good features.

Picking off after the battle

To set the stage for the entrance of the 507, let us travel back in time to the immediate repercussions of World War II. Like most of the war-ravaged German auto industry, BMW was in scraps. Its auto manufacturing services, what were left of them after Allied bombing and occupation, were in Eisenach, behind the quickly closing Iron Curtain of Russian-occupied East Germany. Read more . . .

Some cars have to age like fine wine to be appreciated. Ferrari 360 SpiderOthers offer virtues so obvious that they deserve top ranking from the moment they are introduced. So it is with the Ferrari 360 Spider, which happens to be the marque’s twentieth road-going convertible and a car about which Ferrari says, “without question,  it is the best Spider Maranello has ever produced in terms of looks, engineering, and performance.”

Satisfaction of modern perfection

While some of that might be recent marketing hype — after all the 360 Spider is still available for purchase at your local Ferrari dealer — you can perhaps pardon them for the hyperbole. We still think the Ferrari Daytona Spider is a prettier car with classic sports car proportions, but there is no doubt the 360 Spider is strikingly attractive in the modern mold. Further, because Ferrari is presently on an incredible roll in the world of Formula One racing, it is the most technologically advanced convertible of all time. Read more . . .

Like Henry Ford, Ferruccio Lamborghini was an expert mechanic. Lamborghini MiuraAnd like Henry Ford, Lamborghini left a career of prominence to take a chance on an entirely new venture when he was well past 40 years old. In the end, like Henry Ford, Lamborghini was far more interested in producing cars for the street than for the race track.

However, at that point, the parallels between the two automotive legends begin to fold, because the cars Lamborghini brought to market under the sign of the bull were about as distinct from a Model T Ford as an F-16 is from a Piper Cub. Sure, they both fly but… Read more . . .