All the Makes: Imperial to Kissel

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(1954 - 1975)

Began its days as the upmarket brand for Chrysler in 1926, but following World War II Chrysler thought the brand should stand apart (even though it would naturally use the Chrysler V8 engine!). Most early models were considered conservative by commentators of the day, however the Flite Sweep bodies soon changed all that.

The addition of disc brakes and a new moniker, Le Baron (who had built coachwork for Imperial in the 1920's and 30's) kept interest in the marque alive and well. Apart from oddities such as swiveling seats, did bring true innovation to the domestic US market, and was the first brand to offer anti-lock brakes. Became entangled in parent Chryslers financial woes in the 1970's, and the marque was abandoned in a cost-cutting exercise.

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(1925 - 1936 AND 1946 - 1950)

Lost Marques


(1962 - 1975)

Founded by Isothermos Renzo Rivolta,

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(1900 - 1949)


(1953 - present)

Although automobile production only started in 1953, Isuzu can be traced back to a merger between a heavy engineering company and Tokyo Gas and Electric back in 1918. After the merger, the company built and sold Wolseleys in the Far East. In 1929 they began building their own cars, using various trade names including that of a famous Japanese river, Isuzu.

The company was formally titled Isuzu Motors in 1949, and in 1953 did a deal with British Rootes group to build Hillman Minx's, at first only assembling the cars from imported parts. Launched its own Bellel model in 1961, and due to its popularity followed with the Bellet in 1963.

Most consider their crowning achievment the 117 Coupé, but despite the popularity of its cars Isuzu was struggling against the might of the big Japanese car makers. They sought partnerships with Mitsubishi, Nissan and Fuji, before General Motors came to the rescue, snapping up the manufacturer so that they could build small GM cars for both the local and export markets.

The GM influence would pay immediate dividends, with the release of the incredibly popular Gemini. The attractive small car was marketed as the Holden Gemini, Opel Kadett and Vauxhall Chevette, all were popular and for good reason.

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(1904 - 1934)


(1945 - present)

Founded by William Lyons, bringing new style to Swallow sidecars, then manufacturing a series of special bodies for more common vehicles such as the Austin Seven, the Fiat Tipo 509A, the Standard 9 and the Standard 16. Lyons joined forces with William Walmsley, naming their new business SS Cars, the most famous being the 1935 SS90 and SS100. Used Jaguar as a model designation for its saloons and drop-head coupes.

Struggled for a time after World War 2, never again making the famous SS100. Released the awesome XK120 Roadster at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show, the company now opting to use the Jaguar name exclusively given the sinister connotations of SS following the war. Continued through the 1950's, 60's and 70's to build some of the most desirable and collectable sports cars and saloons around.

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(1963 - present)

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(1935 - 1976)

It was common practice for would-be automotive engineers to tinker with the ubiquitous Austin 7, but Alan and Richard Jensen went one step further than most, removing the body entirely to fit their own race version to the chassis, at the time the brothers still mere apprentices in the Birmingham motor industry.

Their hand-crafted Austin would catch the eye of the Standard Motor Company’s Chief Engineer, leading to them being given the contract to create something similar on a Standard chassis. In 1931 the brothers joined W. J. Smith & Sons body works in West Bromwich, and in 1935 the first of their designs was revealed, an open tourer powered by a 3.5 liter Ford V8. Dubbed the “While Lady”, most commentators consider this to be the first true Jensen.

In 1936 William Smith would pass, and the company would be renamed Jensen Motors. Profits from wartime contracts would ensure the company was financially able to get a good start after the war, their first iteration being the 1948 Jensen PW, a large luxury saloon aimed at the well heeled. 1950 would see the introduction of the Interceptor, featuring a sleek streamlined appearance and constructed from light alloy it was powered by Austin’s 4 liter six.

The 541, first seen in prototype form in 1953, entered series production in 1955 and, like the Interceptor, it was powered by the Austin six, but was revolutionary in its use of a fiberglass body. Desirable as long range touring cars, 541s continued in production until 1962 when a much more powerful Jensen grand tourer made its debut.

The C-V8 boasted a 6 liter Chrysler engine and was one of the fastest four-seaters around; production had reached 500 by 1966 when the decision was made to contract the firm's next body design out to Italy. The Jensen brothers were not too happy with the decision, and given their ill health and age decided to call it a day.

Later that year two new steel-bodied Jensen’s made their debut at Earls Court, the Touring-designed Interceptor and the similarly styled but radically different FF, a four-wheel drive variant with Maxaret anti-lock braking. Financial problems would see the company taken over by Brandts Bank in 1968, then in 1970 another takeover by American Kjell Qvale, he wanting the company to develop Donald Healey’s new sports car.

Prototypes of what would become the Jensen-Healey, with a Lotus 16-valve engine, were running in 1971, the year in which the FF was phased out and up-rated versions of the Interceptor were introduced. Now Jensen-Healey, the company entered production in 1972 and for a time things looked positive, but the oil crisis combined with ongoing reliability and quality control issues would take its toll on the company. The writing was on the wall, and in 1975 the receivers were called in.

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(1906 - 1953)

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(1946 - 1955)
South Korea


( - present)


(1906 - 1930)

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