All the Makes: Packard to Purvis

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(1899 - 1958)

Founded as the Ohio Automobile Company by brothers James Ward and William Dowd Packard in Warren (Ohio). Deciding not to compete at the lower mass-produced end of the market being then dominated by Henry Ford, the company instead concentrated on the manufacture of more up-market cars – by way of comparison a Model T was selling for $440, while the Packard’s had a starting price of $2,600! Appealing to the social elite, for a time they were the transport of choice for many US and foreign dignitaries.

Financially rescued by a happy Packard owner (and a wealthy one at that), one Henry Bourne Joy, the company would move to Detroit where James would be appointed president, and Joy General Manager (and later Chairman of the Board). Continued to build elite vehicles for the extremely wealthy throughout the 1920’s and 30’s, regarded as a cut above the GM Cadillac’s of the day.

Packard rode out the depression by manufacturing slightly less expensive cars, and while competitors Peerless, Marmon, Ruxton, Stearns-Kinght, Pierce Arrow and the once mighty Duesenberg would go into receivership, Packard managed to (just) survive – many believed due to the fact that they used a single production line.

The continued economic decline saw Packard offer it’s first sub $1000 car in 1935, the “Packard 120” – a car that would become very popular and ensure the survival of the company – if only for a time. Despite suffering a chronic shortage of raw materials, the company beat rivals Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler to release the first  new post war luxury-car bodystyle in 1948.

The 1950’s were known as an era of economic rationalisation, Nash president George Mason courting Packard as a suitable candidate for merger. Packard were reluctant to go down that route, and Nash would turn to Hudson to form American Motors Corporation (AMC) in 1954. The Packard directors soon realised they too needed to merger if they were to survive, however the number of independents was fast dwindling.

A merger was conceived with Studebaker, which was ratified on October 1, 1954, and formed the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. A lack of due diligence performed by the Packard directors would leave the company exposed, Studebaker in more dire straits than anyone imagined. The slow demise of the joint companies followed, the Packard name being dropped for a time only to be re-birthed when consumers refused to buy unbranded “Clipper’s”. Studebaker pulled the Packard nameplate from the marketplace in 1959 to focus instead on its compact Lark.

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(1999 - present)

Italian manufacturer of high-performance supercars and high quality carbon fibre also found in Lamborghini's. Founded by Argentinian Horacio Pagani who, with the assistance of Juan Manuel Fangio, managed to land a job with Lamborghini. The Zonda is Pagani's only model, but what a car. The awesome mid-mounted V-12 DOHC engine used in the Zonda is manufactured exclusively for Pagani by Mercedes-Benz's AMG division. The Zonda was inspired by jet fighters and the famous Sauber-Mercedes Silver Arrow Group C cars.



(1891 - 1967)

Founded by René Panhard and his partner Emile Levassor, these visionary men were responsible for the formula of design that is still used to this day; that formula is front mounted engine, front wheel steering, rear-wheel drive. The pair went into business to build engines for Gottlieb Daimler in 1886, but the temptation to build their own cars proved too great, and in 1891 they had built and sold their first iteration. Although their cars were chain driven, by 1896 their configuration, aptly named the "Systéme Panhard" was being copied by nearly all other manufacturers.

Levassor, who had been severely injured in the Paris-Marseilles race the previous year, finally succumb to his injuries, and so René Panhard’s son Hippolyte joined the board, and togther father and son would oversee an increase in production to some 336 cars by 1898, and then more than 1000 by 1902 – these were huge figures for the time. In 1905 the company diversified into aero engine manufacture, however the visionary René would pass away in 1908.

Despite a decrease in sales, Hippolyte Panhard was able to keep the company in the black, and by the time war was thrust upon the world Panhard had manufactured 2100 cars. During the war Panhard manufactured a four-wheel-drive military vehicle, that also featured four-wheel-steering. After the war the company embarked on a rapid expansion program, including the bolstering of its range to include many different body and engine combinations, along with half-trucks, military vehicles, trucks and buses.

With so many divisions operating within the same company, it seemed inevitable that one would be the loser, and it was the automobile division that suffered the most. There were a few highlights though, such as the sleeve-valve diesel engine offered in the 1930’s, as well as the fabulous 1937 Dynamique, which featured a syncromesh gearbox, hydraulic brakes, independent torsion bar suspension and faired-in wheels and headlamps, plus (until 1939) the unusual feature of a centrally-mounted steering wheel.

After World War 2 Panhard continued the manufacture of armored cars, then in 1946 came the Dynamique’s replacement, the wonderful and innovative Dyna-Panhard, a front-wheel-drive saloon using a light alloy body and flat-twin engine.

Suited perfectly to the economic conditions facing Europe as it recovered from the ravages of war, the Dyna-Panhard was an immediate sales success, some 14,000 were manufactured in 1948 alone. In 1954 Panhard even offered a supercharged sports version, but competitor Citroen could see that Panhard were ripe for the picking. In 1955 they took a 25% stake in the company, and to make the Dyna more competitive they ditched the alloy body in favour of an all-steel one. In 1965 Citroen assumed complete control, the last Panhard leaving the Ivry Paris factory in 1967.


(1972 - 1990)

Founded by Bob Jankel to manufacture replica 1930’s style J72 and De Ville cars, perhaps in an attempt to replicate the success of Morgan. Jankel was an engineer who had worked for a time in the fashion industry, and so in combining his talents in engineering and design the resultant Panther J72 was a marvel, it being a faithful reproduction of the 1930’s SS100, however it being fitted with a more modern Jaguar engine. At first these cars were built as a hobby, but as the inevitable waiting list grew Jankel was forced to more into more serious full-time manufacture.

Buoyed the an ever increasing waiting list, Jankel set about the design and manufacture of other iterations, such as a V12 version of the J72 in 1973, then a replica of the Bugatti Royale, also powered by a Jaguar V12. The first volume car was the 1976 Lima, which used a fiberglass body molded in classic 1930’s style.

Then there was the Rio, a re-bodied Triumph Dolomite Sprint, and even a “Super Six”, not named because of a six cylinder engine, but because of the use of six wheels! It was an open two-seater, featuring two sets of wheels at the front, all of which steered and a rear mounted Cadillac 500.4ci 8.2 liter V8 engine. Obviously wildly optimistic, the Super Six would never make it to production, but did have a heavy toll financially on the company.

All hope was then left with the ever popular Lima to save the day, and a turbo-charged version was soon released. But this was simply too little too late, and in the late 1970’s the company went into receivership. In 1980 Korean manufacturer Jindo Industries purchased the company, dropped all but the J72 models and transferred production to Korea. It re-launched the Lima in 1982 as the Kallista, this time it being fitted with either a Ford 1.6 liter four or 2.8 liter V6.

Over the next 5 years Ssangyong would take a stake in the company, until it owned some 80%. The last hurrah  was the Panther Solo and Solo-2, a mid-engined two seater powered by a turbo-charged Ford Cosworth engine. It was not successful, and Panther faded into obscurity.

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(1957 - 1962)

Founded by Bernie Rodger with the idea of building affordable 2+2 GT. With the financial backing of Peerless Motors of Slough, Rodger produced an alloy prototype which was shown at the Paris motor show in 1957. Production proper would commence the following year, however a multi-section fiberglass body was used instead of the alloy version used on the prototype. Most mechanical components were taken from the Triumph TR3, including the front suspension, although a Laycock de Normanville overdrive was recommended to overcome the low gearing of the standard Triumph transmission.

These first cars were indeed very good looking, and with the 122ci 2 liter engine also provided better than average performance, however the strength of the body shell was to come in for some criticism. The Phase II was to address this problem, but money ran out, and the company closed. Rodger tried to switch production to Ireland where he thought the cars could be manufactured more cost effectively, but this fell through too. Sporadic production would continue until 1962.


(1951 - 1958)

Pegaso was formed primarily to showcase the expertise of Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones (ENSA), a truck maker founded in Barcelona in 1946. The transition to automobile manufacturer was instigated by the companies technical director and chief executive Wilfredo Ricart, who had previously worked for Alfa Romeo and had managed to lure many highly skilled ex-Alfa and Lancia engineers to ENSA. Ricart wanted to up-skill the ENSA workers, keen to make them automobile artisans of world class, and the manufacture of a sports car seemed the obvious answer.

Unveiled at the 1951 Paris Salon, the Pegaso was indeed beautiful, and most importantly almost every component (excluding the Weber carburetors and licence-built ZF gearbox) was designed and built by ENSA itself. Power came via a quad-camshaft 152.6ci 2.5 liter V8, which was subsequently increased in capacity to 170.9ci (3.2 liters). The Pegaso used a De Dion rear suspension setup and integral with the gearbox, and no less than eight Weber carburetors were fitted to the engine. As beautiful as the body was, it was far from svelte, the weight negating any practical use of the car on the racetrack.

There was however one exception, a supercharged Pegaso briefly holding the title of the fastest production sports car in the world, recording a speed of 151mph (243 km/h) in 1953. When Ricart retired in 1958 much of the passion for building the Pegasso left with him, and ENSA returned to concentrating on what they did best, build trucks.


(1891 - present)

Established by the Peugeot family in the early 19th century, then concerned with the manufacture of various industrial products, including the bicycle. In 1890, just 4 years after Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimlers invention of the motor car, Armand Peugeot used Daimlers engine to manufacture his own 4-wheel motor vehicle, based on his quadricycle. A handful of other models were created before the establishment of the Société des Automobiles Peugeot in 1896, the company more simply referred to today as Peugeot.

In 1897 Peugeot began the manufacture of their own engine, and followed on with the invention of some of the most important advances in automotive history, including (together with Michelin) the pneumatic tire, use of a steering wheel (instead of tiller) and transmission shaft with universal joint (instead of chain).

The Grand Prix car of 1912 was a stunning design, using a hemi-spherical combustion chamber with cross-flow head and 4-valves per cylinder driven by twin overhead camshafts. Peugeot went on to create fairly mundane models between the wars, the most successful of which was the 201, 140,000 being manufactured between 1929 and 1936.

The company bounced back after World War 2 with the indestructible 203, Australia playing a part in the cars well deserved reputation following a win in the inaugural Redex Trial. In 1965 Peugeot underwent massive expansion, becoming Peugeot S.A. (PSA), a holding company controlling all the group's different companies. PSA absorbed the bankrupted Citroen in 1976 and the falling European Chrysler-Simca in 1978.

The group replaced the latter by resurrecting the almost forgotten marque Talbot, which struggled on for a time until 1986. Most significant of recent times, and responsible for the reverence afforded the marque today, was the arrival of 205 GTI in 1983.

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(1901 - 1938)

Founded by George Pierce who had made his millions producing all manner or contraptions, from ice-boxes to bird cages. During the 1880’s he saw opportunity in the burgeoning bicycle market, and turned his attention to cycle manufacture. It was only naturally with the overnight success of the automobile, he would also enter the fray. His first prototype was a steam powered iteration, however it was the use of a single cylinder De Dion engine that would, for a time, set the course for success.

The De Dion powered Motorette went into production in 1901, and several years later Pierce was using his own engines. The 1903 Arrow model was a distinct move into the up-market sector, a path that so many chose to follow, and few with any great success. The Arrow proved successful in long-distance races such as the Glidden Tour, the resultant raising of the cars profile bolstering sales and the profile of the company. Pierce moved the company to a new factory and renamed the company Pierce-Arrow, and soon production would reach the 1000 per year mark, the vast majority being pre-sold before they even left the factory – two were even chosen to add to the US Presidential fleet.

George Pierce died in 1910, but not before seeing his fledgling company garner great success and prestige. Further enhancing the up-market notions of the car, Pierce-Arrow were soon running a chauffeur training school, ensuring drivers were competent in handling the 415ci 6.8 liter monsters. During the First World War the company began the manufacture of trucks, which proved profitable during the war years but less so when hostilities ceased, and by 1921 the company had posted an $8 million loss.

There was a new model released in 1924, but at a time when styling changes were turning modern into archaic almost overnight, the company simply could not afford the expenditure required to allow it to successfully compete. In 1928 the company was taken over by Studebaker, the Pierce-Arrow’s benefiting from the much-needed new straight-eight 133 and 143 engines. But the losses continued, and the acquisition of Pierce-Arrow only seemed to accelerate the demise of Studebaker.

When Studebaker collapsed in 1933 Pierce-Arrow was bought by a group of Buffalo businessmen, but they were only able to limp along for a few years more – only the V12 engine survived, it used to power fire engines right up until 1970.


(1928 - present)

The Big Three US car manufacturers have always had several divisions competing at different sectors of the market, and Plymouth has been at the low-end of the Chrysler range. The name was the brainchild of then Chrysler Sales Manager Joseph Frazier, he using Plymouth Rock for his inspiration – the place where the Pilgrim Fathers first set foot on American soil. Much like the competition, Plymouth borrowed heavily from the parts bin of its parent company, but where it was different was in how advanced those parts were.

While Ford and Chevrolet still used wooden frames and mechanical brakes, the Plymouths used an all steel body and hydraulic brakes. This made them a little more expensive than the competition, but they were undeniably a superior car in every way. It was pretty obvious to most just how superior the Plymouth was, and they enjoyed immediate sales success. In 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, Plymouth sold some 68,000 cars, quite a feat for a division barely 2 years old! To keep costs down, the early Plymouth’s used 4 cylinder engines, but unlike the competition the engines were mounted via rubber bushes, giving them unrivalled smoothness for a four cylinder. It quickly assumed 3rd position on the US sales charts, even beating parent Chrysler.

A six cylinder engine arrived in 1933, this addition to the line-up helping the marque go from strength to strength. In 1940, when Walter Chrysler died, Plymouth were manufacturing a half-million cars per year. After the war new Chrysler chief K.T. Keller insisted on a sensible three-box style for the new Plymouth’s, instead of the more forward looking “streamliner” style that was becoming increasing popular. Sales took a dive, and continued to slide until revolutionary stylist Virgil Exner was brought in during the 1950’s. He brought Plymouth into the “tail-fin” era long before the competition, and once again Plymouth were a “style leader” rather than follower.

The heady days prior to World War 2 were never to be revisited, but the marque was at least salvaged. Plymouth pre-empted the move toward more compact cars in the early 1960’s, the resultant Valiant being popular – never more so than in Australia. In the late 1960’s came such wonderful iterations as the Fury and Belvedere, along with the Mustang punishing Barracuda.

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(1926 - present)

Arguably the 2nd most successful GM division, behind Chevrolet. The marque was “invented” by GM in 1926, the name being taken from the town of Pontiac, Michigan, where the cars were built. And as with the rival (Chrysler) Plymouth, the Pontiac’s had almost overnight success, some 200,000 being sold in 1929 alone. But the depression would take its toll on many, and Pontiac was hit hard, sales in 1932 slumping to a mere 50,000. While many of Pontiac’s sister marques fell by the way, GM President Alfred Sloan was determined that Pontiac should survive – but to do so would require some serious rationalisation. Pontiac were forced to draw heavily upon the parts bin of Chevrolet, and then be sold under the Buick and Oldsmobile dealer network.

With the threat of Pontiac’s losing their identity altogether, stylist Frank Hershey and chief body engineer Roy Milner set about ensuring the Pontiac’s looked as different as possible to other GM division cars – quite a feat considering the rationalisation plan meant many body panels had to be shared. The Pontiac Eight of 1933 was a brilliant success, it featuring a silky smooth straight eight engine designed by Benjamin Anibal. The reputation of the Eight would spread, given the cars durability and reliability, and the engine would remain the mainstay until a new V8 arrived in 1955. By the late 1930’s sales, and the division, were in full recovery mode.

After World War 2 Pontiac went from strength to strength, the Star Chief and Chieftan convertibles leading the way when American cars became long, wide and low riding. Through the 1970’s it was Japanese competition and rising fuel prices that Pontiac were forced to contend with, the challenge being met with a plethora of fairly plain but easy to live with iterations such as the Phoenix, Grand Le Mans and Grand Am. The mid engined Fiero offered some driving excitement, and the Firebird Trans Am remained a leading muscle car. But it was the popular Grand Prix model that ensured the marque would continue to enjoy it’s position as the 3rd best selling brand in the US.

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(1948 - present)

The story of Porsche dates back to long before the establishment of the marque, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche playing pivotal roles in so many illustrious marques, such as Volkswagen, Austro-Daimler, Steyr and even Cistalia (the French authorities freeing him after the war with the Italian manufacturer paid them a million francs so that they could secure his services to design a new Grand Prix car). But the best was always the one that bore his name, and we think very few would disagree. The first iterations were based largely on the pre-war Volkswagens, being a rear engined two seater powered by a mildly tuned 69ci 1131cc VW flat four engine.

Production commenced I 1948, but it was when manufacture was switched back to Porsche’s original Stuttgart base in 1950 that things really took off. In 1951 output was 500 cars, and by 1956 the number had grown to 10,000. The cars were nearly always successful in any competition they entered, even in their debut at Le Mans – a feat they would mimic 12 times by 1987! Ferry Porsche assumed control of the company following the death of his father in 1952, and under his guidance the 356 acquired bigger engines and more power.

By the mid 1950’s exports began to the US, were there was an almost insatiable appetite for anything Porsche. The 356 was replaced by the 911 in 1964, arguably the most famous of and recognisable of any sports car. The 911, along with the company, would continue to move upmarket – and they represent one of the most sought after and collectible classics to this day.

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(1983 - present)

One of the newest car manufacturers around, the company was formed in 1983 as a joint venture between the Malaysian government and Mitsubishi. Through the 1980’s the company would use the old Mitsubishi Lancer tooling to manufacture “new” Proton’s, and despite the obviously dated looks and questionable quality their low cost would entice distributors to import them to various overseas markets, including Australia.

Some much needed prestige was added when Proton assumed control of Lotus, the first job given to the UK based Lotus being to help improve the Proton’s ride and dynamics. It was certainly not a job for the faint of heart, trying to make a 10+ year old design competitive falling, not that surprisingly, very short of the mark. Not collectable, and certainly not for those that enjoy driving.


(1974 - 1991)

Australia came to learn of car manufacturer Purvis Cars following the 1974 Melbourne Car Show, when the sensational "Eureka" was displayed for the very first time. Motor Magazine (then named "Modern Motor") featured the Eureka on its June 1974 edition cover, and not to be outdone Sports Car World then headlined with "We Drove it First" for their July 1974 edition. The Eureka actually started life in the UK in 1971, there called the Nova.

The concept then went to the US as the Sterling and South Africa as the Eagle. But it was Aussie Alan Purvis that came across the Nova while on holiday in the UK in late 1971, he quickly setting about creating distribution agreements for Australia and New Zealand. Alan renamed the Nova as "Eureka" in recognition of the fighting spirit demonstrated by the miners at the Eureka Stockade, and even went as far as adoption the Eureka flag as the companies symbol.


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