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Makers who left their marque on the auto industry

Many pioneers in automotive history prove their brands are their names

Published: February 28, 2017, 9:30 AM
Updated: March 6, 2017, 4:25 AM

Horacio Pagani - Born in Argentina in 1955, Pagani began making cars out of balsa wood in his pre-teen years. He rather quickly moved onto motorized vehicles in the form of motorcycles and then cars, using mechanicals from other manufacturers and in 1983, moved to Italy and eventually ended up as chief engineer at Lamborghini, before branching out on his own in 1991 to form the consultancy firm Modena Design, and then Pagani Automobili Modena in 1992.

Pagani Zonda - Having worked on legendary Lamborghinis such as the Countach, LM-002 and the Diablo, Pagani finally fulfilled his dream of building a lightweight supercar with the Zonda of 1999. Originally intended to be named Fangio F1, in tribute to his friend Juan Manuel Fangio, who encouraged him to move to Italy to pursue his supercar dreams, it was renamed Zonda C12 (Zonda is the Argentinian version of the Chinook wind) following Fangio’s death. Critically acclaimed for its performance, the Zonda went through various iterations and special editions in its 12 year history, before being replaced by the Huayra.

Lamborghini Miura - Probably Lamborghini’s greatest gift to the automotive world was the 60-degree V-12 that would end up powering the cars that bore his name over the next 50 years. Since its creation in 1963, it has served in Lamborghini cars from the 350GT (the initial 3.5-litre unit making 370 hp) to the 2010 Murcielago (where it had grown to 6.5 litres putting out 631 hp), and is probably best remembered as the 345-hp 3.9-litre unit that powered what many consider Lamborghini’s finest creation, the 1967 Miura. (Credit: Wikipedia/Ralf_Roletschek)

Ferruccio Lamborghini - As you’d probably expect from anybody growing up in war-time Italy, Lamborghini grew up in grape growing and put his mechanical know-how to create the tractor manufacturing business Lamborghini Trattori in post WW II Italy. He also dabbled in oil heaters and air-conditioning before settling on his most precious offering to the world and the one for which his name would become synonymous with the pinnacle of luxury and performance, Automobili Lamborghini, in 1963.

Bugatti Chiron - The latest car from Bugatti, the new Chiron shows design cues throwing back to the century-plus history of the marque — among them, the blue exterior paint matching that of the old race cars, the elliptical cabin and window line of the Atlantic, and the arch radiator grille from Ettore Bugatti’s first car, the Type 13.

Ettore Bugatti - Regarding himself as an artist as well as a constructor, Ettore Bugatti began building his extraordinary cars in the German city of Molsheim (now part of France) in 1910. Among his most famous creations is the hulking Royale (of which only six were produced, between 1927 and 1933), the sleek and sensuous Atlantic (1934-1940), and the bright blue Type 35 race cars (whose colour continues to be prominent on the company’s current offerings).

Porsche 718 Boxster - Porsche’s latest sports car is the newest generation of the mid-engined Boxster roadster, which has been renamed to pay homage to the classic racing 718 of the 1950s. The latest generation features more power (from a 300-hp turbocharged flat-4 of 2-litre displacement, and 350-hp in a 2.5-litre engine) and improved driving performance (thanks to a completely retuned suspension and uprated brakes).

Ferdinand Porsche - There is not much left to tell about Ferdinand Porsche, the man who lent his name to iconic racing and sports cars (and beyond, to a comprehensive production line of coupes, convertibles, sedans and SUVs). He started out by creating the iconic Type 1 that would spawn the Volkswagen Beetle, and the similar but sleeker Type 64 race car, which was moulded into the road-going Porsche 356 and then 911. Already well established in auto industry circles prior to building Hitler’s car for the people, Porsche also had a hand in the creation of the legendary Mercedes-Benz SSK — one of the world’s greatest performance classics.

Edsel - Ford’s successes range from the Model T to the modern Mustang, but it is also known for a name that has become synonymous with automotive failure — Edsel. Ford Motor Company invested a lot of money into research and marketing of the Edsel brand (named after Henry Ford’s only son) and delivered some innovations that were far ahead of their time — push-button transmission, gauge cluster warning lights, and child-proof rear door locks. Ford reportedly lost $350 million on Edsel, shutting it down after just 2 years of production. (Credit: Wikipedia/Achird)

Henry Ford - Henry Ford is perhaps the best known man to leave his marque on the auto industry. Although he invented neither the automobile nor the powerplant to make the automobile go, nor even the assembly line that combines the two, Ford made the automobile affordable to more people. Today, vehicles that bear his stylized signature are marketed in every country around the world.

Enzo Ferrari - Enzo Ferrari began his automotive career as a test driver for Italian truck-maker CMN and would soon after be promoted to racing driver, making his racing debut in the 1919 Parma-Poggio di Berceto hill climb. He progressed through various forms of racing and formed Scuderia Ferrari in 1929 to produce racing cars for Alfa, before branching out on his own around the end of World War II, and eventually creating Ferrari SpA in 1947 to produce the cars that today wear the prancing horse badge.

The Enzo Ferrari - Built in 2002, the Enzo Ferrari was designed by former Pininfarina head designer Ken Okuyama, and saw its first action on the set of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, before debuting to the public at the 2002 Paris Motor Show. It featured Formula 1 technologies such as carbonfibre body, electrohydraulic shifting and ceramic brakes, as well as active aerodynamic pieces (such as computer-controlled rear wing). It also debuted Ferrari’s then-new 651-hp F140 B V-12 engine that generated 485 lb-ft of torque, to launch the car to 100 km/h in about 3.5 seconds, and to 100 mph in 6.6.

Soichiro Honda - Honda is to the Japanese industry what Ford is to the American, Porsche is to German and Ferrari is to Italian industries. Soichiro Honda left his home near Mount Fuji at 15 to look for work in Tokyo and ended up servicing automobiles for several years before returning home to start up his own garage. After developing and building parts for Toyota, he set up his own company and sold it to the latter at the end of World War II, using the proceeds to set up a motorized bicycle manufacturing business that marked the beginning of the Honda Motor Company.

Honda T360 - Honda’s first production auto, in 1963, was actually a pickup that beat the S500 roadster to market by about four months. Both the T360 and the S500 were derived from the prototype S360 roadster of 1962. The rear-drive T360 used the prototype roadster’s 356 cc 4-cylinder engine, which provided 30 hp and could take the truck to a top speed of 100 km/h. A T500 version would come along later, using a 531 cc version of the same engine (as did the S500). For the truck it made 38 hp but in the roadster, it made 44. Cargo van, flatbed, flatbed with drop box-sides, and rear snow-track variants were also produced over the model’s 4-year production run. (Credit: Wikipedia/韋駄天狗)

David Dunbar Buick - Often the downplayed cornerstone in the founding of General Motors, the private and belligerent Buick began taking an interest in internal combustion engines in the 1890s (at about the same time as Henry Ford), resulting in the dissolving of his plumbing business and the creation of 1899’s Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company. After a couple financial failures, the company became the Buick Motor Company and under Billy Durant contributed to the formation of GM.

Buick Cascada - Though Buick died virtually penniless in 1929, it has been estimated that his name has adorned some 40 million vehicles worldwide over the past century. Today regarded as the upscale brand that leads GM customers to the premium Cadillac brand, Buick has marketed some beautiful vehicles, including one of its latest, the Cascada convertible.

John DeLorean - John DeLorean was a well respected automotive designer, engineer and executive who counts among his many successes the Pontiac GTO and Grand Prix, as well as the Pontiac Firebird adaptation of the Chevrolet Camaro (although DeLorean had wanted Firebird to be an original design). He started working on the Chevrolet Vega but cost cutting measures bit into the car’s quality, and despite reasonably successful sales, it is often considered one of GM’s failures. His contemporary lifestyle clashed with the well documented GM conservatism, and he left in 1973 to create his own company.

DMC-12 - The DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) created exactly one model, which has become more memorable for its stature in pop-culture than for its performance in the automotive universe. DeLorean’s opus was the Belfast-built, 2-seat, rear-engine, rear-wheel drive coupe that would vault to stardom in the Back to the Future film franchise. It featured unpainted stainless steel body panels over a fiberglass structure (kinda mixed up from today’s sports cars) with gullwing doors — by far its most noteworthy feature. Only 9,000 were made (over two years) with some 6,500 believed to still be in existence. (Credit: Wikipedia/Grenex)

Christian von Koenigsegg - Young Christian was reportedly just 5-years old when he entertained the idea of building his own sports car. He progressed through kart racing and working in auto dealerships through his teens, making a name for himself locally around Stockholm for moped tuning, and leading up to the age of 30 when he saw his dream through to fruition with the first customer delivery of the Koenigsegg CC8S (after eight years of design and development). In the 15 years since, his company has made just over 100 cars, but his work on rear suspensions and camless piston engines are noteworthy achievements.

Koenigsegg CCX - The company’s most popular model (at just over a quarter of its historical sales — 29 units) is the CCX, manufactured between 2006 and 2010. The mid-engined performance car is street-legal all over the world, powered by an aluminum 4.7-litre twin-supercharged V-8 that puts out 795 hp and 679 lb-ft of torque from its mid-ship mounting. The Kevlar-reinforced carbon-fibre bodied car was capable of 0–100 km/h in 3.2 seconds and an attainable top speed of 390 km/h, though series variants were developed in later years that would make in excess of 1,000 hp and 797 lb-ft to push them to 100 km/h in under three seconds and a top speed of over 400 km/h.