When Cadillac was incorporated in 1902 by Henry Leland to make affordable cars for the masses, his initial offering was the Runabout, retrospectively named the Model A, which was facelifted in 1904 to become the Model B. Power (all 10hp of it) came from a 1609cc single-cylinder engine mounted under the rear seat.
Cadillac was acquired by GM in 1909; today it continues as GM’s luxury car brand, with sales of 156,440 cars in the US in 2017.
Ford Motor Company: Model A (1903)
The Ford Motor Company’s first product was the Model A, which went on sale in July 1903 and by the time production ended in October 1904 an impressive 670 examples had been made. Pictured is Henry Ford’s great grandson and current company chairman Bill Ford Junior, with the world’s oldest surviving Model A, built in 1903 – he bought the car for US$264,000 in 2012. The Model A featured a 1645cc flat-twin engine mounted under the rear seat, a two-speed transmission and chain drive.
Today, based in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford is the world’s sixth largest car group by production volume, with 6.25m units built in 2017.
Vauxhall started making marine engines in 1857, when it was called Alex Wilson & Company; the name was switched to Vauxhall Iron Works in 1897. Six years later the first car was made; a 5hp single-cylinder four-wheeler with tiller steering and a two-speed gearbox. Around 70 of these earliest vehciles were made; Vauxhall still owns one which it regularly enters into the London to Brighton vintage car run each November.
Vauxhall was acquired by GM in 1925, and increasingly intertwined with GM’s German arm Opel in the decades after. GM sold Vauxhall along with Opel to PSA in 2017.
Engineer Henry Royce built his first car in 1904, just a month before he met by chance the wealthy aristocrat Charles Rolls. The latter had seen the Royce in action and said to its maker that he would take every car that Royce could make as long as it also had his name on it too. By December 1904 the first Rolls-Royce was ready, although Rolls-Royce Ltd wouldn’t be founded until 1906. That first car was fitted with a two-cylinder 1809cc engine but by the end of 1906 Rolls-Royce had already built its first car with an eight-cylinder engine.
After a variety of owners and fortunes over the ensuing decades, the brand was acquired by BMW in 1998. With investment from the German giant, its cars can once again justifiably claim to be the best in the world today – and also among the most expensive. agen aduq
Rover: Eight (1904)
When Rover created its Safety Bicycle in 1885 it created the modern template for the pushbike. Next came motorcycles (in 1902) then in 1904 Rover built its first car, the two-seater Rover Eight. In production right the way through until 1912, the Eight was fitted with a 1327cc single-cylinder engine that developed a decently gutsy 8hp at 900rpm, but the engine was red-lined at a screaming 1500rpm.
After a positive post-war period that saw it create the Land Rover, Rover became part of the disfunctional British Leyland group in 1968, and was later on owned by weapons maker British Aerospace and then BMW. Independent again in 2000, it went out of business in 2005. The Rover name is today owned by Tata, the current owner of Land Rover.
Skoda: Voiturette A (Laurin & Klement, 1905)
Skoda grew out of a company called Laurin & Klement which started by making bicycles in 1895, moved into motorcycle manufacture in 1899 then built its first car in 1905. That first car was the Voiturette A (seen here) which was powered by a 1005cc (later 1100cc) V-twin engine that developed 7bhp. Just 55 were made before the Voiturette B took over in 1906 with a 9bhp 1399cc engine.
Skoda today is a successful part of Volkswagen, which bought it in 1995. The Laurin & Klement names survives as a top-of-the-range trim level.