Sunday, February 26, 2012

BERLIET - Truck company with a locomotive Logo

Marius Berliet (1866 - 1949), of France started experimenting with engines and cars in 1894/95 and produced a single cylinder engine car.This car sold only a few numbers till 1900. By 1900, Berliet designed and manufactured reliable cars.

In 1902, Berliet bought the factories of Audibert & Lavirotte and started manufacturing 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder cars. In 1906, financial troubles led Berliet to sell design licenses to American Locomotive Co (ALCO) to manufacture Berliet design cars.

Marius Berliet was interested in manufacturing large trucks and by 1917 was a supplier of trucks  for the French army. Cars continued to be manufactured till 1936 and one of the famous car was the Berliet Dauphine with independent front suspension.

After cessation of car manufacture, Berliet continued to build large trucks. One large truck was the 1957 , Berliet T100 -

Berliet Logo -

While Berliet had no connection with manufacture of Locomotives, the logo depicts a locomotive. It is believed that this was related to the financial bailout by ALCO in 1906 which led to the adoption of this logo by Marius Berliet.

Berliet was taken over by Citroen in 1967 and when Citroen was taken over by Peugeot , the Berliet brand was sold to Renault. Renault integrated Berliet in to Saviem and then RVI which became Renault trucks. Renault trucks currently with Volvo group.

A Berliet Truck seen in the 2010 Paris Motor Show -

Sunday, February 19, 2012

DECAUVILLE - Locomotives to cars

Paul Decauville (1846 - 1922) of France was a pioneer in the development of light railway of narrow gauge section. One of the innovation was the portable sections of light narrow gauge tracks fastened to sleepers which can be laid quickly. These portable tracks became famous in mine railways and later in trench railway during the war time.

In 1875, the company - Societe Decauville, expanded in to manufacture of Rail cars and Locomotives. By 1897 , they decided to expand in to the manufacture of motor cars and the company Societe des Voittures Automobile Decauville was formed. The first car's design was bought from designers Joseph Guedon and Gustave Cornilleau and the first Decauville Voiturelle was manufactured in the year 1897. The name Voiturelle was coined to differentiate from the Voiturette used by Leon Bollee.

The 1897 Decauville Voiturelle had a 2 cylinder De-Dion engine, transverse leaf spring in the front and independent suspension for the front wheels. It had no suspension for the rear wheels. These Voiturelles sold well and larger Decauville cars were made. A 1903 Decauville -

The Decauvile Logo -

As competition increased , Deacuville could not survive the onslaught of cheaper cars and the car manufacturing operation was closed down by 1910. The Railway & Locomotive operation continued.

Apart from Cars & Locomotives, Decauville is linked with two major Automotive brands - Rolls-Royce and BMW.

In 1903 , Henry Royce  bought a second hand Decauville and was not satisfied by its operation. He along with Charles Rolls decided to build a better car and thus born the famous marque - Rolls-Royce.

In Germany, the Decauvilles were manufactured under licence by a company called Wartburg. Wartburg later became Dixi, the forerunner of BMW.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

LOHNER-PORSCHE - World's first Hybrid

Heinrich Lohner (1786 - 1855) and his son Jakob Lohner (1821 - 1892) of Austria were in to the business of manufacturing wagons and luxury coaches. They were suppliers to many Royal courts as well as to the Austrian emperor. In 1863 , the company was named as Jacob Lohner Werke und Sohns.

In 1887 , Ludwig Lohner (1858 - 1928) - Jacob Lohner's son, decided to investigate and expand in to self-propelled car which seemed to have a future. In 1897, Jacob Lohner & Co employed Ferdinand Porsche as their lead engineer to look in to the possibility of making a self-propelled car.

Porsche quickly made a design to use electric power to propel a car and made a car fitted with electric motors in the wheels , capable of providing 2 - 7 hp of power - the electricity being supplied a battery pack.

This electric car created a sensation and generated many orders and was in production till 1904. One customer wanted an upgraded design capable of seating up to 4 people as well as capable running on Petrol and electricity with drive to all 4 wheels. Challenged , Porsche created the world's first serial Hybrid , named Mixtie. This vehicle was unveiled in 1901, was the world's first Hybrid as well as 4WD vehicle.

See the video of a restored  Mixtie here.

This design was of a serial hybrid - the petrol engine charging the battery,  and is of similar design  as the current Chevrolet Volt and Diesel Locomotives. It was rumored that NASA looked in to the design while designing the Lunar Rover for the moon landing in the 60s.

Ferdinand Porsche left Jacob Lohner & co in 1905 and went to work with Daimler. He was instrumental in creating the Volkswagen Beetle along with the controversy involving Tatra. Ultimately , Ferdinand created the company Porsche AG as we know today.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Leon Bollee (1870 - 1913) was born in to a family of French entrepreneurs involved in the manufacture of church bells to steam cars. In 1889, Leon Bollee invented a mechanical calculating machine, probably the world's first calculator. In 1895 , Leon Bollee constructed the first car , a 3-wheeler and called it a voiturette.

See the operation a Leon Bollee here with its hot tube ignition and starting procedures

Leon Bollee produced the first 4 wheel car in 1899 and by the time the demand for small cars were going down as the engine sizes increased. Leon Bollee manufactured the first big car in 1903 and by 1910, was manufacturing cars equipped with engine sizes ranging from 8 litres to 11 litres. Some of the Leon Bollee cars - a 1904 Leon Bollee and a 1911 Leon Bollee.

Leon Bollee automobiles was taken over by Morris Motor company in 1924 with the intention of selling Morris cars under the Leon Bollee brand in France. The partnership did not succeed as planned and finally Leon Bollee closed its operation by 1931-33.

The Logo of Leon Bollee and Morris Leon Bollee -

Sunday, February 5, 2012

LANCHESTER - the mass balancer

Frederick Lanchester (1868 – 1946), one of the most famous automotive engineers from England, started his career building engines for boats. In 1895, he developed a four-wheeled, 5 hp petrol engine vehicle equipped with an epicyclic gear box with 2 forward speeds and a reverse. Even though this was one of the most advanced motor cars of that time, it did not run successfully owing to transmission problems.

The 1895 car was modified and was operated successfully in 1897. The car was very robust with almost no vibration due the presence of harmonic mass balancer in the engine. Lanchester was the first British car to use its own engine and transmission on the car.

In 1899, along with brothers George Lanchester (1874 – 1970) and Frank Lanchester, the Lanchester Engine Company was formed to manufacture engines and cars. The company was renamed as Lanchester Motor Company in 1904.

Some of the most famous models were the various models of Lanchester 10 between the 1900s and 1940s and the Lanchester 40 which rivaled Rolls-Royce


1904 - Lanchester 10                     1946 - Lanchester 10

                                                                     Lanchester 40
Frederick Lanchester was known for his new innovative technologies and was the first to invent a wick carburetor to run petrol engines as early as 1890s.  The most famous invention of the Lanchester was the Lanchester Balancer , a harmonic mass balancer used to balance a  straight 2-cyl or 4-cyl engines., using 2 balance shafts running at twice the crankshaft speed in opposite directions. These Lanchester Balancers are used in many modern straight 4-cylinder engines to balance the typical 2nd order vibrations. One of the modern example is the Mitsubishi "Silent Shaft" design.

 The Lanchester logo –

Lanchester Motor company was taken over by BSA group in 1930 and integrated in to the Daimler division.  BSA/Daimler/Lanchester was taken over by Jaguar in 1960 and later on passed on to FORD PAG. Currently the brand is with TATA Motors of India when they acquired the Jaguar – Landrover from FORD.