Five manufacturers back from the dead (sort of)
Car manufacturers sometimes die. But some refuse to die and keep coming back.
Today in the Thursday Five we celebrate those automotive zombies with five car brands that came back from the dead. Then sort of lumbered around for a bit.
In 1924 Carl Borgward designed his first car. Sort of. It was a tiny three-wheeled van with a 1.5kW engine that was (presumably ironically) named the Goliath Blitzkarren (Giant Lightning Cart) and was strangely successful. In 1929 he merged his company with Hansa Lloyd AG and in 1938 it became Borgward.
In 1961 the company was forced into liquidation by creditors amid messy financial chaos and rumours of conspiracies against Borgward, in fact the company was never technically insolvent and there was a considerable amount of money left over after the creditors were paid off in full...
But now Borgward is back. Sort of.
Borgward’s grandson has resurrected the name on an SUV that is a total knockoff of an Audi Q5 and is backed by Chinese truck manufacturer Foton. That should go well then.
The legendary French manufacturer was founded by an Italian - Ettore Bugatti - in 1909 and quickly became, well, legendary.
Things went swimmingly for Bugatti until Ettore died in 1947, then it muddled along in the weird grey nether-realms that small car manufacturers sometimes get caught in, not quite dying off entirely, but effectively being little more than parts suppliers.
In 1990 the Bugatti name was revived by Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli and went on to create the awesome EB110. And that’s it.
Artioli went on to also buy Lotus - presumably to create an empire based on manufacturers that only make one car - before the whole flimsy business collapsed in a pile of debt and dodginess in 1995.
Artioli sold off Lotus to Proton to try and cover his loses with Bugatti and the went back to flogging off Ferraris.
Volkswagen waited three more years before it bought and re-resurrected the Bugatti name. With somewhat more success this time. Although, apparently the company STILL hasn’t actually made a profit...
Originally a company that built aircraft and aircraft engines, Maybach turned to cars in 1921 and produced some of the finest cars in the world between then and 1940.
In fact the cars were considered rivals to Rolls-Royce, which was a car company that turned to building aircraft engines. The two built engines for their respective country’s aircraft in WWI, then again in WWII, but it would only be Rolls-Royce that would actually survive that one.
Maybach churned out engines for Panzer tanks during the the second world war, but never got back to producing cars after that. Just poor losers, probably.
Then in 1997 someone at Mercedes-Benz had the bright idea to revive a car name that no-one had heard of for almost 60 years and slap it on a garish, ostentatious and thoroughly massive luxury car that looked pretty much like a Mercedes.
Two models were produced - the 57 and the 62 reflecting their respective lengths - from 2002 until 2013, but the idea never really fired. Mercedes finally pulled the plug 2013, only to re-revive the name as an ultra-luxury version of the S-Class.
Spyker could almost have been the Dutch Ford or Mercedes-Benz if things had gone their way.
The Spijker brothers (as their name is actually spelt - they changed the spelling to make it easier to sell their cars overseas) built their first car in 1898, thirteen years after Karl Benz built his first car and two years after Henry Ford built his first car, but Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker weren’t the businessmen that Henry and Karl were and the company was in financial trouble by 1907. Hendrik-Jan’s accidental death later that year led to its bankruptcy shortly later.
A group of investors bought the company and restarted production, but by 1913 it was in trouble again and was taken over by new owners again in 1915. This lasted until 1922 when Spyker was yet again in financial trouble and, yet again, went into bankruptcy.
The English distributor took over the company, but ran out of money in 1926 and Spyker finally died.
That was until 1999 when a new company resurrected the name, made some very fast, very expensive cars, bought a Formula 1 team, lost a lot of money losing in F1, sold the F1 team, bought Saab, sold Saab, went bankrupt in 2014, tried to sue General Motors over Saab and then came out of bankruptcy in 2015!
Now they have a plan to build more expensive cars and compliment that by building expensive aeroplanes. A sure-fire recipe for success there.
Morris Garages was first founded in 1924 and successfully built great sports cars until it was absorbed by the dark mass of pure despair known as the British Motor Corporation in 1951.
Then run by clueless bureaucrats and built by communists, MG was soon reduced to producing dull sedans and awful sports cars.
Then in 1968, following the British Leyland merger, it was further reduced to producing thoroughly awful rebadged Rover hatchbacks.
But then salvation loomed in 1994 when BMW bought what was left of BL. Except BMW didn’t want it and sold MG Rover to the Phoenix Consortium, who turned out to be a bunch of likely lads who just wanted to fleece the company.
After much wrangling and double dealing with the Chinese, MG Rover finally went into liquidation in 2005, only to be revived three years later by Chinese company SAIC Motor.
MG took a very long time to die, only to not actually stay dead for very long. That alone must be some kind of notable achievement, surely?