Cars Lost to History
It's easy to forget that a lot of companies were building cars in the last century. Today we have a few dozen car brands, both domestic and foreign, but some 100 years ago there were over 500 car manufacturers selling automobiles in the United States. Some did achieve a level of success and were significant brands for some time but eventually faded away. Here are 4 automakers that were once big but have since been lost to history.
The top of the line automobile in the GM stable was Cadillac. Cadillacs always represented the best automotive engineering available when they were built. Naturally, however, this level of perfection didn't come cheap and this drove the company to offer a ‘step down" model. This model was the LaSalle. Often referred to as "The Poor Man's Cadillac," the LaSalle outsold Cadillac from 1933 to 1940. In 1940, GM decided to discontinue the brand so they could concentrate on the Cadillac brand. According to the antique GM car experts at Ted Britt Chevrolet of Sterling, VA, when Cadillac was developing a new small luxury sedan in 1975, the LaSalle name was raised, but was passed over in favor of Cadillac Seville.
Nash was a Kenosha (WI) based automobile brand started in 1916. Nash was a small company but highly innovative. Here's a few examples of Nash at work. In 1939, they introduced the "Weather Eye" system, an automated heating and ventilation system that became the basis for every modern HVAC system made since. In 1941, they introduced the Nash 600, the first unibody (frameless construction) automobile ever built. This was truly revolutionary and within a few years virtually every car manufacturer was adopting the technology. Still, with all its innovations, Nash decided to form a bigger entity and merged with Hudson to form the American Motors Corporation (AMC).
Another car that is rarely spoken about today is the DeSoto. Stones Chrysler of Rexburg, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Rexburg, ID, told us that the DeSoto was Chrysler's mid-market automobile. It was designed to compete with cars such as the Ford's Mercury and General Motor's Oldsmobile. Launched in 1929, the DeSoto set a record as the best-selling first-year model ever. DeSotos were considered fine automobiles but a changing segment doomed the brand. Chrysler retired DeSoto in 1960 in the US but continued to sell trucks badged as DeSotos in other countries.
The British auto industry made some fine automobiles in the 1930s to 1970s but by the 1980s the industry was a mess. 1986, Rover launched the Sterling 800, a luxury sedan based on a Honda chassis. It seemed like the best of both worlds; a body and interior of fine British design and an ultra-reliable from drivetrain from Honda. In 1987, the 800 launched in America at the same time as the Acura Legend. From the start, the poorly-built Sterling was no match for the Acura. The 800 had a more luxurious interior and actually handled a little better, but reliability and fit-and-finish were generally terrible, and it was much more expensive. The brand never gained any traction and Sterling disappeared by 1992 after five years.
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