Friday, February 3, 2017

The Cars Volkswagen Made Us Forget

If you look around today, almost anywhere in the world, you will find a Volkswagen. VW has become the largest automobile manufacturer in the world and their namesake marque is one of the most well known. The iconic Beetle flooded the American market at a time when Detroit was pushing bigger and bigger cars and people fell in love with its size, economy and ease of repair.

What most people don't realize is that there was another small car manufacture in Germany prior to World War II. Beginning in 1908 the North German Automobile and Engine Company based in Bremen started rolling out cars under the name of Lloyd. It is important to point out that these cars had no connection with the similarly named brand of cars that would come out of England.

The first group of cars were quite similar to other early automobiles of the time. And as was the case with many early manufacturers during that era, Lloyd was forced to cease production in 1929.

Lloyd returned in 1950 and began competing in the mass produced car market. While their first cars were made of wood and fabric, steel became the norm within a couple of years. The original engine was a small 293 cubic inch two cylinder two stroke model that put out only 10 horse power. But that was fine for these small cars. And while engines eventually grew to four cylinder 897 cubic inch versions that produced up to 45 horses, they were still designed for the economic minded driver.

These Lloyd cars were small and affordable but unfortunately had a couple of things going against them. For one, they weren't very sturdy and this led to more than a handful of fatal accidents. In fact, there was supposedly a saying in Germany in the 1950s that went, "He who is not afraid of death drives a Lloyd." Obviously the company did not adopt this as a slogan for their sales literature.

But the real problem facing the market success of Lloyd was the Volkswagen, and to a lesser degree, Opel. While the Lloyd was smaller and less powerful than the VW Beetle, it cost almost the same. This led to a further lack of prestige in driving a Lloyd. By 1962 production in the Bremen factory had ceased.

Lloyd vehicles are rarely seen in the US (though the Lloyd 600 was manufactured in Australia for one year in 1962). The one shown here is a 1958 LT 600 Mini Bus. It stands as an early warning of what Volkswagen was capable of doing to its competition.

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