Lookers has a long and lasting legacy with cars. Originally family operated, these days the popular PLC sits in the FTSE 250 with a portfolio of 31 brands from Skoda to Maserati, dealerships covering the whole of the UK and parts of Ireland as well as successful businesses which supply automotive parts and agricultural equipment.
Yet it wasn’t always so.
Originally founded in Manchester in 1908, the business originally sold bicycles, accessories and the occasional used car. The owner – John Lookers - cleverly capitalised on the increase in demand for this emerging new technology and began to establish relationships with key car manufacturers. Ford for instance, established in 1903, became a key partner – a relationship that still exists today.
Through the Depression in the 1930’s, two world wars and several recessions the Group has not only endured – it has thrived. Sharing a long and distinguished legacy with the brands it offers, Lookers goes from strength to strength.
But what of those early days? Join us in the Lookers time machine as we look back at some of the cars that rolled off early production lines. Much like today, these cars would have been written about by journalists and coveted, researched and enjoyed by drivers. As the saying goes -the more things change the more they stay the same.
One of the most iconic in the history of cars, the Ford Model T revolutionised the car industry and brought motoring to the masses. The company’s engineers ingeniously developed a system of interchangeable parts that reduced waste, saved time and made it easy for unskilled workers to assemble the cars. This efficiency allowed for high volume production with a low cost base.
By 1914, the introduction of the moving assembly line made it possible to produce thousands of cars every week and by 1924, workers at the Ford plant in Michigan could cast more than 10,000 Model T cylinder blocks in a single day.
Famously Henry Ford pronounced that ‘you can have any colour as long as it is black’ and this one size fits all approach was entirely acceptable in the early days of motoring as people clambered to own a vehicle. Fuelled by an economic boom in the 1920’s however, customers were beginning to be more discerning and now looked for luxury, speed and style - demands that resonate with drivers today. So after nearly 20 years the last Model T rolled off the production line on May 26th, 1927.
Austin 15 hp
Austin was a British car manufacturer. Originally founded in 1905 by Herbert Austin, the company traded until 1952 when it merged with Morris Motors Ltd. In 1918 Lookers became a distributor of Austin vehicles and the Groups became so closely linked that the slogan ‘Lookers is Austin’ was in existence for many years.
The hp15 was first displayed at the seventh exhibition of motor vehicles which opened at London’s Olympia in November 1908. Also on display were models from names still recognisable today - Peugeot, Mercedes and Vauxhall; to those who have been remained a vintage memory – Iris, Pilgrims Way and Wolesley.
As with other Austins of the period the hp15 was available in a wide range of bodies, including a two-seater "Harrogate", a two-seater "Ascot", or even a four-seater "Westminster Landaulet”.
Peugeot Type 105
A million miles from its modern day ancestor, this 105 was unveiled by the French car manufacturer and was made available in several body styles which included a Phaeton (an open car with no weather protection) and a limousine (a luxury vehicle normally driven by a chauffeur).
The engine was the first from Peugeot with 6 cylinders which in turn produced a generous 60 horsepower – more powerful than its contemporary the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and all other vehicles on the market at that time.
Most of the 23 units produced over the two year production span were limousines. And these low production volumes coupled with its unique and luxurious design, has ensured that the 105 is a vintage car with great collector value.
The Fiat 1 or Fiat 1 Fiacre was produced from 1908 to 1910 by Italian manufacturer, Fiat. It offered an engine capacity of 2,200 cc, which produced 16 hp and the car had an impressive top speed of 70 km/h.
Around 1600 units of the Fiacre were produced, intended for use as taxis. The model was sold primarily in Italy yet also enjoyed an export market. It was used in New York City ( a pre-cursor to the city’s famous yellow cab), London, Paris and other cities.
1908 was also the year that the Fiat Automobile Co was established in the United States, heralding the beginnings of a global car market.