Past and Cu­ri­ous

This is how the local auto as­sem­bly started

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents - RICHARD WILHELM B.RAGODON

Un­der the cur­rent Com­pul­sory Au­to­mo­tive Resur­gence Strat­egy, the do­mes­tic as­sem­bly was rein­vig­o­rated. Local ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­ture, how­ever, dates back to the 1910s.

Cars and trucks sold lo­cally from the 1900s to the ’30s were cat­e­go­rized as ‘ex­port ver­sions.’ Th­ese were man­u­fac­tured in their coun­tries of ori­gin, and im­ported to the Philip­pines as com­pletely built units. Rolling chas­sis units were also sold to buy­ers who want their units cus­tom­ized. In 1910, Estrella Auto Palace sold to Enrique Zo­bel a rolling chas­sis Brasier that was even­tu­ally fit­ted with a cus­tom­ized body by Manila crafts­men.

Set­ting up of a local as­sem­bly plant for Asian mar­kets was pro­posed as early as 1929 by Du­rant Mo­tors of Cal­i­for­nia, but it did not ma­te­ri­al­ize. The de­mand for more cars af­ter the 1932 de­pres­sion even­tu­ally ne­ces­si­tated the es­tab­lish­ment of local au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing plants by the late ’30s. Im­port­ing dis­as­sem­bled units was cheaper than im­port­ing com­plete built units. Luneta Mo­tors, a pi­o­neer dealer of Chrysler and Ply­mouth cars, op­er­ated an as­sem­bly plant from 1937.

While the ba­sic fea­tures of lo­cally as­sem­bled ve­hi­cles were sim­i­lar to those sold in coun­tries of ori­gins, Philip­pine ver­sions un­til 1941 were right-hand drive; driv­ing on the left was the traf­fic route in ef­fect dur­ing the time. Speedome­ters were also in met­ric con­fig­u­ra­tion. Only four-door sedans were built; other body styles like con­vert­ibles and coupes were im­ported back then.

Do­mes­tic ve­hi­cle as­sem­bly re­turned af­ter Liddell Mo­tors and In­ter­na­tional Har­vester MacLeod (Philip­pines) ini­ti­ated the as­sem­bly of trucks and pick­ups in 1948; th­ese were badly needed for the coun­try’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion af­ter the war. Fabar Mo­tors led the resur­gence of car as­sem­bly with the 1950 Stude­bak­ers.

North­ern Mo­tors, an of­fi­cial GM dealer in the coun­try, as­sem­bled the Chevro­let Subur­bans and Bel Airs in the early ’50s. Mantrade as­sem­bled Ford Main­lines and Fabar Mo­tors in­tro­duced the Stude­baker Con­estoga, the first lo­cally as­sem­bled sta­tion wagon, also dur­ing that pe­riod. Univer­sal Mo­tors, North­ern Mo­tors, and Diesel Mo­tors Ger­many as­sem­bled MercedesBenz, Opel and Volk­swa­gen units, re­spec­tively. Other lo­cally made Euro­pean and Ja­panese mod­els fol­lowed in the ’60s.

A num­ber of spe­cial-bod­ied cars, like the Tri­umph Her­ald drop-top and the Citroen 2CV soft-top, were also made lo­cally in the ’60s. The Chevro­let Malibu SS emerged in 1964, fol­lowed by the AMC Javelin, the Dodge Dart, and Opel coupes. The only lo­cally made V8 cars were Buick Elec­tra 225 sedans, from 1964 to 1966, while the only lo­cally made GT cars were Chevro­let Ca­maro RS mod­els, from 1967 to 1969.

Mo­tor­cy­cles in­tro­duced from the 1900s un­til the late ’50s ac­counted for less than 1% of an­nual ve­hi­cle sales. Har­ley-David­sons, In­di­ans, BMWs, BSAs and Tri­umphs were sold as com­pletely built units by deal­ers like Hahn Manila and Ma­con­dray. Be­cause de­mand was neg­li­gi­ble, no large mo­tor­cy­cle fa­cil­ity was en­vi­sioned. That said, Ja­panese mo­tor­cy­cles with side­cars suc­cess­fully re­placed man­u­ally driven tri­cy­cles in the ’60s, pav­ing the way for Norkis Trad­ing to build a large as­sem­bly plant in Cebu and a net­work of deal­er­ships out­side the city.

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