In 1867, American born Benjamin B. Hotchkiss was asked by Napoleon II to establish an arms factory in France. Well established, Hotchkiss had plants in New York and New England and had been a major supplier of weapons and ammunition during the Civil War. They patented the Hotchkiss revolving cannon in 1872.
By the turn of the century and the advent of the automobile, the auto industry began relying on the company's knowledge of special steels, precision manufacturing methods and their machining skills. Their machinists were used to build crankshafts, pistons, rods, gears and valves. Hotchkiss introduced its first car in 1904, they went on to produce successful road and rally cars. In 1948, the board of directors voted to buy a front wheel drive car from J.A. Gregorie. This car was priced higher than traditional Hotchkiss models and sales were disappointing, few were made before production was discontinued.
This example is part of the Lane Motor Museum of Nashville, TN.
Hotchkiss produced the Gregoire luxury car from 1950 through 1953. It began as four-door saloon, but after sales were disappointing, the company introduced a special-bodied coach-built coupe and cabriolet versions at the 1952 Paris Motor Show. Later, a streamlined coupe with a 'panoramic' rear window which coachwork by Henri Chapron emerged as a final attempt to stimulate sales. Total production for all bodystyles amounted to just 247 units.
Hotchkiss entered the automobile market in 1903 and weathered World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, only to go out of business in 1955. Prior to automobiles, the company was a well-establishes arms manufacturer.
When the company introduced the Gregoire, it was meant as a new generation of cars. It was designed by Jean-Albert Gregoire, a man who had made his name in the 19330s as a pioneer motor designer. It had a front wheel drive layout and was powered by a 2180cc horizontal boxer water-cooled four-cylinder engine. The body was formed from aluminum making it lightweight.
Though elegant in design, having a design that may have been inspired by the Jaguar marque, it came at a hefty price. The car was expensive to produce which in turn, required a high retail price. In comparison, buyers could purchase a similarly sized six-cylinder Citroen Traction 15CV for the same price. Another reason for the low production figures were the government taxation policies in principal European markets, especially France, which penalized larger cars.
By 1953, the company produced about 40 examples of the Gregoire. A short time later, production ceased. In total, 247 examples were built and 180 had been the four-door saloon.
The Hotchkiss Gregoire was a very modern and advanced car for its era.By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2012