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Hotchkiss cars were made between 1903 and 1955 by the French company Hotchkiss et Cie in Saint-Denis, Paris. The badge for the marque showed a pair of crossed cannons, evoking the company's earlier history as an arms manufacturer.
The company's first entry into car making came from orders for engine components such as crankshafts which were supplied to Panhard et Levassor, De Dion-Bouton and other pioneering companies and in 1903 they went on to make complete engines. Encouraged by two major car distributors, Mann and Overton of London and Fournier of Paris, Hotchkiss decided to start making their own range of cars and purchased a Mercedes Simplex for inspiration and Georges Terasse, previously of Mors, was taken on as designer.
The first Hotchkiss car, a 17 CV (13 kW) four-cylinder model, appeared in 1903 followed by a the 40CV Type C with engine based heavily on the Mercedes Simplex except that wherever possible it used ball bearings rather than plain ones. Six-cylinder models, the Types L and O followed in 1907.
The ball bearing engines lasted until the 30CV Type X of 1910 and in the same year a move into the smaller car market came with the 2212 cc Type Z.
With the outbreak of World War 1, the factory was turned over to war work and a subsidiary plant was opened in Coventry, England. Car production resumed in 1919 with the pre war Types AD, AD6, AF and AG.
After an attempt to enter the luxury market with the AK, which did not get beyond the prototype stage, the company decided on a one model policy and introduced the Coventry designed AM in 1923. Later that year the Coventry plant was sold to Morris and Henry Ainsworth (1884-1971) and A.H. Wilde who had run it, moved to Paris to become general manager and chief engineer of the car division respectively.
In 1926 construction of the new factory in the Boulevard Ornano was completed and Hotchkiss bought a steel pressing company allowing in house manufacture of bodies. The one model policy lasted until 1929 when the six cylinder AM73 and AM80 models were announced.
The AM models were replaced by a new range in 1933 with a new naming system. The 411 was an 11CV model with four cylinder engine, the 413 a 13CV four and the 615, 617 and 620 were similar six cylinder types. The 1936 636, which replaced the 620, was available as the high performance Grand Sport and 1937 Paris-Nice with twin carburettors and these allowed Hotchkiss to win the Monte Carlo Rally in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1939, 1949 and 1950.
The armament side of the company and the body stamping plant were nationalised in 1936 by the Front Populaire government and in 1937, what was now largely a car company took over Amilcar. With re-armament speeding up they also started making military vehicles and light tanks. Henry Ainsworth left Paris shortly before the German occupation and during the war the company was engaged in the repair of military vehicles. Control of the company passed to Peugeot in 1942. With liberation in 1944, Ainsworth returned and production restarted in 1946 with the pre war cars, a light truck and a tractor.
The range was modernised in 1950 and a new body style, the Anjou, a four door saloon was available on the 1350 (renamed 486) and 2050 (686) chassis. The Anthéor cabriolet was added in 1952. In 1948 Hotchkiss had bought the rights to the Grégoire front wheel drive car and this entered production in 1951 but was expensive. Sales in general were falling and in 1950 Ainsworth retired and also the Peugeot family sold their interest in the company. Coupé and cabriolet versions of the Hotchkiss-Grégoire were announced in 1951 but sales did not improve and production of it stopped in 1952 after less than 250 were made.
Hotchkiss merged with Delahaye in 1954 to become Société Hotchkiss-Delahaye, but car production stopped in 1955 to be replaced by licence built Jeeps. In 1956 the company was taken over by Brandt, a household appliance maker, to become Hotchkiss-Brandt, who were again taken over in 1966 by Thomson-Houston. Military vehicles were made until 1967 and trucks until 1971.