Hotchkiss – a History




This book was inspired by an artist, Alex Kow, who worked for the Panhard & Levassor company from 1922 until the early 1960s, creating publicity posters, sales brochures and a whole range of artwork advertising the company’s cars.

Alex Kow also worked for another French car manufacturer: Hotchkiss. His art-d├ęco style perfectly encapsulated the aspirations of a solidly middle-class car-maker whose origins stretched back to 1867, when the Hotchkiss company in France was founded as an arms manufacturer by an American, Benjamin Hotchkiss, requested to do so by Emperor Napoleon III. How Hotchkiss came to establish a French industrial empire is the story told in this book.

The Hotchkiss car-manufacturing business started in 1903, when orders for arms were in decline and other French car manufacturers were aware of Hotchkiss’s skills at fine-tolerance machining, sub-contracting machining crankshafts and honing cylinders to Hotchkiss. Hotchkiss soon realised it could make an entire car itself and did so.

The final vehicle built as a Hotchkiss was made in 1954, when a merger between Hotchkiss and Delahaye – both ailing car-makers – was agreed. Truck production at Hotchkiss continued until 1971, while making Jeeps under a Willys license for the French army and Ferguson tractors for farmers proved to be far more profitable than making cars.

Hotchkiss continued to make arms and military vehicles until 1971, whan a takeover by Thomson-Houston and subsequent nationalisation brought about the final disappearance of the renowned Hothkiss name.