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Duke Automotive


#21

After some confusion following the unveiling of the Quadrant D, Duke Automotive feels the need to clarify exactly what is scheduled to happen over the next few years-

-March '21- Official launch of Quadrant D, initially with E5 (2.25l I5) and new EV6 (2.7l V6) engines. The idea of a Sextant-based SUV-coupe will be made public.

-September '21- Addition of hybrid system to Quadrant, Aprima and Segundo ranges. Unveiling of fully-electric eAprima, awaiting public and press review before production commences.

-March '22- Phasing out of Triad begins with elimination of saloon body and E5 engine choice.

-September '22- Updated Aprima and Segundo ranges, with light restyling and reworked drivetrains.

-March '23- Planned completion of Project Fourgon, which may become known as the QuadrantX. Addition of hybrid system and automatic transmissions to Phantom R2. Electric-only TriadX crossover (first photo above) officially launched to replace remaining Triad models.

-September '23- All-electric Quadrant and Segundo ranges should be in production by now. Unveiling of Phantom crossover model. End of production for old Penta-based Wildlander models- manufacturing in Melbourne will begin shift to production of QuadrantX and TriadX.


#22

The Triad B (and by extension, the DMX Trio) reminds me of a Mk2 New Edge Ford Mondeo, especially from the front. Its bespoke 3.4L V6 would have made it something of a Q-car in a straight line; all it would have needed to be a true street sleeper is the tire size, suspension tuning and braking capabilities to match.


#23

The suspension was tuned slightly differently to a regular Triad, but the aim was to meet a compromise between comfort (because the V6 was the top-spec engine in the most expensive Triads) and handling. The brakes were slightly upgraded as well, to provide roughly the same braking distances while accounting for the extra weight of the V6.

In reality, a 1.6SL would probably be just as good at technical stuff, due to its lighter weight, and as such that was the best-selling specification of both the Triad A (1995-2002) and B (2002-09).


#24

Duke had spent years watching the market for hybrid and electric cars, seeing their lack of success and thinking that investment in that sector was not worth it. Part of the reason for the E5 engine’s development was to prove that alternative power sources were unnecessary (why pay more for an electric car when the E5 produced extremely low emissions and was incredibly efficient for a lower price?). However, in May 2016 French manufacturer Sabre launched the Electric Runabout (below right), which immediately took urban Europe by storm. This was bad news for Duke, as in 2017 Sabre commenced talks with Holborn Motor Engineering, proposing a merger which would see the two companies combining their respective expertise, products and market share.

Duke’s response was immediate, and it needed to be, as the Electric Runabout was selling over 4000 units a month in France alone. They brought one of these funky little city cars to the company’s central research centre in Milan and took it apart to find out just what made it tick. Then, they used Sabre’s electric drivetrain tech as the basis of their own system, which was implemented in a 2015 Aprima they had lying around the plant- the conversion, plus light visual mods, was completed in March 2019, but it was not good enough to hit the market, only having a very short range and barely enough torque to get it moving.

They went back to the drawing-board and the eAprima became a side project which is still in the works, but almost complete, due to be revealed in 2021.


#25

To clarify a few things. I have probably mentioned a few rival carmakers in this thread, which are also of my own creation but do not have their own threads dedicated to them. This post should clear up what exactly those manufacturers are in case you are confused by any references I make to them. The other important makers within the lore I have created (it is also compatible with BeamNG’s vehicles) are listed below.

Arboris-
Founded: 2002
Headquarters: Barstow, CA
Brief description: Arboris was founded by an eccentric billionaire with the intention of making eco-cars cool. Their first production model was ready by 2006, and while its coolness is definitely up for debate, it cannot be denied that it was an instant success. The company is now focused on making a range of EVs.

Haal-
Founded: 1938
Headquarters: Trelleborg, Sweden
Brief description: Haal’s origins lie in aircraft, with their first car arriving in the early 1950s. They pride themselves on making extremely comfortable, reliable and safe cars for intelligent, sophisticated buyers.

HMC-
Founded: 1894
Headquarters: Limoges, France
Brief description: HMC has been the largest carmaker in France for its entire existence, frequently producing best-sellers across Europe. After a disastrous run in the 1962 Le Mans 24hr race, they backed out of motorsport for good, and while their modern models are dull, they aren’t exactly rubbish.

Holborn Motor Engineering-
Founded: 1925
Headquarters: London, UK
Brief description: Holborn started out in the garage of a London-based engineer, who wanted to have a go at building his own cars. They remained a minor player in the British market for decades, but saw a surge in popularity during the downfall of a major rival in the 1970s. Nowadays, Holborn cars are available across all of Europe, and while not always best-sellers (outside of the British Isles, the Baltic states and the Balkans at least) they are known for respectable, middle-management-type cars.

Jefferson Motors-
Founded: 1955
Headquarters: San Diego, CA
Brief description: Jefferson split from Gavril after a legal dispute, which continued for the company’s entire independence until they were bought back by Gavril in 1995. In the meantime, Jefferson made some very patriotic automobiles, and were renowned worldwide for their expert marketing.

Kimjo Engineering-
Founded: 1954
Headquarters: Busan, South Korea
Brief description: Kimjo were fairly obscure until they decided to take on the Japanese makers in the 1980s. Back then Kimjo cars were incredibly cheap, tinny, horrible things, but in the early 2000s their quality standards picked up noticeably, and by 2010 they were genuinely competitive in Europe (though still mind-numbingly boring).

Maran Motor Inc.-
Founded: 1971
Headquarters: Maran, Malaysia
Brief description: despite making the same cars for all markets, Maran had two different reputations- in Asia they were regarded as a cheap but worthy alternative to the ubiquitous Japanese and Chinese cars of their time. When they reached Europe in the early 1990s, they were immediately written off as cheap rubbish cars for the elderly. That did not mean the company itself wasn’t a valuable investment, though.

MGA-
Founded: 1949
Headquarters: Warwick, UK
Brief description: Originally part of a larger company (Melchett Automotive, which collapsed in the 1970s), MGA has always made 4x4s, and has recently expanded into the wider SUV market. Though not always that good in comparison to their rivals (except for supreme off-road ability) they are quite a prestigious name in the SUV world.

Nomina Cars-
Founded: 1925
Headquarters: Hanover, Germany
Brief description: Originally a Spanish engineering firm, Nomina relocated to Germany in the 1930s and ultimately was the one to make a German people’s car. Nowadays they have moved upmarket, and their name holds lots of credibility even if it’s only on a boring hatchback.

PMZ-
Founded: 1960
Headquarters: Pskov, Russia
Brief description: Formed as part of a Soviet plan to give all the Eastern Bloc countries a people’s car, PMZ started making theirs in 1964. They owned numerous satellite companies across the Bloc but ultimately those all collapsed along with the USSR. PMZ nowadays almost exclusively sells cheap cars, normally on old, recycled platforms, in Eastern Europe.

Sabre-
Founded: 1908
Headquarters: Rouen, France
Brief description: Sabre always liked to do things differently. They were one of the first major manufacturers to hire external coachbuilders to design their models, and many of Sabre’s models from the 1950s-70s are revered as automotive art. Nowadays, they are a left-field choice, for people who want to go against the norm, with the 2016 Electric Runabout being their first major hit in decades.

Saidaishu-
Founded: 1936
Headquarters: Nagasaki, Japan
Brief description: Saidaishu spent much of its early history an obscure engineering firm. It first gained notoriety upon expanding into the American theatre in the late 1970s, where its affordable, economical cars really took off. The company got complacent with its success, though, and from about 2000 onwards their quality standards began to slip. By the late 2010s Saidaishus were regarded as being for people who knew nothing about cars and so wouldn’t notice how terrible they were, but they were still selling in decent numbers in America.

Texas Motor Company-
Founded: 1947
Headquarters: Dallas, TX
Brief description: TMC always sat in the background in the American automotive world, but produced consistently decent products. They didn’t decline in the 1990s and 2000s- the competition simply moved up a notch, before TMC was finished off by the 2008 recession.

I hope this has cleared up any questions you may have about what Duke is up against and anything about the other vehicles I have made reference to in this thread.


#26

The merging of Holborn Motor Engineering and Voitures de Sabre, into a larger corporation known as AFMA (Anglo-French Motoring Alliance) spooked Duke into looking for a deal of their own. They feared the possibility of falling behind and being swallowed up by the largest auto manufacturer in the world, Gavril, who were known for swift, brutal takeovers where a company’s assets would essentially be liquidated, often with massive purges of the employed ranks.

Their primary rivals in the lucrative Asian market were both non-receptive, so in October 2016 Duke turned to a Malaysian company called Maran Motor Inc., who were more than happy as they were looking to expand themselves and hoped to increase sales in Europe. The deal came in three stages- first was licensing for Maran to build Duke’s old 1242cc engine (as fitted to the Aprima and Phantom R1) in Malaysia and fit it in their own models. Second was the joint creation of a car for both to sell under their own brands- known as the Cero (below), to fit in with Duke’s naming scheme (Maran did not really have one) and annouced in 2019, this was a city car that Duke hoped to slot into the DMX lineup, with higher-spec ones coming under the main Duke brand. It was also the first three-cylinder-only car that Duke ever made- though the same 1001cc, 100hp turbocharged I3 was offered in the Aprima from 2017, that car also had the old 1242. Curiously, at its showing at Geneva in 2019 the Cero did not have any badges on it, and appeared on both companys’ stands. From the show alone, however, Maran got six confirmed sales, unusually high for a 21st-century motor show, whereas Duke got none.

The third stage of the deal, a partial buy-out which would see Duke expanding and utilising Maran’s manufacturing facilities, has no exact date yet, but it is mostly based on whether the Cero (given an online livestreamed launch in May 2020) sells as well as expected.


#27

The Cero replaced Maran’s smallest and cheapest model, the 1 (below), which had been around with light updates since 2001. The Maran 1 received the 1242cc Duke engine from January 2018, and this version, the final update, was known as the SuperDuke to honour that- Maran was relying on the merger for publicity, hoping to build up their reputation, but as long as the 1 was still (barely) alive that was practically impossible. To quote Gearhead magazine’s review of the 1 SuperDuke, in their Spring 2018 issue-

"The Maran 1 is a car which simply refuses to die. However, in its latest iteration, to the untrained eye there is a glimmer of hope- this final update brings in the engine from the Duke Aprima. The Aprima is a far superior car- we have maintained that fact since its inception nearly 25 years ago- but sadly the upgrade is not enough to save the 1. For starters, they made the connection very obvious with a laughable name- the SuperDuke. Who names a car what they took bits of it from? That would be like Saidaishu making a car called Local Recycling Centre. Actually, thinking about it…
"Back to the SuperDuke. The exterior is just as much of a mess as before, with the same horrid F-grade steel and plastics as always. In fact, the only visible change is the steering wheel- now another cast-off from our favourite Canadian carmaker. At least we’ll know the airbag works in this one [referencing a road test of a Maran 1 in 2007, when the airbag did not deploy in a crash where it should have done]. Besides that, there isn’t much change besides a slightly better stereo system, which thanks to an extra speaker should have at least a modicum of bass. I’m not sure I want to find out though, lest it rattle the car to pieces.
"As much as I hate to admit it, the 1 with this perkier powerplant is actually quite fun to drive. It’s not blisteringly fast, with 90hp it’s no supercar killer, but because it’s so light you can throw it into the bends and you really have to push it to lose grip. The redline is at 7000rpm, and it really feels like it’s taking off further up the rev range, you really just want to rev it because that’s the only thing you can enjoy doing with this car besides throwing it off a cliff.
“Conclusion: what you can see hasn’t changed, but the Duke engine is a real improvement. Drive it like you stole it, because you don’t want to own one. 3/10.”

The Cero doesn’t have much to beat, which is why Maran are so confident about the merger deal.


#28

Now that we’re up to date with where Duke is now, let’s look back a some of their finest- and worst- moments.

First of all is the company’s tentative steps back into the North American market in the 1960s. The US was already flooded with makes and models of all shapes and sizes (buyers could choose, in virtually any class, from cars by Gavril, Burnside, Bruckell, Soliad, Wentward, TMC, Jefferson and Nomina), so the idea of one more marque being added to the list was not exactly met positively. Duke began production of a luxury car called the Alberta, exclusively for the Canadian market, in 1965, and the first one was an extended-wheelbase limousine made for the Canadian Prime Minister (below). Once that limo, usually with two regular Albertas full of security people, started being seen around the country, including a few excursions into northern parts of the US, demand increased significantly, enough for a slightly adapted US model to arrive in 1967.

Powered by a 7004cc, 256hp V8, even in limo form the Alberta was fairly fast- this was one of the requirements laid out by the PM when he visited Duke’s design headquarters in Vancouver. Duke claimed the car would do the 0-100km/h dash in 10.6 seconds and go on to a top speed of 235km/h, though luckily the PM never faced the kind of emergency situation needed to test this out.


#29

A series of concepts Duke made between 1935 and 1939 were never meant to see the light of production- the idea behind them was more a vision of what the company might do at some point in the future. However, one of the concepts, known as the 38 Sedan (being a sedan made in 1938) did. After the Second World War, Duke realised that they did not have the resources to produce an all-new model, so they turned to the best of their concepts, the 38 Sedan, and adapted it for production. Due to a shortage of steel, early production examples up to 1954 had an aluminium body, which meant that these early versions, even with a 2.7l I6 up front, weighed just over 800kg.

The car was marketed under the name “The Duke” from 1947, but in reality various code names were used within the company- these were based on the engine being used. The original, sold in Canada and the UK from 1947-54, was the 38/55, which had a 55hp, 2701cc I6. Below are a 38/55 (in yellow) and the original concept (in blue) at a classic car show in 2018.

There were not many changes between the original concept and the production models, but notable ones included different front spotlights; repositioned mirrors (into a more conventional European placement, plus omitting the passenger-side mirror), painted steel wheels, and slightly raised suspension- the 517kg load capacity of the 38/55 earned it a second nickname, mainly among tradespeople and farmers who bought one instead of a pickup truck- “the Half-Ton Sedan”. The next updated model, the 38/40, came along in 1954 and had a smaller, more economical four-cylinder engine to take on the European market, but a push for comfort meant the load capacity dropped, and Duke began drawing up plans for a pickup truck to regain the trade market.


#30

You may have noticed that Duke changed their logo at some point between the launch of the Alberta (1965) and the launch of the Segundo (1990). This is a change that took place in 1971, when a second limousine was commissioned by the British Prime Minister. He described the car as “fit for a king”, which was such great publicity for Duke that they changed their logo to a crown to honour the quote. A pared-back version of the crown has been used by DMX since 2005.


#31

While the Alberta was Duke’s first successful entry into the US, and the Segundo its first intended “world car”, Duke had technically done both before- in one single vehicle. Once the 38/55 was out in 1954, Duke needed another utility model to hold on to one of its largest markets. By 1956 they had come up with the 56/1600 (named for its 1600kg load capacity), externally named the Uto. This pickup truck came with a choice of two engine-and-transmission configurations- the cheaper of the two was the same I6 as in the 38/55, but updated and now making 78hp, attached to a three-speed manual gearbox. The more expensive (and popular, outnumbering the I6 5:1 by the end of production in 1959) was a 300ci (4.9l) flat-plane V8, producing 145hp and 229lb/ft, mated to a 2-speed auto 'box. Having acquired an Australian firm called Wildlander, which previously converted ordinary cars into utes and vans, in 1955, Duke saw fit to market their first ute in Australia under that name- known as the Wildlander U60 or U300 (depending on the engine), it was a huge hit there.

The American venture only failed due to a dispute between the importer, who wanted to add numerous charges onto the final price of the vehicle and make it too expensive to sell, and Duke’s management. When 1958 rolled around and still no American imports had actually happened, Duke fired off the importer and told US customers that if they wanted a Uto, they had to come over the border and get it themselves- an estimated 4000 people did this over the course of the model’s lifetime, and once production ended all unsold stock was sent into the US by truck, accounting for another 300 or so sales- though it took until the middle of 1960 before they were all gone.

Photographed above at the Uto Owners’ Club’s celebration of the truck’s 50th anniversary in 2006 are a 1957 Wildlander U300 Special (left) and a 1959 Duke Uto I6 (right).


#32

Duke’s close observance of the competition in the 1960s led to rapid modernisation of their designs, culminating in the 1967 Duke Nova. A two- or four-door saloon targeted at the European market, the Nova looked bang-up-to-date without being as divisive or as awkward as Melchett’s clueless, desperate-to-be-cool rushed designs.

The Nova came in four trim levels- the E (below, the white car), which was very basic; the SE (equipped with a radio and nicer wheels); the LE (below, the green car) which had leather seats, an optional sunroof, wing mirrors on both sides (optional on the SE), quad headlights and more chrome; and the SS (below, the orange car), which was lowered, and had more plastic trims (to be modern) and a pared-back interior with a somewhat similar equipment level to the SE.

There were two engines available in the Nova- a pair of I4s, the cheapest being a 1325cc, 52hp unit and the other being a much more efficient unit of 1601cc and producing 68hp. While the E was 1300-only, and the SS was 1600-only, the SE and LE could be had with both. All Novas had the same suspension setup- double wishbones at the front, semi trailing arm rear, though the tune for each specification was slightly different. This generation of Nova received an update in 1972, revamping the engines for greater efficiency in an impending fuel crisis and adding to the options list.


#33

The Nova’s update in 1972 not only added to the options list, meaning that an LE could now be had with a vinyl roof and an 8-track, but also introduced a new variant- a van. With an entirely different rear frame to a standard saloon, the van was available in E-spec only, though a 1600 version could be had as well. The fact that the only available 1600E was a van, and that there was no word on an official estate model, meant lots of vans were bought in 1600E form, had windows cut out of the side panelling and any seats that would fit were bolted in the back, to make an unofficial Nova estate. Realising just how popular these conversions were (an estimated 3000 were done in 1975 alone) Duke promised that the Nova Mk3’s lineup, set for introduction in 1978, would include an estate as well.


#34

A series of trucks based on the Uto platform had kept the Australian market at bay for nearly two decades, but by 1977 it was time for a new model. Duke already had the Nova engineered for right-hand-drive (it was their biggest model that did) so they chopped the roof off the Mk2 van, tuned the suspension and turned the Nova into a ute (above), calling it from then on the Wildlander Nova U140. It was not just that, though, which made the U140- its name was derived from its power output, with 142hp coming from an updated version of the Uto’s flat-plane V8. While Euro-spec engines were updated (adapted for unleaded fuel and fitted with catalytic converters), the Australian models continued to use the old versions until 1990.

Meanwhile in Europe, the Nova Mk3 was launched in 1978, with the 1300 gone and a new 2-litre being the top model. The Mk3 was also front-wheel-drive, and was Duke’s first FWD production car (they had made transverse-engined concepts before but usually stuck to a more familiar layout). Best of all, alongside the saloon was an estate version (below), which could swallow 720 litres of cargo.


#35

There aren’t really any revolutionary moments in the Nova’s lineage after the launch of the Mk3- a facelifted Mk4 version arrived in 1983, then it remained on the backburner until the Triad replaced it in 1995. So let’s move onto another model line.

In 1973, Duke brought out a smaller car than the Nova, aimed solely at the European market. It was called the Flash (below), and was available with only the 1325cc engine and a two-door saloon body. The Flash was intended to be a cheap motor for inexperienced or elderly drivers, so more emphasis was put on it being easy to handle than on, say, equipment levels. Though very basic, it immediately caught on and became the best-selling car in the UK in 1974.

Despite its name, this car was neither flashy nor fast- 0-62mph took 18 seconds in the heavier SE model. However, Duke saw potential in the Flash as a lightweight sports car, even for rallying, and built an SS version (below), with a tuned 1600 engine producing 81hp, wider tyres, a stripped-out interior and harsher suspension. With a respectable 0-62 time of just 10.1 seconds, and a top speed around 115, this is a car which tore up the rally stage, but never actually claimed a victory. From 1975, the regular 1600 was made available in the Flash to reduce the number of people butchering old Novas for their powerplants in the name of making SS replicas (only 800 SS models were made, and they sold out very quickly).


#36

A second-generation Flash was introduced in 1980. It was designed with the help of a futurist- and their ideas on what a competitor car might look like in the year 1990. This was done so that even by the end of the Flash’s lifetime (in 1990 the Segundo succeeded it) it would still look fresh. In 1980 it was quite astonishingly futuristic- a mistake, perhaps, because sales were initially much slower than expected, with buyers preferring more conventional-looking rivals. However, this was innovative below the surface, being the first Duke to get fuel-injection (base models like the one below were the last to have carburettors), as well as their first hatchback.

It took a sporty version to get more people to pay attention to the Flash Mk2. Unveiled in 1982 to universal praise, the Flash SS Turbo was Duke’s first turbocharged car. It had a DOHC version of the 1600 engine, producing a peak 105hp and 95lb/ft thanks to tubular headers, electronic fuel injection and a massive turbo.

Perhaps the most interesting detail of the Flash Mk2 (always referenced by enthusiasts when they talk about the attention to detail that makes these cars great) is that the number of wheel spokes depends on the specification- basic E models had one, mid-range SEs had two and top-spec LE and SS models had three. This feature was exclusive to the Flash, though.


#37

In 1969 the Alberta was joined by a midsize model in North America- the Columbia. Though only slightly smaller than the Alberta, the Columbia was noticeably cheaper and was much more popular as a result. Pictured above is a 1972 3-door model, the first year the Columbia used concealed headlights.

All Alberta and Columbia models were available with a range of V8 engines, the most popular being a 427ci (7-litre). This was not the largest engine of the entire range, that being a 450ci made only for the 1970-71 model years. After 1971 began a shift towards fuel economy which saw all the engines in the range losing power in the name of efficiency- in 1972 a 427 made 230hp, by 1974 that was reduced to 196hp with a slight increase in efficiency- a 1974 Columbia 4-door sedan (below) could achieve 15.6mpg (US).


#38

Both the Alberta and the 427ci V8 were discontinued in 1976 due to the increasing popularity of smaller cars, leaving a gap at the top of the market. As a result, that year’s new-generation Columbia had a new top model- the Grande Coupe. A 3-door, 4-seat coupe powered by the updated 300ci V8, this car was billed as the new alternative to the leviathan luxury coupes of the past. Indeed, its only real competition was the much larger and heavier Jefferson Spirit, which may have made 210hp from a 445ci V8 but was terribly thirsty. The Grande Coupe’s advertising pitched the Spirit as old-fashioned, and even Jefferson’s patriotism could not save it in a time when the American public was losing confidence in its government. The Spirit was canned in 1979, with the '75 being the last truly successful one. This was the first nail in the Jefferson Motors coffin, losing one of its major markets (and having poured huge sums of money into it from 1976-78 to try and keep it afloat) causing the company to begin a steady decline, until it was weak enough to be bought out and dissolved by Gavril in 1995.

For size comparison, here is a Columbia Grande Coupe parked next to a Spirit 75. Bear in mind that the Columbia still has a wheelbase of over 9ft-


#39

The Grande Coupe was given a mild facelift in 1979 and then killed off itself in '82. By then, the 3-door Nova was competitive in North America, and so that was the only coupe in the range from that point forward. A Segundo coupe was planned but never made, but we’ll get to that when we start going through some never-produced concepts from throughout the company’s history.


#40

The third (and final) generation of Columbia was launched in 1984, and was the first to feature front-wheel drive and the last car to use the 300ci V8. This time it was a cross-plane version, with a smoother sound and 182hp, enough to get the Columbia to 62mph in a little over 9 seconds. This, like the Flash, was quite an innovative motor, getting multi-point EFi and a limited-slip diff in top models.

1990 saw the end of the 300ci V8, as well as the old 1600 and 2-litre engines (the Segundo heralded a new range of powerplants). Instead, that year’s updated Columbia got a turbocharged 4001cc V6, with 207hp. This allowed the car to achieve 19.2mpg (US) and get from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds. In fact, the V6 was so successful that after a fling with a 3400cc unit, Duke returned to the 4-litre in 2008.