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5 Automotive Brands That Came Back from the Dead

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Getty Images

It’s hard enough to start—or restart—an entire automotive company these days. A hundred years ago, car companies would come into being and fade away with the frequency of app design firms and cupcake shops today. But there’s an easy way to give a new car company some instant gravitas: pick up one of those old names and bolt it to a shiny new car.

Sometimes a company just needs break with its own recent past. Sometimes it needs an old name for its new ambition. And sometimes a guy just needs some instant history to attach to the car of his dreams. Read on to see which second chances lived—and which were DOA.

1. Lincoln Motor Company (1920-1950s, 2012-present)

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The Lincoln Motor Company was founded by Henry LeLand in 1920, but it didn’t operate on its own for long. The more famous Henry in American autos, Henry Ford, snapped it up in 1922, and the marque has served as the Ford company’s luxury nameplate ever since. Eventually, in the 1950s, the name was shortened to Lincoln, and over the years, it lost some of its luster. In the latter part of the twentieth century, Lincolns were regarded by many (and not incorrectly) as gussied-up Fords, not luxury cars in their own right.

In 2012, as part of Ford’s overhaul in the wake of the automotive crisis of 2008, it resurrected the full Lincoln Motor Company name for its 2013 models. Even Abraham Lincoln, for whom the company was originally named, was trotted out in ads for the rebranded cars. It helped that there was an Oscar-nominated Stephen Spielberg movie that autumn called Lincoln—and who doesn’t love a tie-in?—but the new Lincoln Motor Company cars will have to prove their luxurious chops if they want buyers to take the rebranding seriously.

2. Bugatti (1900-1995, 1998-present)

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Bugatti has always meant speed, power, and luxury, as well as the wads of cash required to pay for those things. Its French blue race cars were unstoppable in the early days of automotive history, and its oval nameplate and EB logo (for founder Ettore Bugatti) crossed the finish line first repeatedly in the first decades of automotive racing.

But World War II did a number on the Bugatti company, as it did for so many exclusive car makers. The company loped along for decades before it was finally sold to fellow old-timey carmaker Hispano-Suiza in 1963. There was an attempted revival in the late 1980s, and even a new model in the early '90s called the EB110, but the company went completely bankrupt in the 1990s.

Luckily, none other than the Volkswagen company (which also owns Lamborghini and Bentley) swooped in with money and a mission: to bring back Bugatti in all its nearly unobtainable, checkbook-breaking glory. Since 1998, when VW reestablished Bugatti at Molsheim, the company has made one amazing car: the Bugatti Veyron. It comes in many guises, from convertible to Hermes-clad, but each is bespoke and unique. What else would you expect for a million bucks—minimum?

3. Maybach (1921-WWII, 2002-2012)

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Wilhelm Maybach and Gottfried Daimler were besties in the early days of the automobile, working together in the late 1800s to build engines and cars—until Daimler maneuvered Maybach out of the partnership picture. So Maybach started his own company in 1909 with his son Karl, affixing the curious name “Luftfahrzeug-Moterenbau,” which translates as “aircraft engine.” (There was a lot of crossover in the early days of autos and airplanes.)

In 1921, the name was changed to the more melodious Maybach Moterenbau, and the factory in Friedrichshafen, Germany, built exclusive, expensive luxury cars. During World War II, the Maybach factory was pressed into service to turn out military engines (not for the good guys) and, as with so many manufacturers after the war, Maybach never resumed making cars.

But Daimler wasn’t done with Maybach yet. In 2002, Mercedes-Benz, which is part of the Daimler group, rolled out the Maybach 57 and 62. And then Daimler was done with them again, for real this time. The 2012 models would be the last of the line, as the Maybach brand had cost Daimler $1 billion over its decade-long resurrection. Maybe they’ll give it another go next century.

4. Spyker (1898-1925, 2000-present, fingers crossed)

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Like Maybach and Bugatti, the Spijker brothers were in the automotive game early, building their first car in 1898 in the Netherlands—not a country renowned for its supercars, then or now. In 1907, a Spyker (the brothers had changed the company name so it would be pronounceable by the rest of the world) finished second in the Peking to Paris race. And in 1914, Spyker merged with the Dutch Aircraft Factory, taking the motto “Nulla tenaci invia est via,” or “For the tenacious, no road is impassable.”

Except, of course, the road to long-term viability. Spyker didn’t even make it to World War II; it was belly up by 1925, the heyday of the Jazz Age and big, expensive cars. There may have been a lesson to learn there.

It took 75 years for the brand to see the light of day again. This time, a European fashion magnate with his dream car in mind dusted off the old wheel-and-propeller insignia and debuted the Spyker C8. That seemed to go pretty well for a first supercar, so in 2006 Spyker fielded a Formula 1 team for one expensive season.

Not content to merely leak money all over the track, Spyker took over struggling Swedish passenger car maker Saab in 2010—or tried to, anyway. Saab went bankrupt in 2011, and Spyker sued Saab’s former owner GM for $3 billion in damages in 2012. The Dutch carmaker is hanging by a thread while it awaits the outcome of the suit.

5. Detroit Electric (1907-1939, 2009-present, maybe)

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Back in the early days of the automobile, electric cars were really popular—as popular as gasoline-powered cars in Northeastern metro areas. One of the best-known electric car builders at the time was Detroit Electric, and it lasted a surprisingly long time, thanks to its ability to build cars that could go over 200 miles on a charge (the Nissan Leaf of today gets about 100 miles per charge). But even in Detroit, the economic effects of World War II took their toll, and gasoline had long before won the fuel war in America. Electric cars had become a novelty, and then a nothing.

But by the twenty-first century, electric cars were starting to make sense again. Fuel prices were up, the phrase “peak oil” was being tossed around, and Americans were tired of fighting wars for oil. Mainstream manufacturers like Ford, Chevy, Nissan, Toyota, and others quickly electrified a small percentage of their fleets while new companies started from scratch. One company decided if it was going to start from scratch, it would at least start with a name people might know: Detroit Electric.

In 2009, the new Detroit Electric emerged. Sort of. There’s a web site, and a concept, and some proprietary technology, but as of 2013, there is not yet an actual, drivable car.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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iStock

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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