We all have to go sometime ... and here's how they did
Last rides ...
Karl Benz: November 25, 1844 - April 4, 1929
Gottlieb Daimler: March 17, 1834 - March 6, 1900
David Buick: September 17, 1854 - March 5, 1929
Louis Chevrolet: December 25, 1878 - June 6, 1941
Walter Chrysler: April 2, 1875 - August 18, 1940
Rudolf Diesel: March 18, 1858 - presumed September 29, 1913
Louis Renault: February 12, 1877 - October 24, 1944
John Dodge: October 25, 1864 - January 14, 1920 and Horace Dodge: May 17, 1868 - December 10, 1920
William Durant: December 8, 1861 - March 18, 1947
Henry Ford: July 30, 1863 - April 7, 1947
Edsel Ford: November 6, 1893 - May 26, 1943
Henry Ford II: September 4, 1917 - September 29, 1987
Soichiro Honda: November 17, 1906 - August 5, 1991
Henry Leland: February 16, 1843 - March 26, 1932
Samuel McLaughlin: September 8, 1871 - January 6, 1972
Ransom Olds: June 3, 1864 - August 26, 1950
Charles Rolls: August 28, 1877 - July 12, 1910
Henry Royce: March 27, 1863 - April 22, 1933
Preston Tucker: September 21, 1903 - December 26, 1956
John DeLorean: January 6, 1925 - March 19, 2005
Enzo Ferrari: February 18, 1898 - August 14, 1988
- Last rides ...
- Karl Benz:...
- Gottlieb Daimler:...
- David Buick:...
- Louis Chevrolet:...
- Walter Chrysler:...
- Rudolf Diesel:...
- Louis Renault:...
- John Dodge:...
- William Durant:...
- Henry Ford: July...
- Edsel Ford:...
- Henry Ford II:...
- Soichiro Honda:...
- Henry Leland:...
- Ransom Olds: June...
- Charles Rolls:...
- Henry Royce:...
- Preston Tucker:...
- John DeLorean:...
- Enzo Ferrari:...
We all have to go sometime, and the famous automakers were no exception. Their lives were interesting, and sometimes, so were their deaths. At the risk of being a bit ghoulish, we’ve compiled a list of how several of them came to the end of the line.
Credited by most historians as being the inventor of the automobile, Benz retired from his company in 1903. It became Daimler-Benz AG in 1926, and he was a member of its supervisory board until he died at home of unspecified causes. He is buried in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. His wife Bertha, who took his first car on the world’s first long-distance auto trip and is pictured with him here, died in 1944.
Although Daimler’s company would eventually merge with Benz’s, it’s believed the two men never met. It seems Daimler didn’t like driving and usually let someone else take the wheel. That appears to have been the case in the fall of 1899, when he insisted on being driven to a new factory site in bad weather. Already in poor health, he collapsed after the trip, and died the following spring. He is buried in Cannstatt, Germany.
A poor businessman, Buick lost the money he’d made selling his company to General Motors, and ended up working at the information desk at the Detroit School of Trades. Too ill to go to a family event, he was taken to the hospital, where doctors discovered cancer. He contracted pneumonia, which his son blamed on a nurse leaving his window open, and died shortly afterwards. He’s buried in Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit.
Chevrolet also did a poor job investing the money he’d received from General Motors for his company, and in 1934, GM put him back on the payroll, mostly as a charitable gesture. Four years later, he retired after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage, and remained in poor health until his death from complications following leg surgery. He is buried under a small headstone, alongside his two brothers, in Indianapolis.
Chrysler suffered a stroke in 1938, and never got over the death of his wife, which happened a few weeks later. Another stroke, and a cerebral hemorrhage, finally finished him off. All Chrysler plants and offices went silent for 15 minutes during his funeral, which was attended by 1,500 people. He is buried alongside his wife in Tarrytown, New York.
Diesel’s death still remains a mystery. He suffered chronic ill health due to working with ammonia while developing the engine that bears his name. Along with two friends, he boarded a ship in Germany bound for England, where he would attend the groundbreaking of a new engine plant. Although he seemed cheerful, he’d written a note to his son complaining about his health, and one to his wife to say he loved her. When he didn’t appear at breakfast, his friends went to his cabin, where they found his gold watch, and a calendar with the ship’s departure date marked with a cross. Two weeks later, Dutch sailors found a badly decomposed body that was identified as Diesel’s by items in the pockets. The sailors buried him at sea. His death was officially ruled a suicide, but several unproven theories circulated that he’d been murdered.
Renault’s death is another mystery. During the war, German occupiers in France gave him two choices: cooperate, or have his factories seized. He chose the former, producing military vehicles for the Third Reich. After the war, he was accused of collaborating with the Nazis, and already in ill health, he was jailed. As he worsened, he was moved to the prison infirmary and then to a private nursing home, where he died, officially of blood in the urine. In 1956, his widow went to court with an X-ray that revealed Renault had died with a broken neck. His body was exhumed, but the results aren’t clear, and some reports say the broken bone had been cut out. If he was murdered, no one was ever charged with the crime.
Inseparable in life, the Dodge brothers are interred together in a huge Egyptian-style mausoleum in Detroit. Horace became ill at a dealer convention in New York, but when John contracted the respiratory disease while looking after his brother, he died first. Horace moved with his family to Florida, where he died of a hemorrhage and complications of liver cirrhosis. Some people said the brothers were poisoned at the convention, an allegation that was never proven.
The founder of General Motors, Durant was eventually forced out by the directors. Although he created another company, named Durant, he was never as successful again. In 1942 he suffered a stroke, from which he never recovered, and he died penniless in New York, a month before his rival Henry Ford expired. Durant is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
As he got older, Ford became senile. When a storm knocked out the electricity to his house, he had his chauffeur drive him around to look at the damage, but he became increasingly ill. The power was still out when he died in his bed that night, and he left the world as he had entered it, by candlelight. Some 100,000 people filed by his casket, and since his company didn’t make a hearse and a rival Cadillac was unthinkable, he went in a Packard. A guard had to be stationed to keep people from vandalizing his grave for souvenirs. Ford and his wife Clara were eventually exhumed and reburied in a concrete vault, with a protective metal grille over the gravestone, which is marked only with a cross, his name, and dates of birth and death.
The only child of Henry and Clara Ford, Edsel had a difficult life at the hands of his dictator father. In 1942, he had part of his stomach removed due to cancer, which spread to his liver. Henry believed his son’s “lavish” lifestyle of drinking cocktails and throwing parties was to blame, and insisted that Edsel drink raw milk to soothe his ulcers, which gave him undulant fever. Edsel died at home and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.
Known as “Hank the Deuce,” Ford took over his family’s company following the death of his father Edsel, since his grandfather Henry was too frail for the job. Married three times, and with a reputation for living large, Henry II left the top position in 1979. He died of Legionnaire’s disease and other complications of pneumonia at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He left detailed instructions for his memorial, which included a jazz band. All of Ford’s operations stopped for three minutes during his funeral. He was cremated and his remains scattered in the Detroit River.
Honda’s first business venture was making piston rings, which he supplied to Toyota, before building motorized bicycles. He was president of Honda from 1948 to 1973, but retained the title of senior consultant after his retirement. He died of liver failure in Tokyo, and his body was cremated and the ashes scattered in the ocean. (He’s in the centre of the picture.)
After founding Cadillac and selling it to General Motors, Leland started a new company, Lincoln, when he was 74. On his eightieth birthday, he walked up and down the 433 steps to his office in a bank building. He became ill in February 1932 and went to the hospital, but eventually asked if he could spend the night in his home. He did, but returned to the hospital the next day and died shortly afterwards. He is buried in Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit.
McLaughlin was a carriage builder-turned-automaker, whose company became General Motors of Canada. His health went downhill after he turned 95, although he still insisted his chauffeur take him for a daily drive in his Cadillac. When his doctors found he had bowel cancer, he wasn’t told. He attended celebrations for his 100th birthday, but his health worsened, and he died in his sleep. He is interred in Oshawa, Ontario in this granite mausoleum he commissioned in 1947 by architect Arthur Eadie, who designed several libraries and office buildings in Ontario.
The founder of Oldsmobile and Reo, Olds was an engineer to the end: he received a patent for an engine in 1941, and in 1950 told a reporter that if he were younger, he’d design and build an inexpensive new car. His death was listed as due to “complications of old age.” Metta, his wife of 61 years, was born three days after Olds was, and died of pneumonia six days after his death. They are interred together in Lansing, Michigan.
Rolls was the first Briton, and the twelfth person ever, to die in a plane crash. He loved aviation and went up in hot-air balloons more than 150 times. He flew with Wilbur Wright, and was the first person to fly back and forth across the English Channel. The tail of his Wright biplane snapped when he was competing in a flying tournament, and he fell some 30 metres to the ground. He is buried at St. Cadoc’s Church in Wales. (His birthdate is sometimes given as August 27.)
The other half of Rolls-Royce, Royce suffered continuous ill health, and in 1910 had a serious breakdown. He left his wife in 1912, but remained under a nurse’s care while he continued to work before dying of cancer. A popular rumour places his cremated remains in storage at Rolls-Royce’s headquarters, but they are actually buried at a church in Huntingdonshire, the village where he was born. A memorial window to him was dedicated in 1962 at Westminster Abbey.
The founder of the famous but failed Tucker automobile, Tucker went to Brazil to meet with investors for a new sports car he planned to build. He became ill there and flew back to the United States, where he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with pneumonia given as the official cause. He is buried in Flat Rock, Michigan, under a bronze marker adorned with a 1948 Tucker.
His legacy to the auto world was the Pontiac GTO and, after he left GM, the stainless-steel DeLorean. That said, DeLorean is perhaps most famous for his acquittal following an FBI sting where it was alleged he tried to buy $24 million in cocaine to resell, possibly to finance his struggling sports car company. Married four times, he became a born-again Christian following the drug accusations. He died in New Jersey of a stroke and is buried in Troy, Michigan, with a DeLorean depicted on his bronze marker.
When Ferrari died, presumably of kidney disease, his death wasn’t publicly announced for two days. He’d left instructions for that, because he’d been born in a snowstorm that prevented his father from registering his birth for two days. He is buried in his hometown of Modena. He’d had a son, Alfredo—better known as Dino—who was expected to take over the family business, but who died in 1956 of muscular dystrophy. After Ferrari’s wife died, he formally recognized Piero, a son he’d had with his mistress, and left him 10 percent of the company in his will.