1974 Neorion Chicago

Neorion is one of the most historic Greek engineering companies, located in Ermoupolis, on the Greek island of Syros. Today, it is one of the few remaining major industrial corporations in that picturesque and nostalgic island town that used to be the industrial and commercial heart of Greece, before eclipsed by corporations in the late 19th century.

Neorion roots go back to a traditional shipyard on that island, known for the construction of ships and boats for use during the Greek revolution of the 1820s, as well as design and building of "modern battleships" for the new Greek kingdom in the decades that followed. The company that survives to date was legally founded in 1861 to technically support the "Greek Steamship lines Company", initially employing, in addition to Greek technical staff, several mechanics from W. Europe. In the 1860s, in addition to ship building it already produced steam engines, boilers, pumps, heavy cannons, as well as its first steamship. A heavy steam engine of its own design and construction received attention when exhibited in an International Exhibition in Paris in 1878, while since 1892 the company produced all-metal steamships. In 1898 the name "Neorion" (an Ancient Greek word indicating a port facility for ship repair and construction) was adopted. Already during the second half of the 19th century it was the second most important Greek engineering company after the famous Basileiades machine and steam engine manufacturer in Piraeus. Other products of Neorion included a variety of machinery (some of it exported), engine parts and other specialized metal constructions for the Greek industry.

In the following decades Neorion faced many challenges that almost lead it into going out of business, but managed to survive, remaining one of the most important Greek shipyards. In 1972, under the ownership of the Greek millionaire G.Goulandris it acquired Enfield Automotive Ltd., a British company involved in the design and construction of electric cars. A new company, "Enfield-Neorion E.P.E." was formed, headquartered in Piraeus, and production of the British-designed cars was transferred to Syros. A young Greek designer, Georgios Michael (later credited with the design of several Greek vehicles) was employed with the new company. The E 8000 Bicini (with that spelling) light jeep-type vehicle introduced in 1973 was a Greek design, but was not produced due to bureaucratic hurdles created by Greek tax services, connected with its electric power. In 1974 a "pure" Neorion development was undertaken, to materialize a vision of G. Goulandris himself, of a luxury limousine with strong 4x4 character. A team of Greek engineers including Georgios Michael worked in Syros for 8 months, leading to the creation of the Chicago, introduced in 1974. The construction included a robust chassis and an aluminum body on a steel frame, that incorporated particular reinforcements for passenger protection. Power came from an AMC/Jeep (Wagoneer) V8 engine. The car, nonetheless, was rather controversial: it was a huge limousine with retro-styling, featuring hard-core 4x4 characteristics and was put down even by its own designer. Indeed, Georgios Michael would later describe it as "mountain dinosaur". Today, in view of the 4x4 passenger cars that have appeared ever since, as well as the breed of luxury SUV’s, the car does not look terribly strange anymore; one could actually dare say that it in a way it was ahead of its time. A production line had been started with four vehicles at various stages of construction, when a change of Greek law condemned the market prospects of the car. Two were completed and sold before the venture was terminated in 1976. One still survives to date, exhibited in the Thessaloniki Technological Museum.

Neorion shipyards itself continued its course. In 1997 it acquired another big shipyard, Elefsis Shipyards, while it diversified into new fields (like the construction of luxury mega-yachts, and even subcontracting work for aerospace companies) and is fully active today in the form of the powerful Neorion Group of Companies, having entered a new era in its long history.


  • L.S. Skartsis and G.A. Avramidis, "Made in Greece", Typorama, Patras, Greece (2003).
  • Article on the Neorion Chicago by G. Michael published in the "Auto Motor und Sport" magazine (Greek edition), issue 59 (1999)



Automobile manufacturers of Greece

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