c.1901/1908 De Dion Bouton-engined Car
Rarely does a car come to the open market that confounds the experts. Despite best researches and much conferring amongst veteran car luminaries, the precise identification of this most interesting veteran car has not been established, although many theories have been put forward. What is known is that it has many features which are De Dion Bouton and many features which are not! The engine unit is De Dion Bouton and probably of 4 1/2hp dating from 1901, with mechanical exhaust valve and overhead atmospheric inlet valve. The chassis in certain areas reflects De Dion Bouton design although it does not feature the classic De Dion rear axle. Transmission is via belt and pulley with final drive by chain and the spark is generated by a substantial open magnet magneto. The car features semi-elliptic front and rear springs. The ignition and carburation controls, operated by hand from the drivers seat and located on the dashboard, indicate manufacture nearer the beginning of the 1901/1908 date band. The two curious features of the car are the iron shod wheels with herring-bone pattern treads to the rear and circumference ribbing to the front wheels and also the distinctive radiator which perhaps suggests a heat conservation system rather than a cooling system. Close inspection is recommended.
During the course of the researches it has been suggested that this may have been a vehicle designed for Polar expeditions. Certainly the wheels, possibly designed for use on ice, and radiator may strengthen that theory and it is known that in the early years of the 20th century famous explorer Jean Charcot was to use sledges for his 1908 Polar expedition with mechanical features from early De Dion Boutons. American Walter Wellman, in his Polar expeditions is also recorded as using 4 1/2hp De Dion Bouton-engined vehicles/sledges, as is Scott of the Antarctic.
The solution to the mystery may however be much easier and this may simply be an obscure marque converted in later years for agricultural purposes in vineyards, olive groves or the like. The car has only recently come to light in an Italian coach house and is believed to have been in the present owners family, possibly from new. It is known to have pulled carts on the estate, hence the tow bar at the rear, and it is believed that it was last running in the 1950s/60s. Condition generally in vulnerable areas such as the brass bonnet, which has remained incredibly intact and straight, suggests that this vehicle has seen minimal use and it will certainly be a very straightforward restoration project. Our feelings, although unconfirmed, suggest a year of manufacture prior to 1905 and, if proved correct, this car will ultimately be a worthy and distinctive entrant on the prestigious London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
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