There are few more respected names amongst pioneers in the infant motor industry than that of Adolphe Clement. Clements engineering and entrepreneurial skills had already been displayed before he grasped the opportunity to enter motor manufacture, establishing Clement et Cie at Levallois-Perret, Seine, in 1899. The new business was financed by the massively successful cycle manufacturing business which had been the focus of Clements earlier attention and, shrewdly, he had also been fortunate to acquire the French patent rights to the new Dunlop pneumatic tyre. The motor car excited Adolphe Clement and the great City-to-City races at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries constantly stole the headlines in the French newspapers this was to be the focus of Clements future energy. By 1899 the motor car was through its first faltering steps and reliability was becoming the norm, with such mighty establishments as De Dion Bouton and Panhard-Levassor spearheading its very rapid development.
Like so many of his contemporaries, Clements first offerings were motor-powered tricycles and quadricycles, but by 1900 Clement was offering four wheelers in the shape of a De Dion Bouton-powered voiturette and a Clement-Panhard which adopted an engine designed by Commandant Krebs (who shared a seat on the board at Panhard with Adolphe Clement). Although not unsuccessful, these two early efforts fell short of the reliability and performance of De Dion Boutons own voiturette. Clement had appointed Marius Barbarou as chief design engineer and he led the company forward with a new range of light cars, while Clement directed his attention to the headline-grabbing City-to-City races, fielding Clement cars in the 1902 Paris-Berlin and Paris-Vienna events. These events not only earned valuable publicity for the marque but demanded new standards of engineering finesse and reliability which the Clement factory was able to provide.
By 1902/1903 Clement were offering a range of cars comprising the 9hp twin and four-cylinder cars of 12 and 16hp. They adopted the Systeme Panhard, with forward mounted vertical engines, but were ahead of Panhard-Levassor with shaft drive providing not only greater reliability but also easier maintenance. Suffice it to say they were thoroughly good, well-engineered cars with an impressive turn of speed.
This is one such car from that era which comes from thirty years in the present ownership of a long-standing VCC member and leading protagonist in the historic vehicle movement. He in turn had acquired it from long-term ownership of another VCC member. The car had been restored in the period 1975-1978, the present owner completing the restoration by adding the entirely appropriate maroon livery with black body mouldings. Concessions to reliability and performance include only a later and more efficient Zenith carburettor and the fitting of a water pump.
A most handsome car by any standards and a successful Brighton runner, it is equipped with a fine set of Ducellier oil lamps from Frances premier accessory manufacturer, a H&B rear lamp, a brass bulb horn and rear view mirror, while the car is furnished with black leather upholstery and varnished wooden artillery wheels. Officially dated 1902 by the VCC, (certificate no.1484), the car is offered with a Swansea registration document, current road fund licence and an MoT valid to April 2009.
This capable four-seater would enjoy a relatively early starting position in Hyde Park and, with its lusty performance, should arrive at Brighton comfortably in time for lunch.