1903 De Dion Bouton 8hp Model R Rear-entrance Tonneau Registration no. A 1972 Chassis no. 93 Engine no. 11632
This De Dion Bouton Model R was found in France by the late Stephen Langton in 1982. The car was essentially a complete running chassis and was exhibited in this state at the Brighton Classic Car Show to illustrate the start of a restoration project at the launch of 'The Automobile' magazine. In August 1982 the Soames Langton dealership transferred the registration 'A 1972' to the De Dion from a 1906 Wolseley-Siddeley 18hp Landaulette that had once belonged to HM Queen Alexandra, wife of HRH King Edward VII, prior to exporting that car to Holland.
The De Dion was entered in the 1985 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run for The Automobile's editor, Michael Brisby, to drive but was unable to start because of a fuel leak. It subsequently featured in the cover story of The Automobile's May 1986 edition as a roadworthy but substantially original vehicle, still finished in its original maroon livery. In August 1988 the car was sold to Veteran Car Club member the late John Brown, of Newbury, Berkshire. A VCC dating certificate (number '1779') was issued 12 months later.
While in John Brown's ownership, the car was repainted in green with black chassis and reupholstered in red leather. The fuel tank was moved to the scuttle (for improved touring range), the oil tank and trembler coil relocated under the seats, and the handbrake returned to original 'push on' mode of operation. New tyres were fitted together with a bronze Solex carburettor in place of the original De Dion carburettor. Reputedly, one of two Brighton attempts was completed by the Browns, and while on a rally in France a radiator drain leak was repaired by soldering a 1 franc coin across the hole, the coin being still in place.
The De Dion Bouton was purchased from John Brown by the current vendor in 1991 and subsequently extensively rebuilt and mechanically refurbished. Carried out during 1992/93, the work included a 'cold stitch' cylinder block repair by Metal Surgery; radiator rebuild; replacement of copper cooling and induction pipes; new steering worm and quadrant by Macey Gears; new bronze reverse gear; new clutch linings by A L Carter; repaired rear axle joints; new under-seat panel (contemporary solid mahogany); re-varnished scuttle and bonnet surround; front and transverse semi-elliptic suspension springs reset and tempered by Brost Forge; and a loose chassis joint re-brazed.
Since November 1991 'A 1972' has successfully completed almost every London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and featured again in The Automobile (January 2000 edition) which depicted it arriving at Brighton with 'L' plates having been driven there by the owner's son only nine days after his 17th birthday: the youngest ever driver in the event. In November 2000 a new half-shaft eye and bronze bush were fitted after failure in Brighton. Six-volt rear lights were fitted also to comply with LBVCR lighting regulations and modified cycle lamps installed temporarily inside the front lamps. This very attractive car is enhanced by its many brass details including the early-style of RAC, AA and Motor Union club badges, French St Christopher and 'Essence' petrol cap.
Up to 2009 the De Dion had successfully completed 18 consecutive LBVCRs with the current vendor, plus one with the previous owner. Unfortunately, the De Dion's 19th consecutive LBVCR had to be abandoned at the halfway stop (Crawley) due to persistent torrential rain. 'A 1972' was still running but the crew was soaked and there were signs of water in the gearbox, a problem previously encountered in 2003. The De Dion Bouton Club reported that many cars were similarly affected because of shortcomings in the differential casing's design, and suggested preventative modifications as undertaken by member John Richards. The gearbox was drained, flushed and tested successfully with no adverse effects. Following the RSPCA's Millbrook Car Show in September 2010, the worn propshaft joint pins were replaced by Holman Engineering and the bearing holes reamed from 12.5mm to 13mm to remove slight ovality.
'A 1972' has been rallied regularly in Veteran Car Club and local events including the 'Snail Trail' and 'Creepy Crawly' and is a well publicised winner of several car show trophies. We are advised that the top speed is around 25mph on level roads while fuel is consumed at the rate of approximately 20mpg using unleaded petrol - there was, of course, no leaded available in 1903! The handbrake lever operates the rear wheels' contracting band brakes only and there is also a foot-operated transmission brake. Splash lubrication of the engine and gearbox is by means of a manual pump, operated every 5 miles. Manually varying the exhaust valve opening 'throttles' the engine.
Entered in this year's London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (number '320'), this tried and tested De Dion Bouton is offered with VCC dating certificate, current historic road fund licence, MoT to September 2011 and old/current Swansea V5/V5C registration documents. Detailed starting/driving/maintenance instructions and a fuller account of its history are on file, viewing of which is strongly recommended. A number of spare De Dion Components and trailer are available by separate negotiation post auction.