Count Albert De Dion commissioned Messrs Bouton and Trépardoux, brothers-in-law and jobbing engineers, to build light steam carriages for him as early as 1882. In 1895 attention was switched to the fashionable new internal combustion engine and De Dion Bouton et Cie were marketing a diminutive petrol engined tricycle. These early tricycles were powered by Bouton's new, high speed, single cylinder, vertical engine which revved at almost twice the speed of the contemporary Daimlers. By 1899 the company was marketing a 31/2hp voiturette, an all new generation of four wheel motor car with rear mounted engine driving through a system of gears to the rear wheels. A more powerful 4 1/2hp engine was offered in the vis-à-vis models from October 1900 as the new model for 1901. A light tubular chassis frame was used and with this 498cc power unit the car had a comfortable speed of 25mph.
This 1901 De Dion Bouton was first registered with the number AB 100 by Herbert James Whiteley of North Grove, Malvern, who registered it with Worcestershire County Council under the Motor Car Act of 1903 on 31st December 1903. In March 1913 registration was cancelled however the car remained in the Whiteley family ownership until purchased by veteran car enthusiast Dudley Johns in September 1939 from Lady Huntington-Whiteley. The princely sum of £4 changed hands along with a generous tip of £1 to Lady Huntington-Whiteley's chauffeur who assisted in the sale. The original AB 100 registration number had at that stage already been transferred to more modern vehicles in the Huntington-Whiteley family and Dudley Johns was to re-register the car DFK 555. He ran the car successfully in the 1949 London to Brighton Run following recommissioning. The present owner acquired the car in 1958, just 53 years ago, from Dudley Johns and was fortunate to persuade Worcestershire Registration Authorities to allocate the number AB 38 to this car.
AB 38 was extensively used in the 1960s and 1970s in the present ownership, winning many awards for timed runs and concours d'élégances, completing also 25 London to Brighton Veteran Car Runs without fault. On one occasion it completed the 120 mile drive from North Lincolnshire to Stratford-upon-Avon in seven hours. It was rallied in Holland and the Isle of Man where it successfully completed the TT Course. AB 38 was selected for the front cover illustration in the Batsford book Veteran Cars in Colour by Anthony Bird, published in 1962. In the 1980s AB 38 was retired into the owner's private museum collection and has not been run for many years. It will now benefit from the usual careful recommissioning.
AB 38 is to original specification in all major respects although now runs on slightly later wheel rims. It retains its original upholstery and the Huntington-Whiteley family crest appears on the body side panels. A brass plaque on the coachwork advises that this car was licenced by The British Motor Traction Company Ltd. and The Dion Dunlop Motor Company Ltd. with licence no.1427. Audible warning of approach is provided by a Hartford Autobell. The car is equipped with Dietz Tubular Automobile oil side lamps and enjoys the safety feature of a sprag, while a reverse gear is also provided although has never been used by the vendor.
This car has been in just three family ownerships from new, the present owner being its custodian for almost half of its 110 years. It is a well-known car in veteran car circles, has spent all of its life since delivery in England and is of course eminently eligible for all VCC events, the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and De Dion Bouton Club UK outings. It comes with a VCC Dating Certificate no.168, a copy of the original entry in the 1903 Register of Motor Cars, copies of De Dion Bouton Autobook One and Batsford Veteran Cars in Colour, Swansea V5 registration document, old MoTs and tax discs and buff log book dating from 1949. It is offered also with a most interesting history file with correspondence from the Huntington-Whiteley family, Dudley Johns and others, containing also helpful hints regarding running the car.
As well as the desirable AB 38 registration number, a purpose-built two wheel, tilt deck, covered trailer is offered with this vehicle.