Although Panhard-Levassor, De Dion Bouton, Darracq and Peugeot accounted for the lion's share of production in France's burgeoning motor industry, there was a significant second significant tier of smaller manufacturers in Paris's industrial suburbs who experimented with the new-fangled motor car in the late nineteenth century with varying degrees of success. Amongst these was Louis Fisson who traded as L.Fisson et Cie from workshops in Rue Maublanc, Paris.
Little is known of Fisson's activities but it is recorded that he entered a car of his own manufacture in one of the earliest French City-to-City races, the Paris-Marseilles-Paris race of 1896. We know from Gerald Rose's A Record of Motor Racing 1894-1908 that a Monsieur Ferte driving a Fisson (of Benz like appearance and with a Benz engine) was first away in the 1,077 mile race, to be run over the period September 24th - October 3rd. Alas M. Ferte failed to cover either himself or the infant Fisson marque in glory, managing to run over an over-eager spectator in the Avenue de Paris and failing even to get as far as the first night's stop. Mayade won this important race on a Panhard at an average speed of 15.9mph a portent of Panhard's later dominance in motor racing competition.
Fisson was not deterred by this early misfortune and continued to build Benz-like vehicles through 1896-7 on a limited scale. He is recorded as driving one of his own cars (presumably M.Ferte no longer trusted) in the Paris-Dieppe race of July 1897, this time achieving more success with a 9th place in class finish, a race won by Jamin aboard a Bollée.
Abandoning the horizontal Benz-type engine, Fisson designed his own vertical engine in 1898, claiming advanced lubrication and variable timed ignition there is little doubt that these features were 'borrowed' from his competitors as subsequent history demonstrated that Fisson was not to be an innovator in automobile design. The new, vertical, twin-cylinder engine had a bore and stroke of 130x110mm, displacing 2,920cc which, fuelled by a surface carburettor, transmitted power through a four speed sliding gearbox with final drive by side chains, the whole mounted in a wood and flitch plate chassis. Fisson's new car was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1898 and one has to say looked handsome alongside its pier group, including the formidable Panhard cars. Like other pioneers, Fisson's presence as a motor manufacturer was short lived - probably like so many others being under-capitalised in a fast burgeoning market.
This car is believed to be the only surviving Panhard-style Fisson and, although its early history is not recorded, by some means it found its way to the East Coast of America and for many years, while in the ownership of collector Robert Dowling, was exhibited in the renowned museum of Henry Austin Clark on Long Island. In the 1980s it crossed the Atlantic for a second time coming to the UK where close examination showed both mechanical and coachwork features to be exceptionally original. It was then the subject of careful restoration and conservation. It was officially dated 1898 by The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain in 1992 and awarded Certificate No. 1644. Restored to the roads in 1995, it was found to have commendable performance and, once the Benz-like left hand drive specification and the two gear selection levers were mastered, the advance/retard mechanism and sensitive accelerator enabled a smooth and relatively quick drive to be achieved its performance has been described as comparing favourably with contemporary Panhards. That year it took part in the Centenary Run celebrating the first car imported into Great Britain and in 1996 it took part successfully in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run Centenary event.
This Victorian motor car accommodates six people in its concave-sided wagonette coachwork. It is attractively liveried in yellow with black body mouldings and chassis detail with nickel fittings. Since coming to the UK in the 1980s the Fisson has been in the hands of the most discerning veteran car owners. It has been fully prepared for this year's London to Brighton Veteran Car Run by a respected veteran car specialist and is offered with an entry for that event. The car runs presently with a Zenith carburettor but the original surface carburettor has been carefully retained and is offered with the car. The Fisson comes also with Swansea registration document, current road fund licence and MoT certificate and the aforementioned Veteran Car Club Dating Certificate, together with a LBVCR entry pack - Car no. 26 - so an invaluable early start from Hyde Park!