The ex-Henry Austin Clark Jr.
c.1900 Société Parisienne Victoria Combination
Engine no. 15494
Late in 1898 the French cycle firm La Société Parisienne, of 10 Avenue de la Grande-Armée, introduced a tiny front-wheel drive voiturette that it called the Victoria Combination. This consisted of a lightweight two-seater trailer of the pattern known as a 'Victoria', combined with the back axle and mechanical components of a motor tricycle, but this axle was placed in front of the trailer and steered by a long tiller on which the controls were located. The first examples were powered by 1¾ horsepower De Dion Bouton engines geared directly to the differential, but larger engines of this make were fitted as they became available.
Basic though these vehicles were, quality components were used in their construction. In addition to the popular and reliable De Dion Bouton engines which were fed by a Longuemare automatic carburettor, the front driving axles were obtained from Alexandre Darracq's Perfecta works, and the Victoria bodies were made by one of the city's leading coachbuilders: Alfred Belvallette. Once the larger 2¼ hp engine appeared in June 1899 gearing was added, generally that made to Monsieur J Didier's patent and referred to by his name, although actually manufactured by Guyenet et Balvay.
The Victoria Combination was well reported in the period motoring press and examples successfully took part in a number of voiturette competitions. In the Paris-Rambouillet-Paris event of October 1899 a Victoria Combination with two people aboard covered the hilly 100 kilometre course at an averaged speed of 16 mph and won its class. The favourable publicity engendered, plus the simplicity of the vehicles and their low price of 3000 Francs around $600 made them popular, so much so that although the design was patented it was nevertheless pirated by a number of other makers. It is estimated that more than 400 Victoria Combinations had been sold by the time production ceased in mid-1901. Less than a dozen examples, or period copies thereof, are known to survive, but some of them have been fairly frequent and successful participants in the London to Brighton veteran car run over the years.
The vehicle on offer is the genuine article, bearing the Société Parisienne maker's plate, bodywork plate of Alfred Belvallette (number 425), 2¼ hp De Dion Bouton air-cooled engine (number 15494) of 1900, Longuemare carburettor, and Didier two-speed gear and clutch. The vendor acquired it many years ago from the late Henry Austin Clark Jr. of Long Island Automotive Museum fame, and it is believed that he obtained the vehicle from the estate of railroad magnate and financier George J Gould of Lakewood NJ. There is a photograph published in both American and British motoring journals in 1902 showing the Gould family with their various automobiles, one of which is a Victoria Combination which matches this example to perfection.
Front-wheel drive automobiles were very unusual in the pioneer period and this example offers the opportunity to obtain a well-restored machine of good provenance that after careful re-commissioning would provide a different kind of motoring experience.
Offered on a Bill of Sale.
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