c.1904 De Dion Bouton 8hp Type V Rear Entrance Tonneau Chassis no. 491
The names of De Dion and Bouton are inextricably linked with the pioneer years of the motor car, initially in company with Trépardoux in the building of light steam carriages, the first of which appeared in 1883. In the early 1890s De Dion and Bouton turned their attention to the internal combustion engine, much to the annoyance of Trépardoux who quit in 1894, leaving his erstwhile partners to develop what was, in effect, the first high-speed internal combustion engine.
Engineer Bouton's power units developed significantly greater output than their contemporaries from Daimler and Benz, yet matched them for reliability. Small wonder then that De Dion Bouton engines were adopted by many other manufacturers of tricycles, quadricycles, and light cars, both in Europe and the United States, influenced no doubt by the success of the flying tricycles in such events as the Paris-Bordeaux and other endurance races. Early 137cc engines ran at speeds of up to 1,500rpm, and the first internal combustion-engined tricycles were built in 1895. The 250cc engine of 1896 developed approximately 1.75hp and made the contemporary Benz engines seem positively antiquated.
Early De Dions were rear engined and of the vis-à-vis type where the passengers sat facing the driver but from 1902 onwards the firm began to adopt what would become accepted as the conventional layout for a motor car, one of the first of this kind being the Type O. By this time, De Dion's fast-revving, single-cylinder engines were offered in 4 1/2hp, 6hp and 8hp variants. All featured mechanical inlet and atmospheric exhaust valves, and were noted for their reliability, which is borne out by the number surviving today. Indeed, it was by making their excellent power units available to all, either by selling direct or licensing manufacture to third parties, that De Dion Bouton made its inestimable contribution to the automobile's early development.
The 1904 De Dion offered here previously formed part of the celebrated collection belonging to the late Richard C Paine Jr and was exhibited at the Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine, USA. It was purchased by the current vendor at Bonhams' sale of selected vehicles from the Paine Collection held at the Owls Head Transportation Museum, Maine in September 2008 (Lot 868). The De Dion is offered from the owner's European private collection.
Bonhams has researched the ex-Paine Collection's De Dion Bouton with two of the foremost experts on these cars, namely Malcolm Jeal and Rory Sinclair, both former members of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain's Dating Committee. Working from photographs, in their considered view, the engine (numbered '15152', which is stamped on crankcase, block and timing cover) and the gearbox (numbered '7994') are both consistent with those on cars made by De Dion Bouton in 1904, as is the 'Type V' plate that the car wears on its dashboard. Introduced in 1904, the Type V was powered by an 8hp 942cc inlet-over-exhaust engine with atmospheric intake valve, driving via a three-speeds-with-reverse transmission. On the basis of these findings the car could well prove eligible for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run when returned to the road.
With right-hand drive and wheel steering, it represented De Dion Bouton's latest thinking at the time of its introduction, embodying important developments in design, construction and coachwork in advance of the firm's earlier quadricycles. The front seat and forward portions of the body appear to be very old while the tonneau is later. While it can serve, as it did in the Seal Cove Museum, as an important example of the early work of one of the pioneers of the automobile, it also has the potential to be the basis of a rewarding and instructive restoration. Accompanying documentation consists of an old US title deed and C&E Form 386 confirming EU duties paid.