In the annals of the pioneer years of motoring in Spain, few names rank higher than that of this car's first owner, Don Francisco Serramalera Abadal familiarly known as Paco Abadal who was a passionate enthusiast for all kinds of mechanised transport. Born in 1875, in the closing years of the 19th century Abadal won fame as an intrepid cycle racer, competing in events organised by the Sociedad de Velocipedistas de Cataluña and the Sportsmen Club de Barcelona. With the introduction of motor vehicles to Spain at the beginning of the 20th Century, he bought and raced a 1.75-hp Clément tricycle.
In 1902 Paco Abadal opened the Auto-Garaje Central at 343 Calle Consejo de Ciento in Barcelona, selling cars, motorbikes, cycles and accessories. He proudly boasted of its "modern machinery powered by electricity for every kind of repair for automobiles and bicycles". He soon numbered among his clients Spain's youthful King Alfonso XIII, to whom in April 1905 he introduced the new Hispano-Suiza marque for which he had held the concession since November the previous year (and after whom, thanks to Abadal's influence, one of its most famous models would be named). The business thrived, and in 1908 its headquarters were transferred to larger premises in the Calle Aragón and a coachbuilding business opened under the name of Carrocería Francisco Abadal y Cia, while further branches were opened at Calle Sepúlveda, Plaza Letamendi and Carretera de Sarriá. When a dispute with Hispano-Suiza led to the cancellation of his contract in 1913, Abadal introduced his own make of 15/30 and 45-hp luxury "Abadal" sporting cars closely copied from the Hispano-Suiza "Alfonso XIII" that were built for him by Impéria of Belgium; the venture was ended abruptly by the outbreak of war in 1914.
Personally responsible for the collection and delivery of the cars he sold, Paco Abadal brought his clients the pick of French automobiles. In July 1903 a press report noted: "Sr Abadal, owner of the Auto-Garaje Central, has arrived in our capital driving a magnificent 12-hp Clément, completing the journey from Paris to here without the slightest difficulty. The car has been purchased by a well-known inhabitant of our city, well aware of the fact that our friend Abadal has had several orders for this particular model."
The 2121cc 12/16-hp Clément, introduced at the beginning of 1903, well deserved the adjective "magnificent", for it was one of the most advanced cars of its day, with a pair-cast L-head four-cylinder engine, four-speed transmission and channel steel chassis, at a time when many of its rivals still had the old-fashioned flitch-plated wooden chassis. An ingenious lubrication system fed oil pressurised from the pump-fed cooling system to oil baths for the big-end bearings.
An example of the basically similar 20-hp model (sold in Britain under the Clément-Talbot marque) achieved a price including premium of £606,300 at the November Bonhams Veteran Motor Cars sale.
The owner informs us that this car chassis 4010 has been certified by the Asociación Cultural Paco Abadal as being the one driven by Paco Abadal when he won the 6.5 km Vista Rica (Rabassada) hillclimb in Barcelona in a record 9 min 43 sec on 26 February 1904. He was pictured on the front cover of the magazine Los Deportes at the wheel of the victorious Clément.
Abadal subsequently sold the car, fitted with a coachbuilt rear-entrance tonneau body, to a customer in Madrid, where it was registered as "M-95" when number plates were introduced in 1907; it still carries that historic registration.
The veteran Clément survived the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War, and around 1950 was acquired by the pioneering Spanish collector Juan Puigcerva of Barcelona, who apparently found it in a scrapyard on the outskirts of Madrid. He kept the car for some 30 years before it entered the Vilanova Brothers Collection, also in Barcelona. An older (c1970) restoration, the Clément is in good overall condition, finished in blue lined out in cream; it has been retrimmed in leather to the original pattern, with the old upholstery preserved underneath. It comes with a detachable canopy and windscreen as well as a custom made cover and has a full set of lamps (BRC lenticular parabolic acetylene headlamps and Besnard generator plus Blériot paraffin sidelamps).
Since 1959 the Clément has been a regular entrant in the Barcelona to Sitges Run, and has also taken part in the Tour du Lac Leman in Switzerland; it was the oldest car in the 1998 International Madrid-Lisbon rally. In 2006 the Clément was entered for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, which it successfully completed.
It has recently been on exhibition at the Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya as part of an exhibition celebrating the life and work of Paco Abadal. With four cylinders, four-speed transmission and four seats, as well as a proven record of reliability in long-term family ownership, this handsome veteran ticks every Brighton Run box!