c.1914 American-LaFrance Roadster  Chassis no. 569 Engine no. 594

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Lot 404
c.1914 American-LaFrance Roadster
Registration no. SV 8056 Chassis no. 569 Engine no. 594

Sold for £ 12,650 (US$ 15,828) inc. premium
c.1914 American-LaFrance Roadster
Registration no. SV 8056
Chassis no. 569
Engine no. 594

Footnotes

  • Although the American-LaFrance company built a handful of automobiles prior to WWI, its main business was always the building and selling of fire trucks. Founded in 1873 by Truckson LaFrance and based in Elmira, New York, the LaFrance Manufacturing Company was originally famous as a maker of steam-powered fire pumpers, some 500-or-so of which had been sold by 1900. In 1903 the firm merged with the American Fire Engine Company (itself formed by the amalgamation of four smaller enterprises), becoming American-LaFrance. Steam-powered appliances continued to be made until 1914, but seven years previously the firm had motorised its first apparatus using four-cylinder T-head engines designed by New York neighbours Simplex. Long famous for its high quality machines with their distinctive dual chain final drive, American-LaFrance was the most widely recognised name in the industry.
    The production of passenger cars was never anything more than a relatively insignificant sideline for the firm, which built its first automobile in 1903, four years before its first motorised fire appliance. Badged as ‘La France’, these four-cylinder, chain-driven, Renault-like cars were sold exclusively through Sidney Bowman in New York City. American-LaFrance continued to build passenger cars in small numbers to special order (some sources suggest these were no more than re-badged Simplex chassis) but the company, which still exists today owned by Freightliner Corporation, has made none since WWI.
    The roadster-bodied La France offered here is one of a pair imported into the UK in the 1980s. The sister car was acquired and is now displayed at the Auto Technic Museum in Germany, whose CEO Hermann Layher successfully drove his LaFrance on the arduous 14,000-kilometre Peking to Paris Race.
    Powered by a 9½-litre, four-cylinder, T-head engine, this car features LaFrance’s trademark chain final drive and wood-spoked wheels. The vehicle has just emerged after spending nearly 20 years in a motor museum and is offered strictly as viewed. Currently on SORN, it comes with Swansea V5C document, some useful information on the LaFrance marque, and driver’s handbook and instruction manual for models up to 1922.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note the engine is presently stuck and will need careful freeing off.
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