1901 ADLER 41/2 HP VIS-A-VIS
Registration No. Not UK registered.
Chassis No. 135 Engine No. 5813
Engine: front-mounted De Dion Bouton, 84mm x 90mm bore & stroke (498cc), water-cooled with pump circulation, automatic inlet valve, electric ignition. Transmission: cone clutch, 3-speed and reverse sliding gearbox with steering column change and shaft drive to bevel rear axle. Chassis: tubular steel with semi-elliptic spings front and rear, external contracting brakes on rear hubs from hand lever, transmission brake clutch/brake pedal, wire wheels, right-hand drive.
Heinrich Kleyer established his cycle business in Frankfurt-am-Main in the 1880s and marketed his products using the Adler brand name. So successful did the business become that by 1898 some 100,000 cycles had found customers. Kleyer also made wire wheels for the early Benz velos, and had probably supplied those for the first Benz three-wheeler of 1885-6. It was a logical step for a cycle manufacturer to make motor tricycles and in 1899 a batch were built by Adler underlicense from Max Cudell of Aachen who held the German patent rights for De Dion Bouton designs. It is reputed that Kleyer visited the Paris Motor Show in the Summer of 1899 and was impressed by the layout of the little Renault voiturette with its front-mounted engine, in-line gearbox, and shaft drive to the back axle.
Certainly when the first Adler car appeared in the middle of 1900 it was mechanically similar to the Renault in design, but differed considerably in appearance. Not surprisingly with a background in the cycle industry Kleyer used a tubular chassis and wire wheels. The vertical front-mounted 3½hp De Dion Bouton engine drove a conventional gearbox (rather than the Renault "tumbler" gearbox) with the gearchange on the vertical steering column, and the final drive was by shaft. This was the first German car to use such a layout of mechanical components. Initial production Adlers had handle-bar steering, full-elliptic springs front and rear, and vis-à-vis bodywork that gave them a more than passing resemblance to the De Dion Bouton voiturette, although with a bonnet for the engine ahead of the front passenger seat and water tank before the dashboard.
This new Adler car was described in The Motor Car Journal of the 15th September 1900. After commenting on the Renault similarities the magazine went on to observe: Before being put on the market the Adler car has, we understand, been submitted to extended trials over all sorts of roads and gradients, the results of wich have apparently proved satisfactory to the makers. It was also noted that speeds of 6½, 14 & 28 kilometres per hour were available in the gears but that these [speeds] can be increased or decreased by means of the variable electrical ignition. Despite this write-up, it does not appear that Adler cars were imported into England at this time.
Changes were made to the cars for 1901, including the use of semi-elliptic springs all round, wheel steering on an inclined column (although still with the column gearchange), provision of a reverse gear, the removel of the water tank from ahead of the front seat, and the fitting of a 4½hp engine, still by De Dion Bouton, this larger unit being introduced by the French firm for its own voiturettes and for sale to other constructors in October 1900.
This car has all the 1901 features, although it is not clear when Adler introduced its model for that year. Later examples of the model were fitted with 6hp De Dion Bouton engines, this power unit becoming available in May 1901. However, cars so powered appear to have been fitted with wooden artillery wheels. Therefore, whilst it is not possible to be adamant about the date of this particular car, 1901 appears to be the most probable.
This attractive Adler voiturette must be one of the earliest survivors from a most respected German manufacturer of the period that is still in business, although these days making office machinery, that stems from the parallel development of Adler typewriters at the turn of the century.