1899 CLÉMENT-PANHARD VOITURE LÉGÈRE TYPE VCP TWO-SEATER
Registration No. IY 45
Car No. 141
Engine No. 194
Black, with brown seat and red wheels
Engine: single-cylinder, 789 cc, with automatic inlet valve and water-cooled head; Gearbox: 3-speed manual; Suspension: front, transverse leaf spring, rear, full-elliptic leaf spring; Brakes: transmission and handbrake. Right hand drive.
As motoring got into its stride in France in the latter part of the 1890s it was realised that there was a need to fill the gap between the larger, powerful, expensive motor cars and motor tricycles. Léon Bollée had demonstrated a possible way forward with his voiturette (i.e. small car) for which he coined the name, and others soon followed.
The great firm of Panhard-Levassor joined the throng with a light car designed by its technical and production manager - Major Arthur Krebs. Panhard-Levassor could not produce enough of their large cars to satisfy demand and so licensed the manufacture of their voiture légère to one of their directors, Adolphe Clément. With a background in the cycle industry, he was in the process of building an extensive new works at Levallois-Perret for the making of bicycles, motor cycles and small cars.
Following the 1898 Paris motor show The Autocar commented on the 24th December of that year: The hit of the show .... appeared to be the introduction by Panhard and Levassor of a new type of light carriage, certainly a very handsomely-finished vehicle, and selling at £180, and it is not to be wondered at that, with the name the firm possesses, it should have taken orders for 300 vehicles before the completion and exhibition of the first.... The motor used is the Krebs, which largely resembles a De Dion motor placed horizontally. Still, in competition with other vehicles which are catering for the cheaper classes of the trade in the French markets, the new type will undoubtedly have a big run...
The layout of the vehicle is distinctive. It has a tubular chassis-frame with an inclined single-cylinder engine of 4 hp mounted at the back, the cylinder head to the rear. Drive is through an open, constant-mesh gear train, with transmission to the rear wheels by side chains. The centre-pivot steering controlled by a wheel is a somewhat idiosyncratic feature, but it works well enough in practice, as does the transmission brake augmented by a hand brake working on the solid tyres.
Despite the hub caps reading: Voiture Légère Clément Licence Panhard-Levassor, the make was generally known as Clément-Panhard and the cars were initially sold in Britain by the Motor Vehicle Company of S. F. Edge. Later the agency was taken up by the Scottish Daimler agents: Stirling-Panhard or Clément-Stirlings. Stirling built their own bodies on the cars which were significantly different from the French machines.
Recent investigation into the make indicates that full scale production commenced in 1899 with car number 101, and continued until 1902 when the planned production of some 500 cars had been achieved and the design was somewhat outdated. This car carries one of the lowest known Car Numbers of any surviving Clément-Panhard and appears to date from the first year of production.
Copies of the extensive personal file collated over the car's life go with the car, and confirm its history and origins. It is understood that the Clément was sold new in France to a nobleman, it was later transferred to Ireland, and came into the possession of a Colonel Thornhill of Drogheda.
The earliest details are a little imprecise, but it is certain that by the very early 1900s the Clement had been registered as 'IY 45', the first car in Drogheda, and was now owned by Dr. J. Parr of 47 Laurence's Street. It has remained within the Parr family and descendants ever since. Dr Parr, is known to have used the car as his everyday transport enabling him to make house calls as the local general practitioner. In 1932 Reverend Parr transferred the car by rail to Killyleigh at a cost of £2. 10s.
In the mid-1950s, 'IY 45' crossed the Irish Sea to the UK, still within his family. By this time, solid tyres were fitted and the car was in yellow livery. A sympathetic restoration followed within the owner's business, repainting the car to its present black livery with red wheels. Back on the road, in the post- 'Genevieve' heyday of the Veteran Car Club a prolific period of activity followed during the late 1950s, it being used for any and every old car rally within the Rochdale area. In addition the 1956 London to Brighton was attempted and completed, a copy of a photograph on file showing it on Madeira drive that year.
The Clément-Panhard was dated by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain in October 1957, at which time it was noted that the hot tube ignition was no longer fitted nor the governor, and sensibly the reverse gear which one can only presume is relatively perilous had been removed.
Since the 1950s the car has passed down through family hands, it has regularly been turned over, topped up with oil, and on occasions has been run. Today after nearly a century of family ownership, a reluctant decision has been made to part with the car such that it may be more actively used by a fresh enthusiast.
The voiturette's condition has mellowed with age, and there is no disguising its patinated presentation. Cosmetically it would benefit from repainting the wings, and other minor details, but is intact. Beneath the seating area is a purpose built tray containing all of the necessary spares that one requires for a run, from oil to wire brush and spark plugs, even a can of Brasso has its own compartment!
It has been observed that the car has a slight 'list to port', but careful examination of archive photographs suggests that this is not a new affliction and would not necessarily require attention. Mechanically, the engine is free, and gears appear to be operative. It is Christie's intention to try to run the car before the auction, and it should only take basic recommissioning to put it back into running order. Once this is done the car will be able to join other surviving examples in participating in Veteran events and annually travelling steadily from London to Brighton.
From the wonderful history that the car possesses to its own charm, this is a very special Victorian motor car, Christie's is delighted to offer it for sale publicly for possibly the first time in its life and certainly since the early 1900s. It offers Class 1 entry for Veteran Car Club events as well as the popular rallies of the London to Brighton, Lac Leman, Teuf-Teuf club and others.