1899 DE DION-BOUTON 2 HP TRICYCLE
Registration No. formerly J-4 (UK)
Engine No. 6214
Black with nickle-plated brightwork
Engine: single cylinder, air cooled, 70mm x 70mm bore & stroke, 270cc. (16 ci.), with automatic inlet valve, surface carburetor and electric ignition; Frame: tubular with direct drive and beaded-edge pneumatic tires. Brakes: front wheel brake with rear transmission brake.
The first De Dion-Bouton tricycle was produced in 1895 using a hp engine mounted behind the back axle of a Humber pedal tricycle. The key to the success of this prototype and subsequent production models was the quality of the engine that Georges Bouton had devised. Featuring a cast aluminum crankcase (a lightweight metal that only became available in commercial quantities in the early 1890s), effective lubrication and cooling and a patented electric ignition, it ran at the hitherto unheard of speed of 1,500 revs per minute. The automatic inlet valve aside, this was the world's first highspeed, lightweight engine, the complete unit weighing only 40 pounds.
When marketed, the tricycles were an immediate success. 1,500 frames were ordered in 1897 and an astonishing 5,000 were ordered the following year. Engine sizes were increased to 1hp for 1898, and 2hp in 1899. Many pioneers had their first motoring experience while holding the handlebars of a De Dion-Bouton tricycle and examples were exported around the world. The vehicles were also featured in most 19th century motor races. For instance, in the 1899 Paris-Ostend race, Baras, on a De Dion-Bouton tricycle, finished with the highest average speed of 32.8 mph for any competitor over the 201 mile town to town course.
Numerous motor manufacturers entered the industry either by copying the De Dion-Bouton tricycle or by fitting the firm's engines to vehicles of their own devising. However, this machine is genuine De Dion-Bouton with all the associated history that the name confers. After a 12,000 GBP restoration (at 1991/2 prices) by the respected UK specialist, J. Tennant-Eyles, the machine was exported to the Lassiter collection.
This tricycle is eligible for the London to Brighton Run and similar car and motorcycle events. Even if not wanted to nip through the dense London traffic on a speedy run to the English coast, no collection attempting to show the history of motoring is really complete without a De Dion-Bouton tricycle, of which this is an excellent example.