1904 MORS LANDAULET TOWN CAR
COACHWORK BY ROTHSCHILD OF PARIS
Engine No. 24076
Maroon with black mouldings, leather mudguards and red leather interior
Engine: four cylinder bi-block, T-head, bore 87mm, stroke 128mm, 3,043cc (185 cu in), magneto ignition, drip-feed lubrication; Gearbox: cone clutch, four speed, final drive by side chains; Suspension: semi-elliptic front springs and 3/4-elliptic rear; Brakes: internal expanding on rear wheels by right-hand side lever, external contracting on transmission by foot pedal; plus sprag; Right hand drive.
The firm of Mors was one of the great French makes at the turn of the century, well able to stand alongside its distinguished contemporaries Panhard-Levassor, Peugeot, De Dion Bouton and Renault. In motor racing Mors eclipsed former leaders Panhard-Levassor by winning such significant events as the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux and Paris-Berlin races, until in turn the company had to yield to both Mercedes and the cars manufactured by its former chief engineer, Henri Brasier.
The Societe de l'Electricity et des Automobiles Mors (incorporated in 1898) had an unusual background, dating back to 1851 when a firm had been set up in Paris to make artificial flowers with metal wire stems. These stems were paper-wrapped and the machinery used for this was soon adapted to produce insulated electrical wires. In 1874 Louis Mors Senior acquired the company and it took the Mors name. His two sons, Emile and Louis, both graduates of the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures (a superior Technical College in Paris) took over the business in 1880 and expanded the firm's activities into many branches of electrical engineering. In 1886 the brothers engaged Henri Brasier as Chief Engineer and the following year demonstrated the firm's design and manufacturing abilities by making a one-off steam-powered tricycle for a customer.
Louis junior bought a Panhard-Levassor motor car in 1892 and four years later Mors decided to make petrol cars. At a time when most French manufacturers used hot-tube ignition, Mors, not surprisingly, relied on electrics. The V-4 rear-engined Mors cars of 1897 were an immediate success and when in 1899 Brasier designed a car with a vertical front-mounted engine in the style of Panhard-Levassor, the firm struck gold. Arguably, Mors became the leading French make for the next few years. It was a serious loss to the company when Brasier left in November 1901, but by then Mors was firmly established in the automobile world. Nothing demonstrated this better than the first place achieved by Gabriel at the wheel of a 70hp Mors in the heroic 1903 Paris-Madrid race.
Although not built in large numbers (some 300 vehicles in 1903) output in 1904 covered six models from 14hp to 75hp, if one includes replicas of the 13-litre Paris-Madrid racer that the brave could buy.
Mechanically this car is entirely conventional for its period with an in-line engine, driving a four-speed gearbox with side-chain final drive. Because of the compact length for town use the chauffeur (and footman) sit above the engine whilst the owner resides in discreet luxury in the fully enclosed rear seats. If the passengers wished to be seen the leather top could be folded down, although at present it is understood that the top is fixed in the closed position.
Prior to its acquisition at a Long Island auction some years ago the Mors had stood in the open for many years, the body was corroded and had been damaged by fire but importantly the vehicle was complete. A meticulous restoration was undertaken which included the re-casting of one cylinder block whilst the bodywork was painstakingly restored to a standard that would have brought approval from its original builders. Attention to detail included the covering of the mudguards in black patent leather, which is correct for a car of this type and period, rather than the simpler expedient of making them in metal. Equipment includes a central self generating acetylene headlamp, oil sidelights, horn (all finished correctly with nickel plating) and a roof mounted spare tyre.
After restoration the car took part in the 1990 London to Brighton Run and it was awarded the prestigious French Cup at both the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours d'elegance and Meadowbrook Concours. Furthermore it won a First Junior and subsequently Senior award from the AACA as well as the Bert S.Harrington Jr. Award for an outstanding Brighton era motorcar.
Four cylinder London to Brighton era cars are highly sought after, especially the high quality European marques. This splendid Mors, with its unique coachwork, is believed to be a sole survivor and unusually can take up to six passengers to Brighton.