Gables Service Station
30 June 2005
1907 DE DION BOUTON 8HP TYPE BG SWING-SEAT TONNEAU
Registration No. D 3592
Chassis No. 69
Engine No. 22051
Red and grey with grey upholstery
Engine: single-cylinder 100 x 120mm bore & stroke, 943cc, water-cooled with mechanically-operated valves; Gearbox: three speed sliding, single-plate clutch, shaft drive to De Dion back axle; Suspension: front and rear semi-elliptic leaf spring; Brakes: rear-wheel and transmission. Right-hand drive.
Whilst De Dion Bouton introduced two-cylinder cars in 1903 and four-cylinder cars the following year, there were single-cylinder cars in its portfolio until 1912. Although fully appreciating the virtues of multi-cylinder engines - it was after all the first manufacturer bar none to volume produce a V8 motorcar from 1910 - the company had built its reputation on the high-volume production of cars with single-cylinder engines, and this still had its attractions for customers who valued simplicity above all else, and tolerated any minor shortcomings.
The Type BG was a 1908 model and used the familiar 8hp engine, with both valves mechanically operated, but gone was the tubular-steel chassis in favour of pressed steel and also gone was the original fool-proof gearbox with expanding clutches, replaced by a conventional sliding gearbox and a modern-style sweetly operating single-plate clutch, the controls were largely conventional by today's standards, and the unique De Dion back axle was retained. The Type BG was not a fast car, but what is so frequently overlooked when retrospectively praising or condemning the top speed of a specific early motorcar is that from 1903 until 1930 a maximum speed limit of 20mph applied on Britain's roads - and less in built-up areas. Therefore the BG's top speed of about 30mph was largely irrelevant, its flexibility being a much more important plus factor.
De Dion Bouton left no room for doubt about the car's make since it appears on the shapely radiator, the threshold strips, and on the manufacturers and license plates on the dashboard. It was supplied by Robbins & Day, High Street, Rochester, Kent, and registered by Kent County Council to a Mr Feargus Mitchell Ward on the 10th January 1908; so he had a brand new model in a new year. Originally its practical and neat swing-seat tonneau body was painted blue, picked out in yellow. The car appears to be correct mechanically, including the De Dion Bouton carburettor, but it is not thought that the magneto fitted was standard when the car was new.
The single-cylinder cars were affectionately know as 'Ding Dongs' when they were new and they have retained an Andrex-puppy like quality in the hearts of many old car enthusiasts to this day. They are not very good on stairs, but perform obediently if taken good care of and properly managed, and can be a source of considerable pleasure to their owners.
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