1908 DE DION BOUTON 30HP ROI DES BELGES
COACHWORK BY WINKLER AND CURYUP
Car no. BJ 13
Engine no. 2759C
Brunswick green coachwork with saffron coachlines, green buttoned leather upholstery and black hood.
Engine: four-cylinder, 110mm x 130mm bore and stroke, 4941cc, wheelbase 3.217m (10'5''), track 1.45m (4'8½''); Gearbox: four speed & reverse operated by right-hand side lever, shaft drive; Suspension: semi-elliptic springs front and rear with additional rear transverse leaf; Brakes: foot-operated on transmission, rear-wheel brakes from side lever; plus sprag. Right hand drive.
By the time this Type BJ De Dion Bouton was made, the company had been in the business of making motor vehicles for 25 years. Initial output was steam-powered, but from 1895 petrol engines were introduced and rapidly became dominant. Guided by the autocratic but far-sighted Marquis de Dion, ably assisted by the engineering genius of Georges Bouton, the firm not only made vehicles in quantity, but made them to the hightest standards and sold them to a public who appreciated they offered genuine value for money.
Easy to manage and reliable single-cylinder cars were introduced before the turn of the century; twin-cylinder versions came on the scene in 1903 and fours were available by 1905. De Dion Boutons were exported world-wide and the firm's products enjoyed a reputation that was second to none.
The 30hp BJ of 1908 (a development of the previous year's Model AY) was to that date the largest motor car that the company had made and had a catalogued top speed of 80 kph. The chassis price when new was FF 16,000 (650 Sterling) which put it in the same class as similar horsepower cars offered by respected manufacturers such as Delaunay-Belleville, Hotchkiss, Panhard-Levassor, and Renault.
To publicise the De Dion Bouton's qualities, an example took part in the New York to Paris "Round the World" race. The car performed perfectly well, crossing the North American continent and Japan in winter, before arriving in Vladivostok. At this point it was withdrawn from the competition due to the organiser's decision to change the planned route (and substitute it by the one which had been used for the 1907 Peking-Paris race). Smaller De Dion Boutons had successfully completed this trans-Siberian leg of the journey in the previous year's marathon and the Marquis felt that there was nothing more to prove about the durability of his company's products by going over the same ground again with a more powerful car.
Imported into Austria in chassis form by the De Dion Bouton representative for Austria and Hungary, Fritz Furst, this car was sold through Hermann Plum to Graf Carl Wittgenstein of the Imperial Court, Vienna. It is suggested that Count Wittgenstein knew the Belgian Royal Family and favoured the style of coachwork popularised by them, so he requested local coachbuilders Anton Winkler and Johann Curyup to equip his 30hp chassis with the splendid Roi-des-Belges coachwork which it retains today.
Count Wittgenstein used the car until 1922, and put it into storage in May of that year, where it remained for many years, only being used once during the 1930's for a film. The present vendor's grandfather discovered it in 1959; he imported it to Switzerland, and proceeded to restore it with total respect for its originality. Later used on many local rallies and events, in recent years its use has been more limited and so is offered for sale.
A large Edwardian touring car, with proportional coachwork that provides accomodation (with occasional seats) for seven passengers, the De Dion is equipped with period brass accessories including headlamps by Willocq Bromin of Brussels, acetylene generator, dashboard mounted oil sidelights, bulb horn and klaxon. The upholstery was refurbished in the 1960's in green leather to period button-back design, and an all enveloping hood provides weather protection. The restoration carried out when the present family acquired the car has now mellowed to give a charming patina of age.
A small number of large horsepower De Dion Boutons were built, and only a handful remain in existence today. This car will provide the successful purchaser with a comfortable tourer suitable for Veteran Car Club, Teuf Teuf and brass era events.