1908 DELAUNAY-BELLEVILLE 15HP ROI DES BELGES
Coachwork by Henri Labourdette, number 1658
Not UK Registered
Car No. 1712
Engine No. 1712
Burgundy with matching upholstery
Engine: 4-cylinder, L-head, 98x122mm bore & stroke (3680cc); Gearbox: four speed with reverse; Suspension: semi-elliptic leaf spring front and rear; Brakes: foot pedal to transmission brake, hand lever to internal-expanding on rear wheels. Right-hand drive.
This illustrious automobile make came into being long after Louis Delaunay had joined the respected Belleville boiler making company of St Denis (to the north of Paris) in 1868. Louis later married the owner's daughter, changing his name and that of the firm to Delaunay-Belleville. Boilers were supplied to the French and British navies, and one was fitted to Her Majesty's Yacht Victoria and Albert. It was not until 1903 that a separate private company: S A des Automobiles Delaunay-Belleville was founded, and Marius Barbarou was engaged as designer. He had gained his experience with Clément and Benz, designing for the latter the range of Benz-Parsifal models. The cars he created for Delaunay-Belleville were first exhibited at the 1904 Paris Salon and have been characterised as large, expensive, and conservative. They were also beautifully built, the proud and autocratic Louis Delaunay-Belleville, himself and Ecole Polytechnique engineering graduate, would settle for nothing less.
In one most significant aspect Delaunay-Bellevilles were anything but conservative. This was in their method of engine lubrication. At a time when almost every other motorcar maker relied on a dashboard oiler lubricating the engine by drip-feed via a multiplicity of pipes, from the very beginning Delaunay-Belleville applied to its cars a pressure-feed system that it had originally patented in 1897 for use on steam engines. In the oil-tight sump of the engine there was a submerged pump that fed lubricant through oilways drilled through the crankshaft to the bearings and the moving parts, including the little ends and gudgeon pins.
Such a modern and sophisticated system was probably lost on most customers, but the overall quality of the vehicle was not. Delaunay-Belleville cars were soon to be found in the garages of King Alphonso XIII of Spain, King George I of Greece, and Czar Nicholas II of Russia, amongst others. The republicans did not miss out either, President Poincaré of France was also a user of the make.
The English agents for Delaunay-Belleville, the Burlington Carriage Company, advertised the make simply as 'The Car Magnificent'. If this was not an adequate self-bestowed accolade, Delaunay-Belleville came to be characterised as 'The French Rolls-Royce'. The larger 6-cylinder models were in a similar price bracket to the 'Silver Ghost' but the St Dennis firm also built smaller cars of the same quality. Typical of these was the 4-cylinder 15hp model that with slight variations in engine size was available throughout the Edwardian period.
This car, complete with its body built by one of the leading Parisian coachbuilders: Henri Labourdette, was exported when new to Melbourne Australia. It was used for about five years before being laid up for more than fifty years. The vendor bought the car twenty-five years ago and a professional restoration followed. The car is described by the owner as still being 'in excellent mechanical condition with very good paintwork, and a new hood and bows fitted'. It was in its original state when bought, with only the Delaunay-Belleville carburettor missing. This has been replaced with a period Zenith, and a starter motor has been fitted. Since restoration the car has been used for rallies and shows and it has been a regular award winner.
The car is complete, including a full set a Blériot oil and acetylene lamps, Stepney wheel occasional seats, side screens, Delaunay-Belleville instruments, switchgear, and chassis plates, plus Henri Labourdette coachbuilder's plates.
This Edwardian motorcar is from one of the most respected makers of the period and retains its original coachwork. It would be ideal for Veteran Car Club events and is sufficiently powerful to still be driven with confidence amongst the traffic on the roads of today.