c.1901 DE DION BOUTON VIS-À-VIS
Registration No. Not Registered
Chassis No. 2551 (see text)
Engine No. 1059 (see text)
For restoration, yellow
Production of the De Dion Bouton vis-à-vis in 1899 finally met the requirement that Count Albert De Dion had set himself 15 years before: to make a light car that would be simple, reliable, have adequate performance and be available at a price that could be afforded by the 'man of modest means'. His partnership with Georges Bouton and Charles Trépardoux produced some successful steam-powered machines, but Bouton's genius in evolving a lightweight high-speed petrol engine to power motor tricycles was the breakthrough that the Count sought. Engines of this type, when applied to a small car with a fool-proof gearbox, were immediately successful. The De Dion Bouton company also pioneered aspects of the motor industry that are now taken for granted: a proper research and development department, interchangeability of parts, rigorous testing, and value for money.
When the voiturette first appeared in 1899 it was fitted with a rear mounted tricycle-type 2¼ hp engine and whilst having front suspension, the back relied solely on the pneumatic tyres to soften the ride. Soon after full-scale production started a change was made to a fully-suspended rear axle. This used the De Dion-system already seen on the firm's larger steam vehicles, which with the benefit of a 'dead' axle and universally-jointed drive shafts, plus three-quarter-elliptic springs, was a significant step forwards. In November 1899 the engine was up-rated to 3½ hp (402 cc) and was equipped with a fully- jacketed cylinder barrel, a water tank and small radiator mounted at the front serving to cool the water. The transmission gears on these voiturettes were in constant mesh and had each speed ingeniously brought into action by separate expanding clutches, so avoiding, in the terminology of the day, the 'side-grubbing' of the gear teeth. The gearbox was bolted directly to the tubular chassis, thus, as a bonus, reducing unsprung weight. From 1900, the model was further developed with the introduction of a 4½ hp engine, now being designated a Type G. The following year the brakes were improved and wheels now had bearings with oilers within their slightly bulged hubs.
This project comprises a chassis frame from the later G Series, identifiable by its wheel hubs/brake set up. The chassis is stamped with a number possibly 2551, and is complete with springs, axles and wire wheels. It is presently fitted with an earlier 3½hp engine, number 1059, and also has a gearbox, a partially constructed body, and sundry other parts and fittings including a recently cast but un-machined steering pedestal.