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Definitely the gentleman about town…


Definitely the gentleman about town…
The problem with pre-war photographs of cars is that you can very rarely find anything in colour – unless you go right back to 1898!  This coloured image from that date shows a Léon Bollée Voiturette – but of a rather curious type.  Although clearly being piloted by a dapper gentleman in the streets of the city, it is in fact, according to the caption, a Type de course – or racing version.
Léon Bollée first marketed a three-wheeled vehicle, notable for its use of pneumatic tyres, in 1895. The horizontal engine was designed by his brother Amédée. He called it "Voiturette" and registered the name.
On November 14 1896, he participated in the first London to Brighton Emancipation Run in a tandem two-seater, and finished first – with Camille Bollée, on the same type of vehicle, in second place.
Just as in the case of the Brighton Run Voiturettes, most contemporary photographs of these vehicles show a two-seater, with the driver in the same position as we see here, but with the passenger perched rather dangerously in front.  Indeed, the nickname for this arrangement was “Le Tue Belle-mère” – or “The Mother-in-Law Killer” – which is amusing but not very polite.
This single-seater version, supposedly for racing, set us researching whether indeed it was used in competition.  And we found an example: an image from the April 1898 Critérium des Motorcycles – or Motorcycle Heat – showing the driver Wilfrid, and stating that in 1899 he was winner, again in the same type of vehicle, of the June 1899 Critérium des Voiturettes.
However, the gentleman in our picture doesn’t look at all like Wilfrid – so it remains a mystery as to how a racing Léon Bollée came to be the mount of this smartly-dressed man about town.
Words by Peter Moss
Photograph courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive

The problem with pre-war photographs of cars is that you can very rarely find anything in colour – unless you go right back to 1898!  This coloured image from that date shows a Léon Bollée Voiturette – but of a rather curious type.  Although clearly being piloted by a dapper gentleman in the streets of the city, it is in fact, according to the caption, a Type de course – or racing version.

Léon Bollée first marketed a three-wheeled vehicle, notable for its use of pneumatic tyres, in 1895. The horizontal engine was designed by his brother Amédée. He called it "Voiturette" and registered the name.

On November 14 1896, he participated in the first London to Brighton Emancipation Run in a tandem two-seater, and finished first – with Camille Bollée, on the same type of vehicle, in second place.

Just as in the case of the Brighton Run Voiturettes, most contemporary photographs of these vehciles show a two-seater, with the driver in the same position as we see here, but with the passenger perched rather dangerously in front.  Indeed, the nickname for this arrangement was “Le Tue Belle-mère” – or “The Mother-in-Law Killer” – which is amusing but not very polite.

This single-seater version, supposedly for racing, set us researching whether indeed it was used in competition.  And we found an example: an image from the April 1898 Critérium des Motorcycles – or Motorcycle Heatshowing the driver Wilfrid, and stating that in 1899 he was winner, again in the same type of vehicle, of the June 1899 Critérium des Voiturettes.

However, the gentleman in our picture doesn’t look at all like Wilfrid – so it remains a mystery as to how a racing Léon Bollée came to be the mount of this smartly-dressed man about town.

 

Words by Peter Moss

Photograph courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive

Comments 

 
#2 Ariejan Bos 2017-08-10 13:35
This man at the handles must be Léonce Girardot, one of the famous Panhard-drivers. In 1897 he competed with a Bollée voiturette in the Paris-Trouville race, held 3 weeks after the Paris-Dieppe event. Not really a success apparently as it was the only time I could find him competing with this type of vehicle in between his Panhard races: he finished on 24th place!
 
 
#1 RIOU PH 2017-08-08 06:30
1897 -COURSE PARIS/DIEPPE 170Kms - Vainqueur PAUL JAMIN en 4H 13mm sur Voiturette LEON BOLLEE
 

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