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The Launch and Decline of the V-8; part 2

The Launch and Decline of the V-8; part 2
Last week, we published part 1 of this article about the launch and decline of the V8 engine. Today the final part. Enjoy.

De Dion Bouton was the first company to manufacture and market a V-8 motor car for consumer use. The first V-8 was available from July 1909, boasting a power output of 35hp, only marginally better than that of the bigger four-cylinder models available, but with a wheelbase of 3.5m, by some margin the largest production chassis to date, the installation of substantial coachwork was certainly possible. Between 1909 and 1914 Type Approval was sought for 12 V-8 variants, resulting in a wide choice of models being produced.  In 1914 alone there were six V-8 options for customers to choose from, with power outputs ranging from 24hp to 100hp, although some of the Types were only physically distinguished by the option of bevel or worm final drive. 
The launch of the V8 engine was met with both considerable press interest following its launch at the Turin Motor Show and general scepticism amongst other motor manufacturers. It is telling that no other French manufacturer followed the example of De Dion Bouton in launching their own V8. In a marketplace that was feeling the competitive price pressures, especially from the high-volume North American companies who were establishing a significant presence in Europe, the launch of a £1,000 car, was a courageous step to take. Whilst no other European manufacturers followed De Dion Bouton into this sector of the market, it nevertheless set the standard and it is generally acknowledged that Cadillac used the De Dion Bouton V8 as the basis for its own production, improving on some of its early shortcomings, in particular the modest power output. 
Following the declaration of hostilities in 1914 significant numbers of completed vehicles were shipped to the USA to maintain some commercial momentum for the company, and this is where most of the extant vehicles emanated from. Post-war there were 25hp and 18/20hp V8 options available for 1921/1922, and in 1923 the final V8, the 25/50hp Type IR, was launched.
Conducting research on the V-8s has its frustrations. Whilst the first V8 engine was launched to the press and the motoring public at the end of 1909, and was also featured in the factory-produced catalogues, issued at the end of September 1909, there is no evidence that any vehicle actually appeared in that year or even early in 1910. Very often the proliferation of contemporary magazine reviews and photographic references is a strong indication of both production and public interest in a particular model.  In this context, there are very few articles on the early De Dion Bouton V-8. It is impossible to determine the number of V-8 equipped chassis manufactured in Puteaux, but the production run for each Type was inevitably small given the luxury nature of the product and the associated price tag. It may be that no more than several hundred vehicles were produced over six years, based on the chassis numbers of the existing vehicles. Of these there are only six examples known worldwide at present: a 1912 Type DM and a 1914 Type EY reside in the Nethercutt Collection in California, there is a fine Type EF from 1913 in the UK, two examples are in Germany, and one in France.
Michael Edwards is preparing a volume on De Dion Bouton motor cars from 1905 – 1914, and would welcome any information on the whereabouts of any examples of these elusive V-8 vehicles, as well as the larger engined, 25/30hp four-cylinder vehicles from the period.

If you have any information on these cars, please send us an email and we will forward it to Michael: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


#3 Steve Diggins 2017-08-01 18:04
Great article. I wonder how many of us have been led to believe for so long that Cadillac was the first production V8? Also, this year it became clear to me that Packard did not build the the first production car with aluminum pistons.
#2 C.Gillingham 2017-08-01 06:28
There used to be a 1913-14 V8 De Dion Bouton in South Australia, however, I'm not sure if it's still there. It had a distinctive vertical green striped coachwork, and I thought someone else may remember it and add a bit more info?
#1 John Ryder 2017-07-31 05:43
.....As always......, not a word about Charles Brady King.... and his V8...... sad.... John Ryder... or my OHC V8 W st C..

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