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About Quiz #404: Stabilia

about quiz_404_stabilia_2-800

Poor Edouard Vrard. He must have been quite a prolific inventor who tried hard for many years to sell his extraordinary cars, but it seems that he had little success. And to make things even sadder, nobody recognized his Stabilia torpedo-sport 12/15 HP of 1920 of last week’s quiz...

So this underslung and – I think – attractive car is not a Voisin (sorry Erwin Vink) and not a Gobron (sorry Mr. Poisson). There is a link, though, between Stabilia and Gobron (Gobron sold their own cars as Stabilias) but that link didn’t exist yet in 1920. Mr. Vrard, who had worked in the automotive industry since 1896, was an inventor with clever ideas who couldn’t find the right people to make his cars successful on the market. Maybe the European market of the 1910s and 1920s was not ready for underslung cars. But the same may be suggested for the American market: the high class American Underslung collapsed in 1913/1914 after only some eight years of low production numbers.

Both the American Underslung and the Stabilia were born in 1905, so it seems that ‘underslung was in the air’. In 1905 the French journal 'Le Chauffeur' wrote about the Stabilia and the article even included some physics formulas to proof the fact that cars with a lower centre of gravity are stabler and can run faster while taking corners (which most people will believe without mathematical evidence). The illustration in the article clearly shows how the Stabilia had been lowered: the chassis was installed upside down (‘inversable’ in French). The author sums up all the main advantages of the underslung system: stable driving, no skidding; the use of large wheels gives less ‘usure’ of the tires and – again - stability; less air resistance leads to higher speeds.

When our quiz car was described in the sales brochure, the number of “points of superiority” was even more extensive: automatic shock absorbers, the irreversible steering system could be regulated while driving, all organs of the car could be easily removed independently without the need to remove parts of the body, a carter enclosing both engine, gearbox and back axle and – last but not least – no exhaust gasses could reach the passengers. The brochure even showed a Spanish Stabilia owner who had been able to climb a steep hill near his home town on a road with forty centimeters of snow, in 1914. Alas, the public didn’t buy Stabilias and it seems that not a single one survives today.

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