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The history of racing cars: Early underslung racers

The history of race cars: Early underslung racers
In a previous post on the history of the underslung car in Europe I had expected comments as I had omitted the earliest examples: in the racing world the concept had been applied already much earlier. In fact, the first, though only partly underslung car was the 1899 Amédée Bollée racer, which competed in the Tour de France of that year. These racers with bathtub-like bodies had a very low chassis with two transverse springs at the front and longitudinal quarter-elliptic springs at the rear. In a technical sense only the rear of the car was underslung. They were not very succesful as out of four participating Bollées only Castelnau would finish. The first fully underslung racer was a 45 HP Wolseley with horizontal 3 cylinder engine, intended to take part in the 1902 Paris-Vienna race and the concurrently held Gordon Bennett race. The other cars in the team were 30 HP cars of conventional chassis design. Mr. Crowdy, in the lead photo seen in the passenger seat, would drive the car to the start of the race. He never reached Paris however, just like an according to rumours existing reserve car of similar design, which even didn't make it out of England. Problems with the newly designed 3 cylinder engine seemed to be the cause, but details about this 'failure' were never revealed. In 1905 Renault applied the underslung design on their racers during the eliminating trials for the Gordon Bennett race. Also the underslung Renault was not a succes, although according to driver Szisz the reason for the failure was exceptional wear of the tyres. He was quite satisfied with the behaviour of the car. Neverthless the Renault with which he would win the first Grand Prix in 1906 was of conventional design, though fitted with wheels with quickly detachable rims!

Words and photos: Ariejan Bos
Sunday, 19 March 2017 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

What is it? Quiz #441

Whatisit-quiz #441

Textile and textile-producing machines were the core business of the manufacturers of this taxi with nice round radiator. Cars and engines were their hobbies and only a very small number were made. In fact you see more than 1 percent of the entire output. And although the driver indicates that his cab was free, the chance of getting a ride would have been very small even in that time as there was only one city in France where you could find them. And oh yes: one car is still with us! So tell us the make of the car and all other facts you can find about this interesting footnote in car history and you might become the glorious winner. But don't forget: do not use more than 100 words and send it in before Monday, March 20th.
Don't forget to check the rules under 'Read more'.

Saturday, 18 March 2017 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

A pioneer lady driver, Lucie Dasse

A pioneer lady driver, Lucie Dasse
Lucie Dasse, a pioneer lady driver
Looking at period pictures of old cars, one sometimes wishes to have been born 100 or more years ago, to have eyewitnessed the birth of the motorcar. Or even have participated its inception... 
In Belgium, it would have helped if you were a hands-on person not only in the obvious cities with long-time experience in engineering like Liège (FN), Antwerp (Minerva), and Charleroi (Germain, Métallurgique), but also in some smaller places.
When Gérard Dasse, a mechanic from Verviers built his first motorcar at the end of the 19th century, its mechanics were based on Benz lines. It was very much a prototype, and mainly used as a proof-of-concept machine. 
Gérard Dasse received much help in the construction of his vehicles from his sons Yvan and Armand. But the interest of today goes to their sister Lucie, the gorgeous lady who figures in the two pictures shown here. She must have been one of the first Belgian lady drivers and her clothing was not untypical for the lady motorist of that day.
She is seen on the second Dasse car, developed around 1895, a tricycle with two front wheels. Dasse plumbing background is visible in the chassis design, where the horizontal engine takes a central position with belt-drive to the rear wheel. A water reservoir acts also as the rear mudguard, and the seats are already suspended, but the spoking of the wheels is still radial.
The Dasse family went on to build many types of vehicles including racers, lorries and buses. They also even started a school for mechanics and foundry. The company eventually closed in 1956. Armand died in the same year, Yvan in 1964. Not much more is known about the life of the lovely Lucie Dasse, but we’d love to hear if any reader does !

Words and photos: Nick Jonckheere
Friday, 17 March 2017 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

The most complete Rolls Royce collection?

The most complete Rolls Royce collection?
Just live your passion,
this is what Miguel de la Via must have thought in the eighties after a successful business career.

Being a car lover he started with the fundamentals for any collection; (re-) building a castle to host the collection. Near Bilbao he entirely restored the 14 th century Loizaga Tower and build a castle around it. In the year 2000, the job done, he set out to live his hobby.

In a period of ten years Miguel collected an impressive 75 classic cars, 45 of them being Rolls Royces. And as we all know from our period as stamp collector, you need one of each to complete a series. Now the collection is complete with one fine example of each Rolls Royce, starting with the Silver Ghost up to the take over by BMW.

And like the stamp collection the challenges lays in the exclusive models. In its time the Phantom IV was the flagship between the flagships. Sold primarily to heads of state, only 18 where made. Three of them, former cars from Franco, reside with the Royal Family of Spain, one with Queen Elisabeth, and serveral others in various palaces around the world, leaving only one in the market. Miguel de la Via managed to lay hands on the car formerly sold to the ruler of Kuwait.

After the passing away of Miguel de La Via, some years ago, his niece is now managing the collection and when you visit the castle, chances are that she will show you around personally and tell you the personal story of each and every car.

She will certainly be our host at the start of the Via Iberica rally for pre-war cars on June 4th.

Words and photos: Bart Kleyn

Thursday, 16 March 2017 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

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