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A Monday chaindrive Mystery (update: Mercedes 1904/05 ?)

hawkes chaindrive_truck_mystery_470

Jon Dudley's great uncle was a successful merchant in seeds and flour miller (at 149 Evington Rd. Leicester, an address now with a certain fame as the 'Picnic Kebab House' not too far from the 'Jungle Parika'... well, times are a changing). In the words of Jon Dudley his great uncle Ernest Hawke - here at the wheel - is looking 'quite the young blade'. Best proof of that is the car he gave to his wife which we saw last Friday. And wow, wouldn't you look at the world like him when you owned a chaindrive delivery? Of course we like to learn which car is involved. Don't tell us it's another Gordon Watney...

Monday, 09 March 2015 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

Somewhat hidden at Retromobile: Tracta 1928

1928 tracta_470

The most innovative car at Rétromobile.
Aside the Baillon cars, Rétromobile this year was quite strongly dominated by the beautiful Italians (and Spaniards) from the 1940s up to the 1970s. The black Alfa Romeo’s from the Lopresto collection were spectacular but it seemed as if all this postwar brilliance had a negative influence on the number of people that visited the area around the PreWarCar stand, the area where the veterans (not very many) and vintage cars were displayed.
(editor: you must have chosen a quiet hour to visit our stand Fons; I still have the pictures on my retina of the massive crowds that passed by...) 

In between the club stands were two stands devoted to the heritage of the French genius Jean Albert Grégoire. One of these was the stand of the Avignon Motor Festival where they had managed to display two examples of the first attempt by M. Grégoire to enter the French car market: the Tracta. I have seen pictures of the very first Tracta, the model A, several times in the past but only if you stand in front of this car, and you compare it to your own middle-of-the-road 1925 Charron or to almost any other car of the mid 1920s, you realize how very different and revolutionary the Tracta was. It is low, has a very long bonnet and – above all – it clearly shows the very first reliable front-wheel-drive system which was applied to a French ‘production car’.

Grégoire was trained as an engineer but became a 'garagiste' in Versailles in the early 1920s and like so many of them he got the idea to build his own car. His associate Pierre Fenaille convinced him the car should have 'traction avant'. Grégoire then invented the ‘homokinetic’ joint (actually proposed for the first time in 1690!), a solution that was used some years later by Citroën and others. The Tractas showed their reliability and performance several times at Le Mans; the car shown at Rétromobile took part in 1928 and 1929. Those interested in Grégoire’s own account of the Tracta story should at least try to find a copy of ‘Best wheel forward’, a translation of the book he published in 1953. This very model A comes with a remarkable story. It was bought in 1958 by a young French car lover who had noticed the car abandoned on a boulevard along the Seine in Boulogne-Billancourt. Since then the car, which is said to be the third Tracta ever built, has been kept in original condition.

(Text and pictures by Fons van Alkemade)

Sunday, 08 March 2015 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

About Quiz #389: 1909 Lane Model 15 or 1910 Model 20? No winner?

About Quiz #389: 1910 Lane model 20

When you read back the answers to last week's quiz you can only conclude that we must have ruined the weekend of jurymember Ariejan Bos. We wrote the quiz car was made in Pennsylvania, which should have been New York. This editorial slip of the pen probably made him plough his full library to find a brass era steamer looking like this yet made in Penna... Errare humanum est, Ariejan. Sorry!

To take out all misunderstanding, here is the makers plate of the fabulous Lane steamer which was subject of last week's quiz. A next problem is that we are not really 100% sure what the identity of the car is. Most competitors stat that we are looking at a 1909 Lane Model 15. Do they tap from sources of knowledge that we nor the owner have? Or are these experts quoting  from ill informed sources?  Very hard to say. Two facts are clear: the chassis number of the car is #2080. The 'object report' of the Henry Ford Museum which comes with the car states the wheelbase is 102-1/8 inches. We asked jurymember Stanley Steamer historian Kit Foster for help and he explains: "The chassis number doesn't help much. Grace Brigham's Serial Number Book has no listings for Lane. The company had built 500-some cars by 1909, and another 123 in 1910, so it's difficult to make sense out of #2080 in that context. I think the key is the wheelbase, measured by The Henry Ford as 102-1/8 inches. That's closest to the 103 quoted for the 1910 Model 20 in the Standard Catalog of American Cars." 

So basically we have to decide is the Standard Catalog wrong? Or are the other sources wrong? In other words? Is the motorcar depicted above a 'short wheel base' 103" 1909 Lane Model 15 or is it the 1910 Model 20 with 103" wheelbase as described in Beverley Rae Kimes Standard Catalog?  
Please send us your opinion in order to help decide who is winner.... if any.
Saturday, 07 March 2015 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

A Lady Version of the Gordon-Watney De Dietrich? (update: or Benz, Mercedes, Turcat Méry? )

ernest hawke_chaindrive_motorcar_mystery_470
See that happy smile, mrs. Hawke barily can overlook the bonnet of her chaindrive tourer. A few sizes smaller than the 135 HP De Dietrich Gordon Watney as presented earlier this week but still a strong look-a-like. Another project Gordon Watney rebody maybe? We see nearly the same tasty wheeldisc treatment and many other parallels. Wings have a flimsy look, the headlights somewhat small and the cap protruding from the radiator toptank looks like a later addition. The photo was earlier shown in The Automobile, but it never came to a real identification. Maybe the Gordon Watney has stirred up enough old dust to finally identify this car as well? The car was owned by Ernest Hawke - who was a succesful flour miller from Leicestershire. He had a weak spot for chaindrive cars as you will find out with our Monday mystery...

editor: thank gents you for all the wise comments you sent. However what's not clear to us on which make of car you ended. With several remakrs we get the impression that you folks think this is the same car as last Wednesday which it obviously is not...)

(family album Jon Dudley)

Friday, 06 March 2015 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

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1948 Lincoln Continental Coupe
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