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Imperia Nessonvaux; the forgotten Empire

Imperia Nessonvaux

Springtime, the sun is shining and with some friends, I made a hike through the valley of the small river Hoëgne, near Spa. On our way home to Aachen, I had the idea to make a short side trip to Nessanvaux, where you still can see the remains of the once so proud factory buildings of the Automobiles-Imperia.

Imperia was founded in Liege (Lüttich) in 1904 by Adrien Piedboeuf. In 1906, the first three modells, designed by German engineer Paul Hentze (Simson / Steiger) were presented. All three cars were four-cylinder ones with a capacity of 3, 4.9 and 9.9 litres. In the following year, Imperia relocated to the old Pieper buildings in Nessonvaux, a village ten miles south/east of Liege. In 1912 Imperia merged with Springuel and soon after, the yearly production climbed to several hundret automobiles per year.

After World War One, Imperia started to build Spanish Abadal cars in license, sold as Imperia-Abadal. Because of rapidly decreasing sales, Matthieu van Roggen, new owner of the Imperia factory, wanted to produce a smaller and cheaper car than the big 5.6 litre straight eight or the 32-valve 3 litre four cylinder Abadals. So in 1923 a 1.1 litre four cylinder and from 1926, a 1.65 litre six cylinder modell were built. The smaller one even had a good reputation in racing. Times changed and foreign rivals became a thread to existance for the small company. Van Roggen was quick on the trigger and bought Metallurgique and Excelsior, both in 1927 and Nagant in 1928. In 1929, an alliance with French manucacturer Avions Voisin, that was in deep financial troubles, was started. This short liaison ended just four years later but helped Imperia to penetrate into the French market.

As a consequence of the great depression, Imperia again started to build external cars under license in 1932. This time, the German Adler-Trumpf was chosen and the production went on till 1939. A highly prestiguos victim of the great depression was the Belgian luxury brand Minerva. In 1934, Van Roggen took the chance and bought the insolvent company. Luxury Minervas were produced in small numbers till 1938 and in 1936, even a front wheel drive Minerva prototype with an automatic gearbox was built in Nessonvaux. But this cooperation also ended after four years and in 1938, Minerva was sold.

After World War Two, the last "original" Imperia was built from 1947 to 1948. This was the model TA-8, based on an Adler Tumpf Junior and a Hotchkiss/Amilcar prototype, featuring front wheel drive combined with a 1.34 litre engine. A sports version of the TA-8 was also available.

But the TA-8 was not the last of the dying breed. This was, again under license, the Standard Vanguard, that was assembled in Nessonvaux and sold as Imperia until 1957. Sadly, Standard built a new factory in Belgium and cancelled the collaboration with Imperia. So without licenses or own constructions, the doors of the Imperia factory finally closed in 1957.

Today, on the road between Verviers and Liege, you pass the very good preserved bureau-building in its fantastic eclecticistic architecture. The old Imperia logo still tops the old gate. Next to this building, you can see the remains of the construction, that made the factory nearly unique: In 1928 a test track was built on the factory area. But with its cramped position in the valley, there was not enough space for the planned track. And that was the booster detonation for a fantastic one kilometer test track, that partly led over the top of the factory buildings. And that including two banked curves on the highest points. What a fantastic construction! I think that only FIAT in Lingotto and Chrysler in Buenos Aires had similar test tracks. Sadly, this wonderful piece of automotive architecture is in a totally decayed condition today.

Finally in 2008 (there was life in the old dog yet) a Belgian company bought the right to bear the name to build a hybrid vehicle, called the Imperia GT, that was presented in 2012. I´m still not sure, if I like the neo-retro look (of course I like the Topolino-style folding roof) but I think, at least you can call it unique. Sadly, I think, that the old dog finally is dead now, as the latest "news" on the Imperia-homepage dates 2015...


(text and photos: Hubertus Hansmann)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

A mystery car from another period

Please indentify for this car

Vasapa Suvarnpradip sent in this photo of a mystery car, that definitely was taking in another period than today.
The man in the photo is believed to be Rhama VI. The Sixth King of the Chakri-Dynasty in Thailand, from 1910 - 1925.
If that is correct, the photo was taken before 1925.
What we see is a big car, what looks like a little round/pointy radiator, straight bonnet, beaded edge tyres, round roof.
Can you tell us more? 

Enjoy your week.

Monday, 25 September 2017 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

Roger and Louise asking for comment

Roger and Louise asking for comment

This charming couple apparently is touring on a sunny day somewhere through the hills of France. Their names are Louise and Roger Barrier, their car is a shiny Darracq landaulette with a chauffeur. According to the license plate, the year must be 1909 or later. So far so good. But what is happening in the photo? It's been some time, since you've had the opportunity to let your imagination flow, so there must have been cropped up a lot of creativity in your minds! Throw it out and let us know what you think of this seemingly compromising situation!

Words and photo by Ariejan Bos

Sunday, 24 September 2017 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

New setup of the weekly What is it? Quiz & Quiz #454

New setup of the weekly What is it? Quiz & Quiz #454
In the past 16 years, hundreds of car quizzes have come by on our website with even many more answers from our readers. As many of the competitors are judges by now, we thought the time may have come to spice things up a little; primarily by a change in the judgment system.

This means from now on, participants will compete in a 6-month competition. So twice a year we will have a new winner for the last 24 quizzes (both as well as count here). If you participate (giving an answer is enough) you will receive 1 point. When your answer is correct, you will receive 3 points. If we declare your answer to be the best and most complete, you will receive 5 points.

In the end, you can miss 4 quizzes. So only the 20 best will count. If you participate in all 24 quizzes, you will get 9 bonus points.

The winner will receive the famous and T-shirt including a badge. Apart from that, there is an additional price, sponsored by Hans Compter Automobiles. The first prize will be the book Investing in cars by Vincent van der Vinne. After winning, we ask you to be the judge for the next period of 6 months and to send in a quiz yourself. You can happily participate again after this period.

We trust you all will keep enjoying our quizzes and we wish you all the best of luck!

The first pre-war quiz:
A well-known German designer of airplanes decided to build cars as well. He built more than 5500 airplanes for the German army before he started with cars. There are not many built and as far as we know, no car left.
We are very much looking forward who knows more about this car. Please leave your answer in a comment before Monday 25th and use no more than 100 words. Good luck!

Saturday, 23 September 2017 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

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