De Dion Bouton engined QuadricycleSOLD
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Estimate: $40,000-$60,000 US

Offered Without Reserve

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $77,000

2 3/4 hp, 402 cc, single-cylinder, De Dion engine with water-cooled cylinder head, Perfecta no. 2 frame, Bozier two-speed epicyclic transmission, transverse semi-elliptic front spring, mechanical brake on rear axle. Wheelbase: 47.5"

Count Albert de Dion was born of French noble descent and engineering genes. The historian Griffith Borgeson described him as “clever, amusing, the life of any party and universally popular…in spite of his ignobly eccentric part-time obsession with nasty steam engines.” The latter resulted in his partnership with Georges Trépardoux and Trépardoux’s brother-in-law Georges Bouton building steam-powered carriages and by 1885 had built several successful machines.

In the early 1890s, however, the Count began to doubt the superiority of steam, and started experimenting with internal combustion, designing two successful multicylinder units. In 1895, he and Bouton produced a revolutionary single-cylinder engine of 137 cc, boasting electric ignition and a then-amazing speed of 3,000 rpm.

Alexandre Darracq, meanwhile, was working as an engineer for Hurtu & Hautin, sewing machine and cycle manufacturers in Paris. In 1891, he associated with Jean Aucoc to make Gladiator bicycles before selling out to British investors in 1896. With proceeds of the sale, he built a large factory at Suresnes on the southwest edge of Paris and proceeded to built cycle components under the name “Perfecta.” By 1901, Darracq was building complete motor cars bearing his own name and sold more than 1,000 of them.

By 1900, France had a burgeoning motor industry, the world’s foremost, with eleven manufacturers turning out nearly 5,000 cars and numerous independent assemblers selling motorcycles, tricycles and voiturettes composed of components from various manufacturers. A common example of the genre consisted of a De Dion high-speed engine in one of Darracq’s Perfecta frames. Many of these were tricycles, but the configuration was easily converted to quadricycle form by substitution of a steerable forecar for the tricycle’s front fork.

This quadricycle is a superb example of a De Dion-engined Perfecta no. 2. The engine, which dates from June 1900, is the 402 cc, 2 3/4 horsepower version with water-cooled cylinder head. Perfecta frames came with handlebars and pedals and hubs, but no saddle, engine, transmission or wheels. These would all be procured and installed by an assembler, most of whose names were lost to time. Typical drive train included a Bozier two-speed epicyclic gearbox and cone clutch. This vehicle has been converted to wheel steering, has a later spray-type carburetor and somewhat larger tires than would have been originally supplied, but is otherwise true to the idiom. Complete when found in 1992, it needed nothing but restoration, a task performed by Brian Joseph. It is virtually flawless in every detail.

Its black paint is professionally applied, rubbed out to an extremely smooth, glass-like finish and accented by intricate pin striping. The wooden steering wheel has been restored with an outer wooden rim that has been sanded and varnished and a five spoke alloy center hub and spoke assembly. The brass is all polished to a high luster, the engine detailed to concours standards. The front passenger seat is upholstered professionally in black leather.

De Dion-engined tricycles and quadricycles are popular participants in the London-to-Brighton veteran car run. This Quadricycle is Brighton eligible, and, having been driven less than a mile since complete restoration, will give immense satisfaction on the road or in concours competition.

Please note that this lot is sold on a bill of sale only.

Reference Number 8664

as of 4/17/2007

Car De Dion Bouton engined Quadricycle
VIN 13586