1902 Rochet 4 1/2 Hp Type D Chassis no. 1369 Engine no. 2627
Not to be confused with the Rochet Frères and the Rochet-Schneider, both built in Lyons, the Rochet was built in Paris by Compagnie Générale des Cycles et Autos at 74 Rue de la Folie, Regnault, Paris XI. Like so many pioneer motor car builders Rochet had entered the automobile industry from the cycle industry a logical progression. Edouard Rossel of Lille provided the designs for the first Rochet cars which were conventional forward-engined, twin cylinders with four-speed gearboxes and double side-chain drive to the rear wheels. By 1900 the company was offering a 12hp car and unusually, in 1902, reversing the trends of most motor manufacturers, the company marketed a small rear-engined car adopting a 4 1/2hp, single-cylinder Aster engine, driving via a cone clutch through a Bozier gearbox - a delightfully neat piece of engineering design and finesse. There is little doubt that Rochet were keen to follow the commercially successful design formula which had been adopted by De Dion Bouton for their early voiturettes. Rochet even copied the vis-à-vis seating configuration as used by De Dion Bouton, itself drawn from the horse-drawn carriage era. Although a most sociable design, allowing driver and passengers to sit facing each other, it was arguably not conducive to road safety and this configuration was short-lived.
This exceptionally attractive French voiturette is smartly presented in red livery with black body mouldings and fine red coachlining and furnished with buttoned red upholstery and equipped with nickel fittings. The vis-à-vis coachwork bears the plate of Bergeon & Cie, Carrossiers of Bordeaux. The car is equipped with a practical hood useful on those occasional wet drives down the A23 and this has recently been re-covered. Driving equipment includes also a double-twist bulb horn and oil side lamps. '1369' has been VCC dated and carries a dating plate for Certificate no.2240, issued in November 1998.
Driving is simplicity itself, the 80 x 90mm, 452cc Aster engine, driving through the two-speed Bozier gearbox. Originality has been carefully maintained in all major respects although a discreet electric water pump has been fitted for convenience. The car has previously been owned by Robert Hadfield, past Chairman of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain in whose hands it completed the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 2003 and 2004. The vendor purchased '1369' from Bonhams LBVCR sale in 2010, and has since completed four Runs without issue.
This quintessentially French veteran car comes with a quantity of invoices from present and past ownership, along with a French edition of the owner's manual.
Entered for the 2014 Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, '1369' will carry number 112 with a 7.14am start time.
Registered in Switzerland, the Rochet will be subject to 5% import duty if remaining within the European Union.