Artcurial to Sell Rare Voisin Aérodyne
In naming one of his creations ‘Aérodyne’, Gabriel Voisin paid testament to the pioneers of the early aeronautical industry. Of imposing size and elegant lines, the avant-garde design remains one of the most beautiful and dramatic ever built. It lacks just a tailplane – yet still seems to fly.
Certain inventors are touched by the destiny of others. Gabriel Voisin (1880-1973) certainly knew how to live and was one of aviation’s early pioneers. He created the company Voisin Frères in 1907, and it soon became one of the most significant airframe manufacturers in France. The First World War released unheard-of levels of demand and the company did well.
Success did not bring satisfaction for Voisin, however, so in November 1918 at the age of 38 he stopped manufacturing aeroplanes and liquidated the company. Joined by engineers Dufresne and Artault from Citroën, he commenced car manufacture and announced his first vehicle, the Voisin M1, in 1919.
Grandeur and decadence
Over the next decade - 10 years of success, tragedy and frustration - the innovative engineer (and sometime dissolute dandy) reached his peak of fame. He was a friend of artists, politicians and celebrities such as the architect Le Corbusier. In 1929, the worldwide financial crash crushed the company and by 1931 it was under the ownership of the Belgian company Imperia. Not to be defeated, Gabriel Voisin filed a lawsuit against Imperia and by 1933 owned the company again.
The following year less than 150 cars were produced – against 1200 or so in 1928. The company was running out of creativity. From this painful period was born the Aérodyne: a car so dramatic and innovative that it was hoped it would restore the company’s fortunes. Named the C25, the first prototype was equipped with a 2994cc Knight six-cylinder engine and a sliding roof that could retract into the cockpit.
Luxurious, but late
The new Voisin also featured futuristic developments such as driver-adjustable suspension and a two-ratio gearbox by Cotal-Voisin with electrically operated overdrive. It had all the refinements you’d expect in a car intended for the very top customers in France.
However, it was too late and much too expensive. 88,000 francs for a Voisin compared unfavourably with a Bugatti Type 57 Galibier costing ‘only’ 70,000 francs. Just seven Aérodynes were constructed and the model was replaced, in 1936, by another space-age design, the Aérosport. That, too, failed to rescue Gabriel Voisin. Successful or not, the Aérodyne remains one of the world’s most beautiful cars and truly has a place in the ‘art gallery’ of automotive design.
This 1936 Voisin Aérodyne will be sold by French auction house Artcurial at its 14 February 2010 sale to be held at the Palais des Congrès, Paris. For further information, please contact François Melcion, tel. +33 (0)1 42 99 16 31, email: [email protected] or visit www.artcurial.com
Text: Christophe Wilmart
Photos: Bernard Canonne
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