1912 Berliet Type AM
Year of manufacture1912
1912 Berliet Type AM 15hp Brougham De Ville
Chassis no. 8112
Engine no. 8112
Unlike so many of his contemporaries who entered the infant motor industry from existing engineering businesses, Marius Berliet was a simple, self-taught mechanic who began work in the silk-weaving industry before joining his father in his company making accessories for the clothing trade. After attending engineering night classes he built his first, somewhat disastrous, car as early as 1894 and persisted in his endeavours, despite lack of capital, through that decade. Finally obtaining backing from Alfred Giraud, he set up his own small factory in Lyons and in 1901, assisted by engineer Pierre Desgouttes, he designed a quite successful and well-engineered, four-cylinder, 22hp car, of which it is thought around 100 examples were built.
Further expansion saw a wider range of models in production by 1904, Berliet's larger offerings showing strong Mercedes influence. Good fortune came in 1905 when he sold a licence to build Berliet-designed cars to Albert J Pitkin of the American Locomotive Co, at the same time agreeing to supply major chassis components.
By 1912, when this car was built, Berliet's range had broadened somewhat and the AM model as presented here was powered by a 15hp four-cylinder sidevalve engine.
According to a 1960s Carte Grise on file which records Mr Vander Stappen's acquisition, the car was originally registered on 15th July 1912, while an older French registration card dating from 3rd April 1929 notes that at that time the car was owned by a Monsieur Laverdet of Martel in the Cahors jurisdiction. That document also records that by 1929 the car had already received a 'Camionette' or light commercial body.
When acquired by Jacques Vander Stappen in August 1963, the Berliet was in need of considerable refurbishment. Mr Vander Stappen elected to restore the car and to equip it with a more appropriate open-drive Brougham body, which we feel would more than likely have come from a horse-drawn vehicle, rather than a motorcar. The coachwork sports a Van Den Plas plaque, but it is not known if this is authentic or if it relates to the body. Regardless, the combination is unquestionably a success and the quality of the restoration clearly shows that it was carried out to a high standard.
On formal display within the Vander Stappen Collection for decades until recently, the car has not seen active use for many years and will require re-commissioning before returning to the road.