1901 De Dion
Year of manufacture1901
Number of seats2
1901 De Dion Bouton 4½hp Type G 'Vis-à-Vis'
Registration no. VF 24
Engine no. 6060
We are pleased to report that the cherished registration VF24 is now included as part of the Lot.
Following the success of its tricycles and quadricycles, the De Dion-Bouton company introduced a new generation of four-wheeled vehicles in 1899 with a rear-mounted engine driving the rear wheels via a train of gears. With the new car came the renowned De Dion rear axle, which would find favour with many makes over the years. Originally powered by a 3½hp engine, it was upgraded with a 4½hp in 1900 and this example has the latter power unit.
This De Dion has a long association with East Anglia. It resided in the Suffolk area from its earliest days and is known to have been registered there as 'BJ 1721'. After the war the car was given to long-term owner, the late Hugh Smith of Holt in Norfolk by Ralph Barker of Ralph Barker Engineering of Northumberland Street, Norwich, having suffered from the hostilities and being in need of attention. Hugh was a brilliant self-taught engineer, who set about restoring the car to its original specification and, after years of painstaking work and effort ensuring that every detail was correct, he completed the task at the end of the 1970s. Upon completion, the De Dion was blessed in Holt Parish Church in July 1980 and a photograph of it in the church is included in the paperwork.
Hugh Smith died in 1988 and his De Dion was auctioned together with his many other cars and spares on 22nd March 1989. It found its way into a museum collection in Japan before returning to the UK in 1999 where it was again auctioned, on this occasion by Brooks at its RAF Museum, Hendon sale in April 2000 (Lot 727). The De Dion was purchased by the current owner two years later from the buyer at that sale. It participated in every London to Brighton Veteran Car Run from 2000 to 2011 in addition to those when owned by Hugh Smith in the 1980s, as well as many other rallies both in the UK and Europe, such as the Schnauferl Wanderfahrt and Teuf Teuf Club 'Rallye des Ancetres'.
Hugh Smith's restoration has aged gently and remains in generally very tidy order today. The car has been rewired and the ignition coil has been rewound this year. In recent years a considerable amount of attention has been paid to the rear suspension and drive train, with new axle end tubes (stub axles) being fitted, together with new stud bushes and refurbished drive shafts, all this work being carried out by specialists Archer's of Dunmow. It comes with several spares, such as inlet and exhaust valves, a heavy-duty cover, a purpose-built small trailer (which can be collected by arrangement with its seller) and is dated by the VCC (Certificate No. 2331).