Nothing is known of the origins of this almost certainly unique motor car other than what may be deduced from the vehicle itself. It carries a brass maker's plate bearing the legend 'Voitures Légères, F de Laperrelle, Mottereau-Brou (E&L)', which tells us that a certain F de Laperrelle was a maker of lightweight motor cars whose premises were located in the commune of Mottereau in the Brou canton of the Eure-et-Loire region of north western France. The Laperrelle marque does not appear in the multi-volume edition of 'The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile', and online searches have likewise drawn a blank.
In the pioneering days of motor manufacturing in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, it was not at all uncommon for enterprising individuals to build their own automobiles, and there are numerous instances of local cycle shop owners, blacksmiths, carriage makers and mechanical engineers constructing one-off vehicles using proprietary components. Indeed, many of the world's great makes started out in this way. The most surprising thing about the Laperrelle is that the maker's plate states that this car is number '96' of the 'K.D.B 10' series, which suggests that its manufacturer was engaged in series production. Its single cylinder engine is of the ubiquitous De Dion type and the transmission features dual chain drive, while the body is the work of a local coachbuilder - Pellerin - whose obscurity matches that of the car's maker. Pellerin's body plate gives the firm's address as 'Château de Montigny par Illiers E&L', Illiers, in the Eure-et-Loire department, being famous as the fictional 'Combray' in Marcel Proust's monumental novel 'À la recherche du temps perdu'. The town changed its name to Illiers-Combray in 1971. The car's only other distinguishing mark is a plate on the radiator, which identifies that component as having been made by Messrs Jules Crouvelle & H Arquembourg of 71 Rue du Moulin-Vert, Paris. Renewed in 2001, the accompanying French Carte Grise dates the car as manufactured in 1898, though this estimation is almost certainly too early.
While scrutiny of readily available sources reveals nothing about either Laperrelle or Pellerin, it is possible indeed, probable - that local trade directories of the period contain records of both firms. Assuming, of course, that they have survived the two world wars, these sources should be a fruitful starting point for the new owner's researches.
What is known about the Laperrelle is that it has had only one owner from new: the Girode family of Saigneville, a commune in the Somme department of Picardie in northern France. The car is presented in original condition, though the paintwork was over-painted by brush by the young Charles Eduard Girode in 1960, and is currently running and driving. However, it would be fair to say that this unique early French automobile deserves a full restoration to bring it back to former glory. A most worthwhile project for the Veteran-car enthusiast.