Feb 20th 2012 – Auto of the day – Vintage – Car #5
1913 Delaunay Belleville Type O6 8L Châssis 6563
– The most powerful pre-1914 Delaunay-Belleville
– In the same family from new
– A unique opportunity for any collector!
– In the hands of Michelin family for almost a century
” Anyone unfamiliar with a pre-1914 automobile cannot claim to be a motoring enthusiast. ” This rather cynical claim was attributed to society writer Albert Mordant, who wrote incisively in Fantasio during ” les années folles ” on the morals of the period, concerned about the proliferation of production cars. It could so easily be re-written ” Anyone unfamiliar with a pre-1914 Delaunay… ”
Indeed what can be said about those who have never taken the wheel of a Delaunay Belleville O6, the jewel in the crown, the summit, the crowning glory of automobile manufacture, clearly better than the competition, from the motor car branch of the ” Ateliers et Chantiers de l ‘Ermitage ” from Saint-Denis,?
World renowned marine, railway and industrial boiler manufacturers, supplier to the French and foreign navies (including – perfect proof of their quality – the exacting Royal Navy), Delaunay Belleville started automobile construction in 1904, fortified by this unrivalled industrial experience. Like Hotchkiss, manufacturers of modern armaments, Delaunay Belleville were developing manufacturing technologies and procedures at the highest level. They were one of the first firms to apply pressurised lubrication to nautical machines, using modern techniques to balance and improve their operation. Their water-tube and rapid vaporisation boilers were amongst the most reliable and the speed with which they reached pressure impressed the Royal Navy. They provided the industry standard for the quality of their products and the high level of training given to their apprentices. Initially Delaunay Belleville produced special mechanical parts for the first motor car manufacturers, before launching into the industry themselves. The first vehicles with four separate cylinders were recognised for their quality of build (superior steel, precise machining, hand-built). The company recruited engineer Marius Barbaroux from Benz, where internal conflicts about the direction of the company were raging. This was a brilliant move as Delaunay Belleville was subsequently very popular amongst wealthy motor car enthusiasts who enjoyed powerful, silent and fast automobiles. A natural progression led to a six-cylinder engine being used in 1908 to provide more torque and a quieter ride with less vibration. By the summer of 1914, Delaunay Belleville was producing its most prestigious models, including the type SMT (Sa Majesté le Tsar), resulting from a special order from the Russian court which owned several Delaunay Bellevilles. These exclusive models were produced in small numbers to order only, often for export.
The Type O 6 was launched in 1914, with an engine of nearly eight litres and featuring the multiple plate clutch that had been introduced the year before. A special chassis, no. 6575, (4.5 m wheel base) was built for the Tsar but when the war started in August 1914, it was never delivered. The war limited further the production of this costly 40/50 HP (a similar name to that used for the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost), and this top-of-the-range motor car was requisitioned for use by senior military personnel, as were the larger Panhards, Renaults and other powerful motorcars such as the rare Rolls-Royces that found themselves on French territory.. A total of 55 examples of the type O6 were produced up to 1916 thanks to orders from the military and the State (of the five cars made for the civilian market in 1914, all were requisitioned by August). Orders for these cars ceased by early 1917, however, as the cars were considered too costly by some officials. In 1920, the Type O6 was replaced by an updated version, the Type OB6. This car featured an engine with a detachable cylinder head and overhead valves operated by rocker arms. At that time, the bare chassis sold for 90,000 francs, equal to the price of eight Citroën Type As! Given the competition from Hispano-Suiza, Rolls-Royce, Panhard and other more modern luxury cars, it is no surprise that the type OB6 didn’t develop much further than the prototype stage.
The Delaunay-Belleville Type O6 45/50 on offer is from early 1913 and is therefore equipped with the biggest engine ever offered to the public from the Saint-Denis factory. The six-cylinder 7990cc Type 36 engine was formed of two groups of three cylinders, 103 x 160mm each. This slow revving engine produced100 bhp at 1500rpm, and is taxed as 29CV. The ‘blind’ side-valve block is bolted to an aluminium sump and the crankshaft has seven bearings. A speciality of the marque, the lubrication of the shaft takes place under pressure according to the system patented by Delaunay-Belleville, used previously for marine machinery. The oil pump, directly driven by the crankshaft, operates like a small steam cylinder with the piston oscillating to suck the oil and distribute it under low pressure. Its operation is controlled by the driver with a pressure gauge installed on the dashboard. It has dual ignition, with magneto and an independent distributor. The clutch is also specific to Delaunay-Belleville – a multi-disc dry type, a solution that was rarely used at that time because of the costs involved, and is thus much more progressive and more reliable than the cone system, making it better suited to a luxury car. The gearbox has four forward gears and reverse. Transmission to the rear axle is carried by a shaft with two universal joints in a sealed system – a rarity at that time for big and powerful cars, but preferred by the manufacturer as it was quieter than chains and the maintenance was easier. The foot brake worked on two inboard drums placed before and after the transmission and the hand lever acted on drums that were a part of the rear hubs. With 935×135 tyres, the bare chassis type O6 in 1914 cost 22,500 French francs.
These Delaunay Bellevilles, emblematic of the marque’s international status, and true supercars of their day, are therefore extremely rare and important motor cars.
The history of 6563
The car on offer, with matching numbers, is a rare 1913 O6, one of the first ten built possibly as early as late 1912. Its longer wheelbase (3.74 m against 3.58 m for the standard version cataloged from 1914 to 1915) could define it as a pre-production model or a very special car (built for the Russian court?). Given the wealth and the position in the industry of the first owner it is quite possible that the car was acquired directly from the factory, before production had begun.
This car was bought new by Mr Edward Daubree, a member of the family that co-founded a small rubber factory in Clermont-Ferrand (whose history and reputation is well known) under the name of “Michelin et Cie”. When new, it was part of the motorcade organised by the Automobile Club of Périgord for the visit of President Raymond Poincaré in the Dordogne in late 1913. (As evidenced by the article in the club bulletin dated 1929.). It seems the car was not requisitioned by the military in August 1914.
The car was apparently given to Mr Daubree’s young nephew, Pierre de Brou de Laurière, at the end of the Great War and used regularly by him. In 1922, the car was eventually registered in his name in Périgueux (the mineral district of Bordeaux). The car has retained its original tourer body constructed by J. Rothschild & Fils (Ets Rheims et Auscher et Cie, Avenue Malakoff, Paris) and coated with partinium (an aluminum alloy with tungsten). This was a specialty of the horse carriage manufacturer that had been taken over in the late nineteenth century by two young engineers from the prestigious ‘Arts et Manufactures’. They introduced the use of this material instead of wood for the body in 1898. (they were also responsible for bodying the “La Jamais Contente” of land speed record breaker Jenatzy and most successful race cars between 1898-1899) The wings, needing to be stronger,used sheet steel. This heavy car, with a maximum speed of 115kph, was often equipped with dual rear wheels to reduce tyre wear. As evidenced by two detailed invoices in the file, the car returned to the factory in 1924 and again in 1928 for major restoration work, including on the engine and transmission. In 1920 the car was fitted with electric lighting. In 1939 the car was hidden in the home of the de Brou de Laurière family and the wheels were walled up in another house where Mrs Patrick de Brou de Laurière lived. Her son Pierre de Brou de Laurière and Francis Courteix (who maintains the cars in the collection) found the car there in 1986. The car was then completely taken apart and the mechanical components overhauled (which were found to be in very good condition) with only one new piston ring and installation of a starter required; Then the car was painted, and a new hood fitted, as the original hood, weakened over time, had torn during an outing. The body is in blue with black wings and black leather interior. Re-registered in June 1989, this Delaunay-Belleville has remained in the same family since 1913, with a clear continuous history and just three owners from new. Here is an opportunity to acquire an important and rare motor car that represents the best of early 20th century French car production. It is an opportunity that won’t come round again for a very long time.
Patrick de Brou de Laurière created a foundation in June 2010 for medical research against cancer, Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases. The foundation also aims to promote Arthérapie. After his death, the car was given to the foundation which decided to enter it in the Retromobile sale to raise funds for medical research
Lot 322, Artcurial 2/2/2012 Estimation 400 000 – 600 000 € Sold for 471,760 €
Comments, everything you would want in an old motor, rarity, beauty, collectability and presence, will need a very expensive restoration but when finished what a car OR option 2, just clean it and drive it. Any show would be happy to have the car.