1903 De Dion-Bouton Chassis and Engine
RM | Sotheby's - MONACO 2016 - The Quattroruote Collection
Documents: Bill of Sale
- One of the most technically significant veteran cars
- Displays fascinating turn-of-the-century engineering
Appropriately, the oldest motorized vehicle in the Quattroruote Collection is an example of one of the most historically significant automobiles, the De Dion-Bouton. Partners Jules-Albert de Dion and Georges Bouton of Puteaux, France, were pioneers in the worldwide automobile industry, building their first horseless carriage in 1883, making it one of the first in the world. They were among the first to successfully market an automobile to the wealthy public, and they were also among the first to introduce several innovations, including the namesake de Dion rear axle, which would still be in use on sporting cars throughout the 1960s.
The De Dion-Bouton chassis and drivetrain offered here is of the so-called “Panhard layout”, after another French automaker which had pioneered the design of an automobile with a front-mounted engine, rear-wheel-drive, and a steering wheel. Its small single cylinder is water cooled and boasts a single intake valve; it sends its modest power to the rear wheels via a two-speed transmission, shifted from the steering column, with a single reverse speed selected via a separate lever. The car does not have a conventional accelerator but only a “decelerator” pedal, which acts on the driveshaft with a clutch. The brake pedal operates a brake on the transmission, while a rear wheel brake is activated via a hand lever.
In general, De Dion-Bouton was noted for producing chassis and engine alone, which were then outfitted with coachwork by the builder of the buyer’s choice. Such is the case of this car, which has been restored as a bare chassis and drivetrain—less body—for display in the Quattroruote Collection. It presents well and appears thoroughly complete, and it would be an ideal basis for a new body of period-correct design, or as a unique technical display showing off the fascinating ideas of early automotive masters.
Please note that the De Dion-Bouton chassis and drivetrain offered here is in fact a later example from 1903, not a 1902 K1 as listed in the printed catalogue. Also, once sold this lot must return to Italy following the sale to be officially exported. The transportation and post-sale storage of the cars back to Milan (Quattroruote) will be at sellers expense. The cars will be stored at Quattroruote in Milan until this process is complete and the registrations have been cancelled. Buyers can then make arrangements to collect cars directly from Quattroruote once this process is complete. We estimate the process will take approximately 3-4 weeks.