The National Automobile Museum (Cité de l’Automobile) in Mulhouse, France, is a car lover’s treasure trove of rare and unique automobiles with names many Americans have never heard of. I’m curious, how many of these do you recognize?
1878 Jacquot Tonneau A Vapeur – Not quite as delicate as the typical steam powered car one is used to. Look at these early wheels/tires. Bardon 1897 – This early 2 cylinder automobile is one of a few dozen manufactured during the five years this company existed. The 1898 on the front of the car is not a date stamp, it stands for 1898 cubic centimeters. Rheda Phaetonnet 1899 – A phaeton denotes a car body style, lighter than a touring car, having no moving windows in doors (if the car has doors) and no permanent top. From 1898 to 1902 Rheda was known for their high quality work in wood and wrought iron. The iron curves are quite similar to a sleigh and the single piece of wood for both fenders and running board is quite an achievement, but typical. Maurer-Union Vis-A-Vis IB 1900 – This extremely stylish vehicle produced for the general public, not the upper class, was powered by a 1 cylinder which produced a top speed of 45 km/h. Can you even imagine?
Zedel Coupe Docteur CI 1911 – Zedels were known for their strength and high quality, a precursor to the boxy but safe concept. At the end of the 1920’s Zedel was one of the largest automotive manufactures in France. Never heard of them, which made our museum visit all the more fascinating. Lorraine-Dietrich Torpedo Type B3-6 1923 – An established locomotive manufacturer in Alsace-Lorraine, De Dietrich et Cie began building cars early on for other manufacturers, however it wasn’t until after the war they restarted under the name Lorraine-Dietrich. Known for performance cars, you might recognize the name of one of their early engineers, Bugatti, designer of their early race cars.
Americans know the name Dietrich as an early coachbuilder who built bodies for Packard, Franklin, Erkine and Lincoln. Raymond Dietrich became the first head of design at Chrysler and later as a freelance designer. It is purely a coincidence the name Dietrich is associated with automobiles on two continents. There is no relation between the two. Salmson Biplace Sport Val 3 1928 – Salmson followed the aircraft engine to car manufacturing footsteps much like Avion Voisin. Between 1921 and 1928 Samson achieved over 500 wins and 10 world records in auto racing. We know Le Mans or Daytona as the modern day endurance racing circuits, this was Salmson’s endurance racer of the day – there are similarities to modern day racers.We end in 1953 with a very stylized Parisian Hotchkiss-Gregoire Berline JAG. Another name we’d never heard of. With a long automotive history which began in 1903, Hotchkiss was merged into Delahaye in 1955. Hotchkiss bought the rights from Gregoire to their pioneering design of the front-wheel drive to build these cars.
I had always fantasized about the existence of foreign cars I’d never heard of, but not in my wildest imagination were we prepared for what we discovered in Mulhouse.
On another note, got a something cool in or about your garage? Would you like to be featured in a blog post? Send me an email. We’ve got a neat garage story in a couple of weeks and are always looking for more.