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1905 Léon Bollée 45/50hp 8.3-Litre Double Chain Drive Roi-de-Belges Tourer Registration no. M 829 Chassis no. 161 Engine no. 4041

Sold for £133,500 inc. premium
Lot 519
1905 Léon Bollée 45/50hp 8.3-Litre Double Chain Drive Roi-de-Belges Tourer
Registration no. M 829 Chassis no. 161 Engine no. 4041

1905 Léon Bollée 45/50hp 8.3-Litre Double Chain Drive Roi-de-Belges Tourer
Registration no. M 829
Chassis no. 161
Engine no. 4041


Young Léon Bollée followed his father Amédée into vehicle manufacture at a time when it was by no means certain whether steam power, electric power or the internal combustion engine would become the dominant motive power in the infant motor industry. Father Amedée had favoured steam however Léon saw the future in the internal combustion engine, building his first car at Le Mans in 1895. For this sporting lightweight machine Léon Bollée coined the word ‘voiturette’, a term which fell into common parlance for light cars. His tandem, two-seater tricycle was powered by a horizontally-mounted, air-cooled, single cylinder, 650cc engine rated at 3hp, adopting hot tube ignition and driving through three forward gears. The passenger sat ‘nearest the accident’. Bollée’s voiturette was quick, if not a little dangerous, and participated with some credit in 19th Century motor sport. No less a personage than the Hon. C S Rolls was to own and drive one of Bollée’s voiturettes. Bollée’s first four-wheeler was not a success, although he managed to sell the design rights to Darracq. Backed by the fabulously wealthy Vanderbilt dynasty, Léon Bollée upped his game in 1903, taking on the likes of Panhard-Levassor, Berliet and Rochet Schneider at the top end of the French motor industry. His new four wheel, four-cylinder motor cars were unashamedly expensive and built to the highest quality, aimed at the American market. The 24/28hp model displaced 4 litres while the top of the range 45/50hp cars boasted not less than 8.3 litres and final drive was by side chains – considered the most reliable in 1903. The 1.8:1 top gear ratio gave the 8.3 litre cars an impressive turn of speed and the Bollées were to earn an enviable reputation in endurance events and racing.

M 829 is the oldest four wheeled Léon Bollée recorded by the Veteran Car Club of GB. It was bought new by Capt. James Roche-Kelly of Limerick in Ireland and in those essentially rural surroundings in 1905 the Léon Bollée must have caused nothing short of a sensation wherever it appeared. The mechanical knowledge of the estate workers was limited and as a result the car was little used and relegated to the stables very early in its life, not to be disturbed for some sixty-five or so years. Its remote location in the privacy of the Roche-Kelly Estate ensured that the car remained in a remarkably original state of preservation. In 1970 the car was acquired by an enthusiast for conservation and in 1988 passed to V.C.C. stalwart and ace restorer, Tony Smallbone, in England. It was decided that this highly important car warranted a last nut and bolt restoration which was duly carried out, conserving originality where possible, the three year restoration ensuring that the car was restored as closely as possible to the condition in which Capt. James Roche-Kelly took delivery in 1905. A detailed mechanical strip-down clearly showed that the car had seen minimal use. Following that restoration this unique motor car has proved itself entirely reliable on many V.C.C. and other motoring events.

M 829 comes from meticulous ownership and is superbly presented in red livery with black mouldings and pink coach-lining. The car is furnished with deep-buttoned black leather upholstery. The impressive driving equipment includes BRC Lenticulaire Parabolique no.432, self-contained, acetylene headlamps with magnificent and rare oil side lamps by ALF Russell & Co. of Walsall and a Lucas King of the Road no.432 rear lamp. The imposing radiator cap-mounted winged dragon mascot reflects the coat of arms of the Roche-Kelly family. The dashboard is furnished with an Automobiles Léon Bollée oiler while instrumentation includes a pressure gauge and voltage gauge. The brass container on the nearside of the car is an oil reservoir and audible warning of approach is provided by a DA-Constrictor horn no.13331. Ignition is provided by a coil and Bosch Type HD magneto, while a period Zenith carburettor fuels the engine. A spare tyre is mounted on the offside running board which also carries a useful toolbox. The car sits on Dunlop Cord 875 x 105mm beaded edge tyres.

There are few cars of this precise era that compare with the size, quality and performance of this magnificent Léon Bollée. One would look to Mercedes, Panhard-Levassor, Germain, Minerva or Napier for comparables within the peer group (the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost had yet to make its debut) and rarely do European motor cars of this calibre come to the open market.

This car is offered with well presented restoration files, a V.C.C. Dating Certificate (no.1905), current licence and MoT certificate. M 829 has a commanding presence, a remarkable history, offers outstanding performance and is a guaranteed invitee to the finest Concours d’Élégance events on the most exclusive lawns, where, in our opinion, it will rank at the highest level.

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