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THE MOTOR car image below is exemplary of a wonderful path that led from pepper grinders to cage crinolines to one of the earliest of the world’s famous automakers, Peugeot.
I had a first-hand tour of this 1892 Peugeot Type 3 Vis-à-Vis at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. My host was Daniel Ward, who with his brother Toby has a meticulously chosen collection of early automobiles in North Yorkshire, England.
French manufacturer Peugeot was established in 1810, originally as a metal-working firm. By 1842, it added salt and pepper grinders and coffee mills to more traditional tool making. Its fabrication of crinoline hoops for skirts, popular from the 1850s, led to other steel products including bicycles.
Armand, grandson of one of the founding Peugeots, introduced Le Grand Bi, a penny-farthing, in 1882. Soon, he started hanging out with the likes of Gottleib Daimler (who perfected Otto’s four-stroke engine) and Léon Serpollet (of early steam-car fame).
Indeed, the first Peugeot automobile, in 1889, was three-wheeled and steam-powered. Daimler and others persuaded Peugeot that the future was in internal combustion and four wheels, and so his Type 2, produced 1890–1891, had these features. The Type 3 followed, built 1891–1893, with production of 64 vehicles.
Daniel and Toby Ward bought their Type 3 from descendants of its original owner who bought it new from Armand in 1892. This car, the 23rd Peugeot ever built, is considered one of the oldest roadworthy vehicles in the world.
Vis-à-vis was carriage nomenclature for seating facing each other. This means, of course, that the driver and a select occupant see where they’re going; others, where they’ve been. Given that the car’s top speed is perhaps 13 mph, this is no big deal.
The Ward’s Type 3 engine is a rear-mounted 1206-cc 16-degree V-twin, built under license from Daimler. Its inlet valves operate automatically; that is, they’re opened by the partial vacuum created by the engine’s lengthy 120-mm downstroke. (Its bore is only 80 mm.) The exhaust valves are actuated by pushrods.
The engine is water-cooled, with the Peugeot’s chassis tubes providing some of the necessary plumbing. (Colin Chapman came up with this some 70 years later.)
This engine produces around 2 hp at a spring-governor-limited 400 rpm, all the while making gentle teuf-teuf-teuf sounds. (It wasn’t until higher compressions came along that engines made appreciable noise.) Daniel told me at Monterey, “It was considered vulgar to claim excessive horsepower as it hinted at being a commercial vehicle.”
Hexane, akin to dry-cleaning fluid, is the Type 3’s optimal fuel. The engine originally had hot-tube ignition, with a constantly burning open flame. To mitigate fire hazard, the Wards, who use their old cars, changed this to an electric ignition.
Drive from the engine travels forward to a four-speed gearbox residing beneath the car’s floorboards, then aft to a twin-chain drive. This transmission’s straight-cut bronze gears remind me of Emile Levassor’s comment about his own car’s gearbox design: C’est brusque et brutal, mais ça marche….” (“It’s rough and brutal, but it works….”)
Steering is by tiller. To the best of my ken, braking occurs somewhere along one of the shafts transmitting the drive; there’s no visible sign of brakes on any of the four wheels. A transverse leaf spring provides the front suspension; longitudinal leaf springs locate the rear axle.
Back in 1891, Armand got permission to enter a Type 3 prototype in the inaugural Paris-Brest-Paris cycling event. The Peugeot ran for 1471 km (914 miles) of the event’s total 2400 km with no major malfunctions, some three times farther than other internal-combustion cars of the era.
More recently, the Ward brothers have exercised their Type 3 in events such as the London to Brighton Run and Switzerland’s Tour du Lac Leman. I suspect that both Daniel and Toby rode facing forward. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017