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RACING PEUGEOTS, 1912–1913 PART 1

WHAT WITH Peugeot’s scheduled return to the U.S. market, let’s celebrate this French automaker’s racing heritage. Highly recommended sources: “The Racing Peugeots, 1912–1914,” Profile No. 73, by William Court, in Classic Cars in Profile, Vol. 4, and “Example No. Three: The 1912 Peugeot” and “Example No. Four: The 1914 Peugeot,” both by Laurence Pomeroy, in The Grand Prix Car, Vol. One. A wealth of information and illustrations prompts this in Parts 1 and 2, today and tomorrow.

Above, Classic Cars in Profile, Volume 4 edited by Anthony Harding, Doubleday, 1968. Below, The Grand Prix Car, Volumes 1 and 2, by Laurence Pomeroy, Motor Racing Publications, 1954.


Laurence Pomeroy wrote, “… without doubt the most advanced racing car constructed up to that time, many features of which persisted for more than a decade and some of which had an influence on racing from that day to this.”

Pomeroy made the comment in 1954, but his statement is valid today, more than century after the Peugeots’ innovations.

This Peugeot and Georges Boillot won the 1912 French Grand Prix at Dieppe at an average speed of 68.5 mph over 956 miles. Illustration from Classic Cars in Profile, Volume 4.

A Trifecta of Features. Twin overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and hemispherical combustion chambers through inclination of these valves had each been employed before 1912. But Swiss engineer Ernest Henry (Pomeroy spells it Henri) had all three in his Peugeot four-cylinder racing engines, a 7.6-liter design devised in 1912 and a 3.0-liter design in 1913.

Ernest Henry, 1885–1950, Swiss mechanical engineer. He has been called “perhaps the most brilliant engine designer ever.” Image from gallica.bnf.fr/Bibliothèque national de France.

The first of these Henry-designed engines propelled a Peugeot to win the 1912 French Grand Prix on the Dieppe circuit, another Grand Prix on France’s Amiens circuit, and the 1913 Indianapolis 500. The 3.0-liter car was designed for and won the 1913 Coupe de l’Auto at the Boulogne circuit, finished second in the 1914 Indy 500, and went on to compete successfully with larger Grand Prix cars. It also set class records at Brooklands.

Jules Goux and his Peugeot at the 1913 Indianapolis 500 scored one of its rare “rookie” wins. Image from Classic Cars in Profile, Vol. 4.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll learn about the the Peugeots’ inclined valves, “stirrup” tappets, and desaxé layouts. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

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