The Skiff car body was often constructed of wood to a marine architecture, with most being boat-tails, but this was not always the case. One of the earliest creators of this design (and possibly the inspiration behind the skiff boat tail body) was coachbuilder Jean-Henri Labourdette. In the early 1910s, Labourdette, the third generation proprietor of Henri Labourdette, was commissioned by Chevalier René de Knyff, a director of Panhard et Levassor and a prominent sportsman, to create a vehicle that was low-weight and offered little wind resistance. Using inspiration from motor boats and hull design, the skiff body concept was created. Using three layers of mahogany on a frame of ash, Labourdette was able to create a very light-weight body and in a short time, the coachbuilder was creating bodies for other marques such as Renault, Peugeot, Hispano-Suiza, Rolls-Royce and Lancia. Other coachbuilders soon embraced the idea including Muhlbacher, Duquesnoe, and Schebera. Tulipwood was a popular selection of wood, while Labourdette favored mahogany.
This example is a Gobron-Brillié with a skiff body by Rothschild. Gustav Gobron and Eugene Brillié formed Societé des Moteurs Gobron-Brillié at Paris in 1898. Gobron had made a name for himself by escaping by balloon from Paris during the Prussian War. Brillie was an engineer who had developed a novel engine using opposed pistons. Brillie would be with the Gobron-Brillié company for only a short time, leaving in 1903. His engines, however, would continue to be used until after World War I.
The engines created by Brillie were unique and original. They had cylinders cast in parts, with two pistons in each cylinder. The lower pistons connected by normal connecting rods to the crankshaft. Rather than using a second crankshaft, as is done with modern opposed-piston diesels, the upper pistons connected to a crosshead, the ends of which were connected by rods to crankshaft throws 180 degrees out of phase with those for the lower pistons. Valves were set in opposing side pockets at the point where the two pistons reached their closest approach. The opposing motion of the pistons provides a balance such that all components may be very light.
By 1900, Gobron-Brillie was building 150 cars per year. This was a very impressive figure, considering the labor intensive hand-building process and the relatively new automobile market. Nancienne in France and Nagant in Belgium took out licenses, and Botwoods of Ipswich sold them in England as Teras.By
1903, the company was producing four-cylinder models. A year later, a racing version broke the 100 mile per hour barrier. A few years later, in 1907, the company was offering a variety of engines ranging from 4,523 to 7,598cc, and cars had twin transmission brakes and double chain drive. The list of engines expanded even further in 1908, now ranging from 2650cc four to 11,398cc six.
After the war, the company was organized as Automoibles Gobron, in new facilities at Levallois-Perret. The opposed-piston engines were used for a short time before being replaced with Chapuis-Dornier power.
In 1927, the company produced about 250 vehicles. By 1930, they produced just two. The company would close its doors forever that year.
This car is believed to have been shown at the 1913 Paris Salon, and believed to have been sold there, although the name of the original owner is not known. Around the early 1920s, it was given new wings, side storage boxes and a spare wheel to the near side. An Autovac replaced the pressurized fuel supply system. A folding windscreen was also fitted where the car originally had none.
In the 1970s, the car, which was without engine at this point in history, was purchased by David Baldock. It was later acquired by Marc Nicolosi, who managed to locate an original Gobron engine, albeit in poor condition, from its resting place beneath the sea. Uwe Hucke later purchased the car and put it on display in the Nettlstadt Museum in Germany. Charles Howard purchased the car in Nice in 1972, from a Belgian dealer called Johnny Thysbaert. Howard claims to have been the one to replace the engine, sourcing a unit from Lord Montagu. In the late 1970s, it went to the von Raffay collection in Hamburg.
In 1993, Von Raffay had the engine rebuilt and by 1997, it was running under its owner power once again. In the early 2000s, the car was sent to the United States. It made its first public appearance at Pebble Beach in 2005 and won its class in the 'Skiff-bodied cars' category.
In 2010, this Skiff Tourer was offered for sale at RM Auctions 'Automobiles of Amelia Island' sale in Amelia Island, Florida. The car was estimated to sell for $250,000-$350,000. As bidding came to a close, the car has been sold for the sum of $170,500, inclusive of buyer's premium.Also photographed at :