Sold for $159,500 at 2014 Gooding & Company
Adorning the Minerva logo is the profile of the Roman goddess bearing the same name. In the early part of the 20th century, the Minerva line of automobiles would be worshipped by many, including Charles S. Rolls. However, even amongst so many deities, the AL would have to be considered the great goddess.
Minerva would actually be established by Sylvain de Jong. De Jong would actually be from Holland but he would set up business in Antwerp, Belgium. He would get his start manufacturing bicycles. In 1902, de Jong started producing automobiles. Using a Knight License he obtained, de Jong would start using the sleeved-valve engine in his designs and would begin producing luxury automobiles.
Throughout World War I, Minerva automobiles would be used in attacks against the Germans. But then, soon following the end of the war, the company would return to building luxury automobiles.
As the 1920s saw economies soar, de Jong's ideas for luxury automobiles would follow suit. He would have in mind what would have to be considered the ultimate luxury automobile when those same economies began to tank. Undaunted, de Jong would carry on with his remarkable AL.
Minerva automobiles had been a popular choice with royal families back in the days before the First World War. The AL would be every bit the royal goddess. Unfortunately, it would have the price to match. All kinds of luxury would not be able to carry Minerva over the storm. As a result, the company would begin offering cars at cheaper prices. Still, these cheaper alternatives would have every bit of the luxury as a more-expensive Rolls-Royce.
Unfortunately, it would be too little, too late. Minerva, the popular chariot of royals, would be lost to antiquity. By 1934, the company would merge with Imperia, another Belgian motor company. Though Minervas would continue to be made, they would last just a couple more years until the name was gone forever.
Though the company would be no more, the AL would remain; its commanding presence reminding of a day when Minerva held sway over the affairs of men. Because of its arresting price, production of the AL included just about 50 examples. In spite of the price, there were many that were faithful to the brand fully aware of the trustworthiness of the durability, elegance and its smooth and quiet ride.
Though there would be only about 50 examples of the AL ever built, there are only about eight that are known to still exist. There are even fewer examples of the AL Cabriolet. One of those eight ALs and fewer cabriolets is 80139.
Reflecting upon the car, it is not hard to understand why 80139 is considered by some to be, perhaps, the finest example of the Minerva AL, at least amongst those known to remain. The reason for such consideration is quite simple—Carrosserie Van den Plas.
Van de Plas got its start producing wheels and axle units for carriages. The company would move back and forth between Brussels and Antwerp and would have been an obvious choice for the Antwerp-based Minerva. At the same Minerva would become considered the automaker for royals, Van den Plas would have to be considered a coachbuilder for royals. Throughout the European continent, and especially in England, the Belgian coachbuilder was extremely popular.
Van den Plas custom bodies would be noted for their character and personality, and this suited the aristocratic and godly Minerva AL perfectly. For such a stately and imposing goddess, Van den Plas would fashion a design that would gracefully adorn the AL chassis. Graceful and flowing from nose to tail, the body captures the elegant dimensions of the car in simple, but dramatic, effect.
Then there are the many other refinements, beginning with the removable trunk, luggage hiding the car's tools, silver-plated hardware and ultra-rare Supralux lamps. The car is truly a work of art from beginning to end, inside and out.
Unfortunately, the first half of this car's history is lost to time. What is undisputed is that it was discovered in the late-1970s in the United States. When discovered it was in need of restoration. Minerva enthusiast, Philippe Boval would eventually come across the car and would just have to have it. He would purchase the car and would set about having the car fully restored.
The car would remain in Belgium with Boval for more than 25 years. Then, in 2004, the car would be purchased by a gentleman in California who had a great passion for cars from the pre-World War II era. Upon making the trip back to the United States, 80139 would then head to the Alan Taylor Company where its restoration could be fully completed. This was a daunting task as Taylor's company would be left having to restore a goddess to its place of prominence and influence, this meant incredible care and focus on even the smallest of details, details that were terribly difficult to address more than 70 years after the car had been originally built.
More than 18,000 hours would go into the restoration process. But, when the car was completed in 2007, the work would be fully appreciated as it would easily win its class at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. That same year, the Cabriolet would be invited to Pebble Beach and its concours event. The car would not only win its class, it would also be nominated for Best of Show. More achievements and awards would be won by the Minerva proving it still commanded the attention and respect among the serfs.
Impressive and commanding from any angle, the Minerva AL Three-Position Cabriolet certainly demands attention and accolade. It is also easy to understand why this particular chassis is worshipped above them all. Sources:
'1930 Minerva AL News, Pictures, Specifications and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z13370/Minerva-AL.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z13370/Minerva-AL.aspx. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
'A Resume of the Origin and Life of Vanden Plas', (http://www.vpoc.info/history.html), The Vanden Plas Owners' Club. http://www.vpoc.info/history.html. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
'Van den Plas', (http://www.coachbuild.com/index.php?option=com_gallery2&Itemid=50&g2_itemId=4050). Coachbuild.com. http://www.coachbuild.com/index.php?option=com_gallery2&Itemid=50&g2_itemId=4050. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
'Lot No. 41: 1930 Minerva AL Three-Position Cabriolet', (http://www.goodingco.com/vehicle/1930-minerva-al-three-position-sedanca-coupe/). Gooding & Company. http://www.goodingco.com/vehicle/1930-minerva-al-three-position-sedanca-coupe/. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Minerva (automobile)', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 July 2013, 11:19 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Minerva_(automobile)&oldid=563651640 accessed 18 February 2014
By Jeremy McMullen
Sold for $159,500 at 2014 Gooding & Company
The Minerva motor car was a favorite of the royal families, where its elegance and durability assured a faithful clientele. Like many of its contemporaries, Minerva specialized in top-end machines, spending much attention on a smooth and quiet ride. The crude and noisy engines of the time made that next to impossible, so when the Knight patented sleeve-valve engine was introduced, De Jong quickly adapted the technology.
Minerva began making automobiles in 1902, and from 1910, all were equipped with the Knight double sleeve-valve engine, prized by luxury automakers for its silence, smoothness and flexibility. All the cars were relatively heavy, but even the limousine, which weighed 5,300 lbs., could reach a speed of 70 mph.
From 1912 all Minverva's were equipped with the Knight engine that lacked the conventional and noisy valve system. The drawback of this setup was the high oil consumption, making the sleeve-valve powered machines easily recognizable.
Unusual for its time, the eight cylinder engine was cast in one block rather than being made up of two separate blocks of four cylinders. Breathing through a single Zenith carburetor and displacing just over 6.6-liters, the eight-cylinder engine produced around 130 horsepower.
Production of the Minerva AL commenced in 1930, but due to its exceptionally high price no more than fifty examples were produced. Despite adding considerably less expensive models to their line-up to help turn the tide, Minerva was one of the many manufacturers that fell victim to the Great Depression.
Minerva models were supplied with very sturdy and stylish bodies, characterized by long hoods and fine proportions on a 129-inch wheelbase. This AL model is one of less than 50 cars made with a 153-inch wheelbase. Only seven are known to exist today and this car is believed to be the only Cabriolet AL.
This 6,800 lb., eight-cylinder Minerva AL has just undergone a three-year, 1,400 hour restoration.
The name Minerva was the name of a Roman goddess and later used for the designation of a line of vehicles. In 1883 a Holland individual named Sylvain de Jong immigrated to Belgium where he began manufacturing bicycles, also bearing the name of the Roman goddess. In 1899 he shifted his efforts to building automobiles.
By 1909 his vehicles were powered by a Charles Yale Knight sleeve-valve engine. The engine proved to be dependable, low cost, and durable.
In 1928 de Jong created a 'super-car' dubbed the Type AL which he introduced to the public a year later at the Paris Salon. It featured a four-speed transmission and 6.6-liter eight-cylinder engine capable of producing 125 horsepower. Sitting atop a long 152 inch chassis, it would hardly qualify for super-car status by today's definition. With its long body it could easily carry many passengers while providing a spacious and luxurious interior.
Like many early automobile manufacturers, the World War's and Great Depressions were difficult times to endure. The producers of luxury and exclusive vehicles were the most devastated breed when the Great Depression occurred. Their limited list of clientele became nearly non-existent and many were forced out of business. This was true for Minerva, closing their doors and ceasing producing near the end of 1934. The 1200 employee workforce was let-go and Minerva became part of history.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2007