1901 De Dion Bouton Vis-A-Vis news, pictures, specifications, and information
Chassis Num: 126
Engine Num: 2822
Sold for $163,750 at 2010 Bonhams.
Sold for $115,500 at 2014 RM Sothebys.
In 1900, De Dion, Bouton et Cie. had built steam cars, gasoline tricycles, and four-wheeled voiturettes. They had the unique distinction of being the largest engine manufacturer in the world, supplying power-plants to 140 manufacturers around the world. The four-wheel, four seat vis a vis (face-to-face) voiturette was very popular. Even America had taken notice, after a De Dion was demonstrated in Boston in 1898, and subsequently, Kenneth Skinner, of Boston, took up licensing De Dion patens in the United States.

There were several importers, but in 1900, a consortium of Americans, headed by Cornelius Field, took a license from Skinner and set up the De Dion-Bouton Motorette Company in Brooklyn, New York, with a salesroom on 66th Street in Manhattan. The company offered three models, including a Brooklyn Motorette with a single two-passenger seat, a New York Motorette with facing vis à vis seating, and a telephone-booth-like Brougham.

To boost confidence in the model and to further promote the vehicles, the De Dion went racing. They took prizes in hill climbs on Long Island, they raced with the Auto Club of New England at the Pan-American Exhibition at Buffalo, and one took 1st place in a September 1901 New York-to-Buffalo endurance test.

Unfortunately, the life of the Brooklyn-built De Dion was short. By mid-1902, Skinner had canceled the company's contract, citing violations of its conditions.

There were a few hundred De Dion-Bouton motorcars manufactured in Brooklyn, New York in 1900. These French engineered vehicles would have a significant influence on the emerging American motorcar industry. Even Louis Chevrolet was an employee of the Brooklyn-based De Dion Company. They were produced in three distinct models, with approximately five of these 3.5 horsepower Vis-a-Vis models still known to exist. These particular models were referred to as the New York Motorette.

This example is an original and un-restored vehicle that has had only four owners from new. For a quarter of a century this car was in the car of Ben Moser's collection.

This New York Type Motorette was discovered in the 1960s by the late California collector Ben Moser. It had been owned by a single family for at least half-a-century, before being purchased by Moser from the grandson of the long-time owner. When purchased, it was removed from a barn intact and virtually original, with only a few cosmetic touches made by the grandson. Moser went on to collect additional period-appropriate tools and memorabilia to go with the car.

Prior to Mr. Moser's death in 1992, the car was acquired by Jeremy Hass. The car was in good condition and quite complete, except for the fact that its leather seating was loose. The paint was largely original, and the engine ran well after a brief tune-up. Hass entered it for the 1992 London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run in England. It made it most of the way; on the final hill, however, it stalled with engine trouble.

Mr. Hass had the engine and gearbox rebuilt after returning to the United States, and the differential gear was also changed to a more favorable ratio. In 1993, he sold the car, and it has had two owners in recent years.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2014
Motorette Vis-A-Vis
Chassis Num: 128
Engine Num: 5222
Sold for $191,400 at 2013 Bonhams.
During the early years of automobile production, many individuals and businesses went searching for a foot-hold into the potentially lucrative market. Established automakers looked for ways to increase reliability of their product and to grow their b  [Read More...]
Motorette Vis-A-Vis
Chassis Num: 159
Engine Num: 5638
Sold for $110,400 at 2012 Bonhams.
As DeDion-Bouton entered the 1900s, they were one of the largest volume manufacturer of automobiles, having turned from steam power to the internal combustion engine. The 'vis-a-vis' was named due to its center facing seating arrangement for its pass  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2012
Marquis Albert De Dion was an industrialist and automotive genius. He pioneered many 'firsts' for the automotive industry and recognized the power and potential of the gasoline engine. He teamed with Georges Bouton, an engineer, and together they produced a self-propelled steam vehicle in 1882. To improve the ride of the vehicle a light rear axle was invented and later patented under the name 'de Dion'. In 1890 they patented a gasoline single cylinder engine and in 1895 they were producing vehicles. The single cylinder engine was also used to power sporting tricycles until 1901.

In 1985 De Dion created the first automobile club and in 1898 organized an auto show in Paris, the first auto show the world had ever seen. By the close of the 1890's, the 3.5 horsepower rear-engined petite voiture had become the world's first series-production small car.

Over 150 various motorcycle and automobile manufacturers bought licenses to build the Bouton and De Dion engine. By 1900 De Dion and Bouton was the world's largest maker of automobiles with annual production of 400 cars and 3,200 engines. By 1904 De Dion had supplied over 40,000 engines produced by their Puteaux facility.

In 1902 a 6 horsepower engine appeared still being placed behind the driver and powering the rear wheels. It used a two-speed expanding clutch transmission. An 8 horsepower engine was later introduced, placed under a hood in front of the vehicle and dubbed the Model K.

By 1903 a two-cylinder engine had been produced increasing the horsepower rating to 12. Two years later a four-cylinder version capable of producing between 15 and 24 horsepower, depending on configuration, had been developed.

In 1908 the company produced their final 8 horsepower single cylinder engine and all models were now equipped with conventional gearboxes.

In 1910 De Dion and Bouton introduced a eight-cylinder engine in 'Vee' configuration, another innovative achievement for the duo. The 6.1-liter engine was capable of producing 35 horsepower. The displacement was further enlarged to 7.8-liters and again to 14.7-liters. The eight-cylinder engine was used until 1923 when a new OHV 12-cylinder engine with aluminum pistons was introduced.

With national tragedies such as World War I and the onset of the Great Depression, the De Dion company began to struggle financially. During 1927 it ceased production temporarily and when it resumed production it had a new 2.5-liter straight eight-cylinder and a 2-liter four-cylinder engine. Sales were sluggish so the decision was made to increase the displacement to 3-liters in 1930.

In 1932 the last automobile produced by the De Dion Company was produced. It continued to produce trucks until the close of the 1940's when it shifted its focus to servicing automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2010
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