February 5th, 1880, Gabriel Voisin was born in Belleville, France. By the close of the century, Gabriel and his brother Charles had invented various items such as a car and a rifle. Gabriel Voisin began showing his true genius for design during the First World War by producing aeroplanes for the French. The designs would later translate onto the automobies he would create, many resembling aerodynamic machines that appeared to be suitable for flight.
By the close of the First World War, Voisin began tinkering with automobile production. The need for airplanes was deteriorating so he converted his Issy-les-Moulineaux, Seine facilites. He had learned a great deal from aviation, such as aerodynamics and lightweight construction.
His vehicles featured sleeve-valve engines. The vehicle design was based on a Citroen. His first creation was the 8/23 CV powered by a 3969 cc power-plant. This automobile stayed in production for nearly ten years. In 1921 a 7238 cc, V12 powered Voisin was introduced. The same year a 1244 cc four-cylinder vehicle, dubbed the C4, was introduced. Various models were introduced throughout the years including the 1930's Diane, Simoun, and Sirocco.
The sleeve-valve engine did not have a camshaft and valve setup, rather used sliding plates to close and open the cylinder ports. The result was a quiet engine that was constantly plagued with oil-related problems. None the less, it was an ingenious design and one that would continue to power Voisin automobiles for many years. Other distinguishing yet remarkable mechanical improvements were the use of aluminum to reduce the weight of the vehicle while retaining its structural rigidity.
By 1927 a new six-cylinder engine was introduced powering the new model series. The 2.3 liter engine was small and produced nearly 70 horsepower. With a 70 mph top speed for most of the automobiles powered by this power-plant, the engine was not the most powerful option available. Gabriel had chosen the smaller engine because the larger 12 cylinder series were not selling as well.
In 1934, Voisin introduced a straight 12-cylinder automobile. The engine was constructed using two blocks of six. By using two blocks instead of one, the center of gravity was closer to the geometric center of the car.
1936 was the final year that Voisin would power his automobiles using sleeve-vale engines. Due to financial difficulties and the loss of control of his company, Voisin was forced to use the American Graham 3500cc engine.
The Voisin automobiles were high priced, exclusive automobiles that often introduced advanced technology and unique styling. Royalty, wealthy, and prominent individuals were mostly the clientele of the Voisin automobile. The high maintenance associated with the sleeve valve and the delicate construction has reclaimed many of the Voisin automobiles over the years, making them even more exclusive by today's standards.