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News from 125 years ago, 1898 – an extract from The Autocar

This extract is in fact from the 9 February 1923 issue of The Autocar – looking back 25 years to 1898. The headline image is of a Ducroiset, built in Grenoble and powered by a front-mounted 8 h.p. two-cylinder horizontal engine. Georgano has very little on this car except to say that it was a heavy wagonette with belt drive to a countershaft and chain final drive, sold in England under the name Hercules.

Other news from 1898 included a report by H O Duncan on the French motor industry, with images of the Peugeot factory. Duncan was Managing Director of De Dion-Bouton France and Chairman of De Dion-Bouton London and closely connected with motoring from its inception. He took part in the first London to Brighton Run in 1896, founded some motor journals and contributed to many others.

Toward and Philipson of Newcastle were reported as being the principal British exponents of the steam car, but seemingly were only producing experimental vehicles. Their company did not survive.

The most notable person mentioned in 1898 was Charles Rolls, who described his run from London to Wales for Christmas on the famous “No. 6” Panhard, winner of the Paris-Marseilles race. He encountered a slipping clutch and an ineffective sprag that was so worn from constant use that his car ran back on a hill. he spent the night at Swindon, after which the car continued with six people, their baggage, two boxes of tools and enough petrol for the remaining journey. Birdlip was safely descended “with all five brakes on”, and a stop to attend to a hot pump bearing was the only further incident before arrival at his family home The Hendre. Rolls considered that his report of this successful journey would “benefit the movement”. To us 125 years later the article brings home the uncertain nature of motoring 125 years ago.


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