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SNAPSHOT 14: ‘Siddeley–Meyan Match’ 1905

In July 1905 there took place a 15-day touring car trial between the two cars seen here. This private venture had come about because of a claim that had appeared in a letter to The Times in the early part of the year that British cars were by this time more reliable than their French counterparts. The editor of La France Automobile, Paul Meyan, objected to this assertion and issued a challenge that over 5,000 kilometres of motoring a French car would demonstrate its superiority when run against a British equivalent. John Siddeley took up the challenge and after some negotiation about the details (the distance was reduced to 4,400km) the contest took place along the roads of France.

Siddeley had intended to drive the first-built of his 18hp 3.3-litre cars that had already been used extensively but business commitments prevented him from doing so and Montague Grahame-White took his place. He is seen here at the wheel of the car on the left. Meyan drove his 1903 De Dietrich, a 24hp model of 5.4-litres capacity, which even before the trial started had covered 30,000 kilometres. This was the faster car, but outright speed was not the issue and when it came for instance to crossing the Alps there was little to choose between either car’s ability to do so effectively.

Although the start was from Paris, the contestants first went north to Boulogne and then on a clockwise tour around the edge of the country, going down to Nice in the south and as far west as Brest before finishing up back in the capital. Grahame-White had a fair amount of tyre trouble including numerous punctures of those at the rear, whisper quietly that he used Michelin tyres, whilst Meyan only had one puncture and ran on the same set of tyres for the whole excursion. Otherwise, to all intents and purposes, both cars ran faultlessly.

The outcome was a dead heat, honour was satisfied on both sides, and the Entente Cordiale between the two countries remained intact.

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