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SNAPSHOT 183: 1897 Anglo-French Motor Carriage Company

If this car looks to you like an early Benz Viktoria, then you are absolutely correct.  It may have been branded as an Anglo-French for the English market, but it was in fact supplied by the Roger company in Paris.  Émile Roger played a pivotal role in establishing Carl Benz as a manufacturer.  France was more receptive to the new-fangled motor car than was Germany in the late 1880s, and Roger was Benz’s first customer.  He already held the Paris agency for Benz stationary engines, and bought a car, possibly Benz’s third, in 1888.  He showed it under the Roger name at the Paris Exposition in 1889 and started to sell the cars.  By 1892 he had sold about 25 Benz 3-wheelers and turned his attention to the 4-wheeler Benz Viktoria that we see in our Snapshot.  The number of cars that Roger actually made in France is uncertain, but they were all sold under the Roger name.  Roger exported three cars to America in 1895, gaining much publicity, and also sold cars in England – as we now know, under the Anglo-French name.

Grace’s Guide tells us that these cars were not merely imported Roger-Benzes: they were manufactured – or at least modified for the English market – by Leon L’Hollier’s Anglo-French Motor Carriage Company of Digbeth, Birmingham from 1896 to 1897.  Advertisements in Automotor Journal at the time certainly implied English manufacture in Birmingham.

We also know even more about this particular car.  This picture dates from March 1897, and we find in the accompanying article that it was supplied to Mr J B Foster of Bombay, where this photograph was taken after the car had completed a successful trial trip followed by a crowd of interested onlookers ‘loudly calling attention to the “bin ghora-ka-gharry” (carriage without horses).’  The car was then sold to an Indian prince, who was purportedly very satisfied with it and used it for long rides.  More orders were subsequently received from this part of the world as a result.  The magazine article on this car suggested that there would be a more extended article on the company in a future issue.  Sadly, Roger died in 1897 and his company died with him.  Sure enough, the 19 November 1898 issue of Autocar stated that the Anglo-French company in Digbeth was in difficulties and their stock of sixteen finished and part-finished cars were to be auctioned.

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