This is the second of two snapshots (the other being Snapshot 213, the Rollo) from a recent find in Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales. The building that is now the ‘bygones’ shop where this picture was discovered can be seen on the extreme right of the picture. The building in the middle is now an excellent café.
This model of Darracq had a strong reputation in the period before Word War I. Although clearly French, it was far more British than might be thought from its name and its place of manufacture – in Suresnes, near Paris.
The Darracq company was founded in 1896 by Alexandre Darracq. In 1903 he sold his business to a private English company, A Darracq and Company Limited, and took a significant shareholding and a directorship.
After 1907 the company was finding it increasingly difficult to sell its cars. Prices were reduced, but new models failed to sell as well as expected. So, at the end of 1911, with the idea of building a new low-cost, good-quality car, Darracq launched a 14-16 hp at £260. But the company’s founder made a disastrous mistake. He insisted on the use of the underpowered and unreliable Henriod rotary valve engine, causing insurmountable production difficulties. He was forced to resign.
Immediate action was needed and was taken. Hopkins, a main board director, was sent to Paris as the general administrator. Owen Clegg, Darracq employee and former Rover Company chief engineer, was brought back from the USA where he was studying production methods, and was appointed works manager.
Clegg had designed the successful Rover 12 and had the sense to copy it for a new Darracq, the 3-litre V14 16 hp car. To this he added the equally sensible and reliable 2.1-litre 12 hp model.
An equally important development was the retooling of the Suresnes factory for mass production, and it was soon producing 60 cars per week and employing 12,000 men.
It is therefore not surprising to find one of these excellent Darracq models in Clapham around the period of World War 1. Judging by the relaxed demeanour of the four men in the picture, the car has reliably brought at least one of them to this delightful location and will no doubt safely make the return journey.