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SNAPSHOT 272: 1928 Excelsior

This picture appeared in the British society press in May 1928 because Excelsior, long respected for the quality of their cars but whose products were rarely seen in Britain, had decided to take importing to this country more seriously. Hayward Automobiles were the selected agents; located in Kingsbury House, King Street, St. James’s in London, they had, according to reports in Motor Sport, become agents for Excelsior and F.N. during 1927.

The Excelsior was a luxury car of some distinction. It had sporting credentials, too: Excelsiors finished first and second in the Spa 24 Hours sports-car race in 1927, and the winning car was brought over to Brooklands for the Essex Six-Hours Race, only to retire, it was said, with a choked oil-pipe.

Compagnie Nationale Excelsior was established by Arthur de Coninck in Brussels in 1903. The first cars were built in 1904, powered by two- or four-cylinder Aster engines. In 1907 the company introduced the Adex Excelsior, a six-cylinder car with a capacity of nine litres; in 1912, a racing version took second place in the French Grand Prix.

In 1909, de Coninck purchased the factory of the defunct Belgica marque in Zaventem and moved Excelsior production there.

The Belgian Royal Family were loyal customers of the Excelsior marque, and in 1926 the king allowed the company to name one of its models the Albert 1 – and this is the model shown in our Snapshot. It was powered by a 5.3-litre six-cylinder overhead-camshaft engine, and the version seen here was the Super-Sports, equipped with triple carburettors and, remarkably for a roadgoing car, dry-sump lubrication, with an output of 145 bhp and a reputed 95 mph top speed.

Despite the undoubted quality of this luxury sporting car, sales declined throughout the late 1920s. In 1929 Excelsior was sold to its competitor Impéria, becoming part of the group that also included Métallurgique and Nagant. Production continued at the Impéria factory in Liège, the cars being named Impéria-Excelsior, until the marque disappeared entirely around 1932.

Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive

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