The 1907 advertisement for Passe-Partout contained this image of stylish ladies with their car. They were quoted as saying: ‘For the road, as well as for our promenade in the Bois [de Boulogne, possibly], we always take our “Passe-Partout”.’
The Passe-Partout was manufactured between 1901 and 1930 by Société des Automobiles Reyrol. They were in Neuilly on the north-west outskirts of central Paris from 1901 to 1907, and then in Levallois-Perret, very close by.
The name Passe-Partout (‘Goes Everywhere’) was used mainly for the cars sold in France. Elsewhere the Reyrol name was used. The first Reyrols were light voiturettes powered by 5hp Aster or De Dion-Bouton engines, with belt transmission and vertical steering columns. There were plans for the car to be made by the Yorkshire Engineering Company, but that firm went bankrupt before building any of the cars.
As late as 1906 the cars were still powered by single-cylinder engines from Buchet, and frames were still made from armoured wood. But in 1907 they started to use small monobloc 4-cylinder engines, and more modern pressed steel chassis. Our Snapshot could be a 4-cylinder, but its caption affirms that De Dion-Bouton engines were used in both cars and voiturettes, so single-cylinder power is still possible.
The only other early pictures we have seen of one of these cars is from the 1907 Coupe des Voiturettes. Once again the name Passe-Partout was used. Here, instead of the low-slung frontal radiator in our Snapshot, the cars were cooled by Renault-style dashboard radiators, possibly to avoid damage from stones thrown up by other competitors, but in most other respects the cars looked the same as their road-going sisters. There were three cars in the racing team, No. 52 being driven by Reyrol himself. The team came fifth in the Coupe de Régularité, with Reyrol leading the team home in 5 hours 47 minutes – a telling indicator of the toughness of races at that time.
Single-cylinder models disappeared after 1908, and conventional 4-cylinder cars were made with engines between 1.5 and 2.7 litres capacity, eventually with conventional front radiators, and the Reyrol name. The Passe-Partout name was revived in 1927 for a front-wheel-drive car looking similar to a Ballot 2LTS, but few were made. The company survived as a garage into the early 1950s.
Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive