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SNAPSHOT 292: 1948 Gatso Aero Coupé

Maurice “Maus” Gatsonides was a Dutch rally driver and inventor.  He was born in 1911 in Central Java in the former Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and died in Heemstede in 1998.  He formed the Gatsometer company in Holland in 1958.  He is now best known for his invention of the Gatso speed camera, but his main preoccupation, from before World War II, was as a racing driver.

A one-time KLM flight engineer, he entered a Hillman Minx in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1936, and entered the event a further 23 times; in a 29-year career he entered 140 rallies, 60 races and 20 hillclimbs. His best result was to win the Monte in 1953 in Ford’s works Zephyr Six.

Gatsonides was also a successful garage owner from before the Second World War.  In 1939 he built his first experimental car, the ‘Kwik’ (Quicksilver), with Ford mechanical components and a 3.9-litre V8 Mercury engine, and had some rally success with it.  After World War II he built a number of cars on the French Matford chassis and with the same Mercury V8, tuned to give 120 bhp.  Initially named Gatford, the car’s name was changed to Gatso when Ford objected to the use of their name.  Our Snapshot shows his Aero Coupé, displayed at the 1948 Geneva show.  The body was panelled in duralumin with an aircraft fuselage type of construction, a bubble cockpit top and three headlights.  The Gatso catalogue showed three more versions: Sports Roadster, 4-seater Tourer and Cabriolet.

About 11 Gatso cars were built, some being exported to Switzerland and South Africa.  Production stopped soon after, but Gatsonides made one more experimental car in 1949, a smaller model based on a Fiat 1500.  Its official name was Gatso 1500, but its flat shape earned it the nickname ‘Platje’ (‘Flatty’).  This one-off still exists in Holland.

In 1958 Gatsonides founded Gatsometer BV to make the first reliable speed-measuring device in the world, based on a gadget that he originally invented in his racing days to improve his speed on challenging rally circuits.  It was an electronic stopwatch that started running when a car crossed a wire laid across a road and then stopped when the car went over a second wire  The modern Gatso speed cameras use a combination of radar and photography to catch speeding motorists – ironic, considering that Gatsonides originally developed the Gatsometer to help him to go faster.

Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive


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