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SNAPSHOT 337: 1920 Butterosi

The Butterosi car was extensively publicised in Britain in the early 1920s. The advertising artwork in our Snapshot was created by the illustrator Reginald E Mount, well known for his motoring work, including images at the other extreme of the car hierarchy: colour advertisements for Barker and Rolls-Royce. Advertising for the Butterosi often included effusive language, such as:

“The beautiful Parisian coachwork, comfortable “roominess”, luxurious upholstery, simple, yet powerful, engine, and its remarkably low maintenance cost make the famous 12 h.p. Butterosi Four-Seater Saloon Model worthy of your immediate inspection and consideration.”

The car was, however, not widely appreciated by those in the know. In his book French Vintage Cars, John Bolster wrote: “Some people think all vintage cars are good, which only proves that they have never owned a Butterosi!”

Despite its Italianate name, the Butterosi was a French car. It was manufactured between 1919 and 1924 in Boulogne-sur-Seine, five miles west of central Paris. The car was powered by a side-valve four-cylinder engine of 1,327cc. There were three body styles: a two-seater roadster, a tourer and the closed saloon seen in our Snapshot.

The car was rare enough to feature in Bill Boddy’s Forgotten Makes No.87 in the November 1987 issue of Motor Sport. He told of his meeting with the photographer W J Brunell, formerly working for Auto magazine, at which he challenged Brunell with the name Butterosi while considering purchase of his photograph collection – as the most obscure make he could think of . Brunell came up with prints of both sides of the car’s engine, its dashboard, front and back and side views – the man was clearly a proper motoring photographer. (Boddy reported that he believed Brunell’s collection to have ended up at Beaulieu).

According to Boddy, C R Finch-Noyes of Lennox House, Norfolk Street in London took a stand at the 1919 Olympia Show to exhibit a 12 h.p. Butterosi six-light saloon. Notable features were few, but included a combined magneto and dynamo and unit construction of the engine and four-speed gearbox, with the multi-plate clutch fully enclosed by the clutch-pit but accessible through a big rectangular cover-plate. There was evidence of cost-paring in a braking system that used the same drums for both pedal and hand brakes: the pedal worked external brake-bands and the lever operated expanding shoes.

Success eluded the Butterosi, at least in Britain. In May 1923 the Light Car Company of Euston Road was still trying to get rid of an almost-new 1920 Butterosi saloon, originally advertised at £645, for £165.

Photo courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive.

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