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SNAPSHOT 37: Hotchkiss in 1958

This really is a ‘snapshot’, grabbed in a moment with a Kodak Box Brownie camera by a lad of 14 whilst he was walking down a street in the Swiss town of Veveyin 1958. Getting a clip round the ear from the accompanying schoolmaster for the delay was only narrowly avoided, the master’s preoccupation being to marshal a disparate group of youngsters aboard a coach to go to the village of Gruyères and visit a cheese factory!

At the time Hotchkiss was a new make to have discovered and it was thought that it might be a pre-war vehicle, but there was no certainty about that. It was though definitely considered to be ‘old’, particularly when compared with the shape of the then current Renault Dauphine parked ahead of it, the rear end of which has crept into the shot. It is now known that the Hotchkiss would actually have been around 25 years old when ‘snapped’ because it has a flat radiator; this became very slightly vee-shaped for 1934. The overall size of the car, and its wire wheels, suggest that it is probably a six-cylinder 3-litre AM 80.

What was not noticed in 1958, and for many years afterwards, is the vehicle astern of the Hotchkiss, this being a Rovin ‘microcar’. These little chaps, about 10 feet long and just under 4 feet wide, were first produced in 1946 but the style of this example indicates that it was almost new and so the water-cooled horizontally-opposed engine in the boot was by this stage a 462cc 3cv unit, capable of propelling the Rovin at speeds of up to about 50 mph.

These microcars lasted until 1961 and were made in the former Delaunay-Belleville works in St Denis on the northern edge of Paris. A greater contrast between the two patterns of vehicles that emerged from the same factory in different eras would be hard to imagine, and much the same could be said about the two standing back to back here.

Both the Hotchkiss and the Rovin bear French registrations and the former turned out to be the only ‘old’ car seen during the ten-day visit to Switzerland.

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