This monstrous Dufaux with eight cylinders in line had a capacity of 12,760cc and a claimed output of 80bhp at 1,300rpm. It was built by the Swiss car manufacturer Dufaux in Geneva, founded in 1904 by the brothers Charles and Frédéric, to compete in the 1904 Gordon Bennett race. The race was held that year in the Taunus region near Frankfurt am Main. The car, designed by Charles and built for them by Piccard-Pictet, had several innovative features.
Firstly, it had one of the first straight-eights to be built as such, rather than as two four-cylinder engines joined together. It was also fitted with ball bearings for at least some of its engine. Sadly, a broken steering arm put the car out of the running before it even started – but it did soon after set a new Swiss record of 71mph for the flying-start kilometre. The car still exists and is in the Musée Nationale de l’Automobile (Collection Schlumpf) in Mulhouse.
The brothers built another enormous car with a T-head four-cylinder engine of 26,400cc and a claimed output of 150bhp. Charles Rolls had it shipped to England for the Brighton Speed Trials, but it was not ready and was ignominiously transported back home. However, on 15 November 1905, driven by Frédéric Dufaux, the car broke the world land speed record at 97.2mph. This record was officially timed by the ACF but was dropped from the official lists before 1914.
Dufaux did not just build racers and record breakers. Late in 1904 the brothers launched 15hp and 35/40hp passenger cars, both with four-cylinder engines, and exhibited them early in 1905 at the first Geneva show. At the second Geneva show in 1906 they displayed a range of cars, from another 8-cylinder racer, this time 100/120hp, to a new 15hp car. The economic situation, and competition from bigger companies, led to the closure of the company in 1907.
Image courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive: www.richardrobertsarchive.org.uk