Please pick a link below:

SVVS Society Details
Map and Dates of Meetings
This Year's Meetings   (2021)
Last Year's Meetings  (2020)
Earlier  Meeting  Archives
Types of Society Vehicles 
Index to 40+ Picture Galleries 
HELP PAGE Car Identification
Contact us       Be a Member
Vintage Citroen Register RWD

Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.

:: [  
1900 De Dion Bouton Surrey  ] ::

Puzzling photo posted on the AACA website by KingsBuff (USA) saying this is a tintype picture of his great grandfather in an auto that appears to be a studio prop (possibly at a fair or carnival).  From his NYC police uniform, the picture is late 1890's to early 1900's. --  

Suggestion contributed that  it could be a De Dion Bouton. As I had not come across a photo of a De Dion car with such the strange forward steer position on a 'vis-a-vis', I doubted this was a De Dion Bouton. So I contacted our expert John Warburton who confirmed that it was indeed a cca 1900 De Dion Bouton, which apparently did have 'forward steer' as a factory option. It seems that such a car still exists in North Cheshire (UK), but that it was changed a long time ago, in the 1940s or earlier, back to the conventional central placement of the steering column/hand controls, so that it looks almost like a standard pattern. However the mountings for the forward placement controls can be seen below the floor boards.

John also conferred with his colleague Rory Sinclair who confirmed " Definitely a 'forward control' DDB. Judging by the hubs probably either a 1900 Type E or a G1. The 'converted' car would indeed have looked like this when new."

This information was put on our Help Page 56 with the comment that it was a forward control Vis-a-Vis and that such cars also had the facility for the front seat to be turned through 180 degrees to face forward. A photo of a 1900 De Dion Bouton Vis-a-vis with the front seat in the forward facing position can be seen on our Help Page 31 . The control column in this case is in the standard central position (see below). 

Background to the above photo was:  Period photo sent in by Richard Wheeler (UK) asking if we can identify this car he found while trying to investigate late father's family history. Is it a  steamer?  --  Although it has an American look due leather apron, it has De Dion type wheel hubs. Our expert Rory Sinclair has immediately identified it as a1900 De Dion Bouton Vis-a-Vis, a 3.5hp Type E or a 4.5hp Type G1. The apron is a period modification. The front seat could be made to face either way, and hinged footboard can be folded back.

Very soon after I posted my thoughts on Help Page 56, we were contacted by
Ariejan Bos from Nijmegen in Holland who said he would like to add that this is not a vis-ŕ-vis but a phaeton, because the occupants are not facing each other. DDB offered two versions, the voiturette vis-ŕ-vis (driven from the back seat) and the phaeton (driven from the front seat). The phaeton however must not be confused with the voiturette with reversed front seat, which still had rear seat steering. He added that the DDB on our p.31 is a mysterious compromise: it shows a phaeton, but is obviously being steered from the rear seat. 

He also added that as the DDB on p.56 was photographed in New York, it could have been an American De Dion and,  in that case, it would not be a phaeton, but a "Surrey"  (the American equivalent). To confirm, he attached the following photos:

                        Ariejan advises that the above DDB phaeton can be seen in the Mahy Museum. 

My researches in 2002 for an article on the history of the De Dion Bouton & Trepidoux company included the following : In 1910 the De Dion Bouton Company introduced the world's first V8 engine to enter series production.  De Dion-Bouton had had a presence in New York since the turn of the century in Brooklyn initially via the De Dion-Bouton Motorette Co. It was at one of the De Dion-Bouton establishments in Brooklyn that a young Swiss émigré Louis Chevrolet learned some of his mechanical skills before going on to become a well known racing driver and subsequently founding the American car manufacturing company which carried his name. (For full article on histories of De Dion Bouton and Stanley Steamers see )

Ariejan Bos kindly supplied the following advertisement which clarifies the body styles.

Ariejan advises that the US advertisement comes from a post on on January 9, 2012 titled 'De Dion-Bouton, a popular early French voiturette'.

Return to Help Page