[cca 1910 De Dion-Bouton Busses and Lorries for Baguio City in the Philippines.]
The Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society website receives many interesting
E-mails from all over the world asking for assistance with all sorts of
questions relating to Veteran, Vintage and Classic vehicles. The SVVS
attempts to answer those questions that are within their sphere of
interest, and some are very interesting indeed !
One such enquiry was received from Leslie Ann Murray from The
American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, in Manila. Leslie
advised that the Chamber is celebrating its centenary in 2002 and is
bringing out a book to commemorate the event. The Chamber was founded in
1902, incorporated in 1920, with both dates being under the American
flag, and is acknowledged as the first American Chamber of Commerce in
In the course of the research for the centenary book, Leslie came
across some turn-of-the-century photographs in the Historical Collection
of the American Historical Library in the grounds of Ateneo University
showing a selection of French De Dion-Bouton busses and lorries in the
Philippines. The captions on the photograph stated that these vehicles
had been specially built to be used on the then new road being built to
the newly developed summer capital of Baguio City.
Click this photo to enlarge: its worth the wait !
Photo: © American Historical Collection, Ateneo de Manila University,
The story of Baguio is interesting in its own right. The Americans
conquered the Philippines following their victory over the Spanish fleet
in Manila Bay in 1898. After the takeover the Americans heard rumours of a
mist-shrouded valley high in the mountains where there was a need for
blankets and a fire to keep warm, which was difficult to believe in a
tropical humid archipelago near the equator. An expeditionary force was
sent out on horseback to investigate and 'discovered' Trinidad Valley at
5,000ft populated by pine trees and with a temperate climate.
was the beginnings of Baguio which initially housed a sanatorium for
those who needed to recover from tropical diseases without having to endure
the long sea journey home. Eventually the government developed the area
and declared Baguio City as the summer capital. Similar to many capitals
in either very hot or very cold countries, the whole of the government
would move up to Baguio City for March, April and May, these being the
hottest months of the year.
Click all photos to enlarge
Photo: © American Historical Collection, Ateneo
de Manila University,
Benguet Road started to be hacked out of the mountain in 1901 by hand
involving labour and specialists from many countries including France,
Italy, Spain, Japan, China etc., under the supervision of Capt. Charles
Mead of the US
Corps of Engineers. The project was taken over in 1903 by Maj. Lyman W.V.
Kennon who completed the works by 1905. The road was subsequently
renamed as Kennon Road and was the most expensive project undertaken by
the American colonial government. The road, which is about 50 kilometers
long, is a series of dramatic serpentines snaking across the hills and
the Bued River Canyon with
some very steep gradients which even today can result in some
vehicles running out of power and stalling.
Baguio City was reached by taking a conventional railway train from
Manila to the base of the mountain where trucks and busses transported
people and goods up the mountain road to Baguio. In view of the severity
of the inclines on this road some specialised vehicles were likely to be
Leslie was interested to establish how or why a French company would be exporting to the Philippines which was an American
enclave. She also wanted to identify the
models of the specific
vehicles shown and to get some general history of the De
Photo: © American Historical Collection, Ateneo de Manila University,
Well, - researching through some of my reference books and visiting
some interesting peripheral sites on the internet, it seems that the De
Dion-Bouton company came about mainly as a result of curiosity that the
French Count Philippe Albert de Dion de Malfiance had in a model steam
locomotive he saw in toy shop in Paris. This interest bought him into
contact in 1882 with the maker Georges Bouton who specialised in models
and scientific toys, and later with Bouton's brother-in-law
Charles-Armand Trépardoux who specialised in boilers and steam engines.
Their meetings eventually resulted in the formation of "Etablissements
De Dion-Bouton et Trépardoux" set up in Paris to manufacture
vélocipèdes. Early experiments produced a three wheeler capable of
considerable speed and resulted in a number of patents being taken out for
rapid evaporation steam boilers. The company's first production model
was a steam driven quadricycle with the boiler amidships. Some of the
steam engines were subsequently marinised and offered to the French navy
Count De Dion was a flamboyant playboy with penchant for publicity
and was one of the very first to perceive the benefits of undergoing
trials of their vehicle by the then new public 'reliability runs'. He
won the first motor race from Paris to Versailles driving a steam
four-wheeled vehicle beating Georges Bouton on a steam tricycle. His
involvement with steam and steam vehicles, and especially his financial
commitment to it, was not however, approved of by his father the Marquis
nor by the family who were afraid that the family fortunes would be
squandered by this enterprise.
De Dion persisted and by 1884 the second range of now 4HP
quadricycles was being produced. Successful sales required a move to new
premises in Puteaux where in 1887 the first of the range of single
seater tricycles was in series production. In 1889 De Dion visited the
Paris World Fair and was impressed by the petrol powered engines of Benz
and Daimler, especially as he had learned that Panhard & Levassor
were purchasing a licence.
1887 De Dion-Bouton Steam Tricycle
Development of petrol engines was however something which Trépardoux
was not interested in, believing that steam had the power that petrol
lacked. Disagreements between De Dion and Trépardoux reached a point
where in 1894 Trépardoux decided to leave the company to concentrate
further on developing steam. De Dion was less than impressed and issued
instructions for all mention of Trépardoux to be removed from company
records and for the company to be renamed simply De Dion-Bouton; and
he issued instructions for the development of their own petrol engine.
Steam however for the time being remained their staple product.
By 1895 the development of the petrol engine was complete and trials
of a rear engined tricycle had proved successful. Sales took off and the
first model was quickly followed by a series of more powerful models.
All this work attracted other manufacturers and De Dion was not slow in
spotting that there was a very large market for proprietary engines. A
decision was therefore made that their engines would be available to
other constructors with the full technical backing of the company. At
this time in 1898 the 21 year old Lous Renault was experimenting with
his first vehicle and used a De Dion-Bouton 1.5HP engine to power the
car. Other constructors also used the engine including Delage, Chenard
& Walcker, Terrot etc and eventually a total of some 130
constructors either used or had experimented with De Dion-Bouton engines. Eventually over 45,000 engines were manufactured.
The first four wheel De Dion-Bouton car, the 'vis-a-vis' , was
introduced in 1899 and over 1500 were sold by 1901. In 1902 the engine
was moved to the front. A whole series of engines and vehicles then
followed which made De Dion Bouton one of the most important car
manufacturers in the world. Exports began to play an important part in
company activities with agents in most of the important countries of the
world. Exports in 1901 of single and multiple shipments of cars were
going to such diverse countries as Australia and America. Clients in
America included James Gordon Bennett Jr., the proprietor of the New
York Herald and the sensationalistic American Journalist known for his
promotion of races between cars, airplanes and balloons. Gordon Bennett
chose a De Dion-Bouton as his first car.
The company had for some time been manufacturing commercial vehicles
and had done so on the basis of utilising steam power. Greater emphasis
began to be put on development of
commercial vehicles based on more powerful petrol engines. In 1903 a new two-cylinder
engine was available designed specifically to be used in lorries.
Parallel development was also taking place in manufacture of related
electrical items including batteries, dynamos and electric motors
including experimental electric powered vehicles.
The Paris municipal transport company CGO had for some time been
looking at the question of organised transport within the capital beyond
that provided by horse drawn vehicles. In 1909 CGO decided to follow the
Berlin and London to come up with a specification for a mass transport
road vehicle. The requirements would be that the manufacturer would
provide the chassis with engine, on which CGO would install a uniform
bus body. Nine manufacturers applied for the tender and subsequently
provided prototypes for evaluation under operating conditions in Paris.
Photo: © http://histoiretransport.free.fr
From the nine manufacturers, one, Serpollet, put forward a steam
vehicle; two put forward petrol-electric vehicles where the engine drove
a generator which provided power to electric drive motors, these being
Krieger and De Dion-Bouton; and six other manufacturers used
conventional petrol engines. The tender was eventually awarded to the
petrol driven Brillé-Schneider for a total of 150 busses. These were
gradually put into service in 1906. De Dion-Bouton lost out but went
away determined to develop larger and more powerful petrol engines.
In 1910 the De Dion Bouton Company introduced the world's first V8
engine to enter series production. The initial V8 was available in a 6.1
litre form and was followed later by 3.5 litre, 4.6 litre and 7.8 litre,
and subsequently by the 14.7 litre engine mainly aimed at the American
market. 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.
De Dion-Bouton were given a significant boost on the American market with
the winning of an order for the provision of 100 municipality vehicles
to New York City involving police vehicles, fire engines, taxis and
busses. Part of the shipment from De Dion-Bouton was a parade car
provided to the Mayor of New York. The car was fitted with the latest De
Dion-Bouton V8 engine. This engine was eventually studied and copied by
many American car manufacturers and was the beginning of the American
love affair with the V8.
Photo: © Fer Cools
With the boost of the New York order, at home in France De
Dion-Bouton renewed their interest in the Paris transport system and
eventually received an order for 263 Type DA busses to be delivered
between 1911 and 1913. These busses utilised the rounded Solex
centrifugal radiator which had been in use by De Dion-Bouton commercials
since 1909. The Solex radiator had the distinctive Mercedes type large
three pointed star which became the trade mark of Paris busses for years
to come because the Solex radiator was specified by the Paris CGO to be
fitted to all busses regardless of make. The Solex company also
manufactured the famous Solex carburettor and later the equally famous
VeloSoleX front engined motorised bicycle which was so much a trademark
of France, and which is still being manufactured by VeloSolex in France.
Photo: © http://histoiretransport.free.fr
At around 1910 De Dion-Bouton was one of the largest vehicle
manufacturers in the world. Their products included cars, lorries,
busses, trains and even aeroplanes. They were being used in many capital
cities and on many trans mountain and alpine routes. It is therefore not surprising that
any significant requirement for a fleet of this type of vehicles anywhere in the
world would have included looking at what De Dion-Bouton could offer.
The Philippines requirement was for sturdy well tried heavy vehicles
with a known reputation. On the basis that the Philippines were under
American influence, it would not have escaped the ordering authorities
that De Dion-Bouton municipality vehicles were being very successfully
used in New York. America had an established Chamber of Commerce in
Manila. It is quite possible that the positive influence of New York was
taken into account when the vehicles for the Benguet Road were being
The photographs of the Philippines De Dion-Bouton found by Leslie Ann
Murray were submitted via Bozi Mohacek of the Surrey Vintage Vehicle
Society to Amicale De Dion Bouton who are the foremost experts in France
on all historical matters pertaining to the De-Dion-Bouton marque (
http://perso.wanadoo.fr/de.dion.bouton). Their President Rene Ville and
his colleagues studied the photographs and determined that indeed the
specifications of these vehicles were specific to this order. The group
photographs show lorries with solid rubber tyres and busses (actually
more like charabancs) with pneumatic tyres. Amicale confirmed that they
did not know a lorry engine which conformed to the engine bore
dimensions mentioned on the photograph although there was later a 40HP
engine in 1912/1913 with a similar bore size on CD vehicles, and which
was used even later in 1914 on railway engines. They also advised that
the bus engine dimensions conformed to a V8 engine but one of 35HP used
on type CY vehicles in 1911 and on DN vehicles in 1912. They also
confirmed that the radiators used on booth types of vehicles were of the
Solex Type but of larger capacity to cope with the temperatures and the
altitudes of where they were to be used.
It was their contention that the photographs related to vehicles
delivered to the Philippines sometime during a period between 1911 and
1913. Slightly later than the handwritten date on the Photo suggesting circa 1908.
It is known that the completion of Benguet Road ran into
trouble because of the steep incline of the final section. It is
therefore probable that the authorities would have waited to see how the
road performed before committing themselves to what would have been a
quite significant financial investment in a fleet of motor vehicles.
This would suggest that the dates do tie in: Solex radiators were in use
only after 1909 and V8 engines were in use in 1910. Delivery
date of 1910/11 is therefore quite likely.
Photo: © Fer Cools, Holland
In Europe war clouds started looming and very soon after many of the
De Dion-Bouton busses and lorries in Paris and in France were
commandeered for the war effort. Many were destroyed. A few of these
vehicles have survived and two are shown here. The first photo is of a
1909 lorry taken
at the Motor Museum in Rennes and the second is of a 1915 lorry which came to the UK to attend the 2002 London to Brighton
Commercial vehicle run.
Photo: © http://camion-club.ifrance.com/camion-club
Following the First World war De Dion-Bouton continued with production
of large luxury cars and commercial vehicles for which there was now a
much reduced market. De Dion-Bouton Company began to run out of money
and in 1927 it was only the intervention of the French government which
enabled the company to continue operating until 1932. Small scale
production of commercial vehicles continued up to 1950. Last to bear the
De Dion name was a range of motorcycles in the 1950s. Marquis De Dion
Died in 1952 but his name will pass into history as one of the founders
of the 'automobile' and one of the most influential of automobile
At this point the answer to Leslie Ann Murray of the American Chamber of
Commerce had been given and this article on the general background to De
Dion-Bouton relating to the supply of commercial vehicles for the
Kennon Road had forwarded, - but for a chance 'click' of the
internet, which opened a completely new chapter!
2/. 1908 Stanley Steamers and Yorkshire Steam
Copyright © MMIII, Bozi Mohacek. Reproduction only
by permission from the Author.
All photos are strictly Copyright © by their owners.
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