Le Papillon Bleu

1901 Panhard et Levassor 7hp Twin-Cylinder Rear-Entrance Tonneau

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | November 1, 2019

Photo – Bonhams

This is a car with a story. It was ordered new by Chevalier Rene de Knyff, a Belgian who happened to be one of the most successful racing drivers of his era. He won five of the 18 races he entered between 1897 and 1903. And remember, in those days, a race was held between two cities.

He also happened to be the president of Panhard after Mr. Levassor’s death in 1897. He drove Panhards in competition and ordered this one especially for himself. It is said that the car was one of the most well-built Panhards of its day, with de Knyff putting his best people on its assembly.

Power is from a seven-horsepower twin-cylinder engine, likely of 1.6-liters in capacity. The body is from J. Rothschild. The car is finished in light blue over a bordello-esque gorgeous red cloth. Named The Blue Butterfly, the car was purchased from Panhard/de Knyff by an Englishman who paid an exorbitant sum, as de Knyff didn’t really want to sell it all.

Its trail goes quiet until the 1920s when it is made apparent by the car’s next owner that it is very much still road-registered. It competed in the inaugural London-to-Brighton commemorative run. In 1927. It did it again in 1928.

And it’s done it 60 more times, 25 of which over the last 27 years with its current owner. This was considered a racing car in its day, with a “semi-racing” engine and a “lightweight” body. Only 992 6/7HP Panhards were built, and this is likely the most well-traveled and most famous among them. It is expected to fetch between $250,000-$320,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $573,410.

Twin-Cylinder Star

1904 Star 7HP Twin-Cylinder Two-Seater

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | November 2, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

Star, like many early motor manufacturers, got their start as a cycle company. Edward Lisle’s company produced its first car in 1898, and by the time WWI broke out, the company was one of Britain’s largest automobile companies.

Introduced in 1900, the twin-cylinder Star was one of a few models the company was producing that were based on the pioneering designs of Panhard and Mercedes. It’s powered by a 1.4-liter straight-twin producing seven horsepower.

This car cost £320 when new and should bring between $110,000-$130,000 early next month. It has participated in the London-to-Brighton run multiple times and can be your ticket into that event too. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $113,559.

Five Pre-1920 Cars

Five Pre-1920 Cars

Offered by Bonhams | Beaulieu, U.K. | September 3, 2016


1913 Chalmers Model 17 36HP Five-Passenger Tourer

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

Chalmers was formed in 1908, sort of, when Hugh Chalmers bought out ER Thomas from Thomas-Detroit. Early cars were badged Chalmers-Detroit, before becoming just Chalmers in 1911. The marque lasted through 1924 after merging with Maxwell in 1922. This merged company is known today as “Chrysler.”

The 1913 Model 17 was the mid-range model, offered in six body configurations with the Five-Passenger Tourer being the least expensive at $1,950. It is powered by a 36 horsepower straight-four. This example was imported into the U.K. in 2005 and mechanically restored shortly thereafter. It’s a runner and driver, with a lot of original pieces left, like the interior. It should sell for between $26,000-$32,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $39,879.


1908 Clyde 8/10HP Silent Light Roadster

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

Clyde is a very interesting automobile manufacturer from Leicester that was founded by George Wait as a bicycle manufacturer in 1890. Automobiles came in 1901. Remarkably, by the time the company closed up shop in 1930, only about 260 cars had been produced.

This car is powered by a twin-cylinder White & Poppe engine and was owned by the company founder in the 1950s. It was restored in the early 1960s an then put on display in a museum from 1962 through 2003, when it went to America. Now it’s back in the U.K., having covered only about 100 miles since its restoration. It is one of three Clydes known to exist and should bring between $26,000-$39,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Not sold.


1909 Briton 7HP

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

The Briton Motor Company was based in Wolverhampton and was founded as an offshoot of the Star Cycle Company under the direction of Edward Lisle, Jr. The first cars appeared in 1909 and the marque lasted through 1928, although it was dormant for a few years in between.

Among the first models the company produced was the 7HP “Little Briton” – a seven horsepower, twin-cylinder runabout that seats two. It was a light car and it was cheap. Only five of these remain and this is the oldest, having been delivered new to Ireland. Forty years ago it was stashed in a barn and only discovered again in 2015, when it was restored to running condition and refurbished as needed. It should bring between $21,000-$26,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Not sold.


1904 Garrard Suspended Forecar

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

While this car is technically being sold as a restoration project, it is still very interesting. Charles Garrard started importing Clement engines from France in 1902. His idea was to attach them to tricycle frames and build Forecars, a popular, if not dangerous, style of transport in England in the day (nothing like having your passenger be your front bumper!).

They were originally called Clement-Garrards, until 1904 when he dropped the Clement part. Garrard ceased production shortly thereafter, making this 1904 model very rare. This tricar is powered by a four horsepower v-twin and should sell for between $21,000-$31,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Not sold.


1914 Rochet-Schneider 12HP Limousine by Allignol

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

Rochet-Schneider was a French automobile marque – and by the time this car was built in 1914, it was already a very old one. Edouard Rochet and Theophile Schneider joined forces (as did their families’ legacy businesses) in 1894 to produce automobiles. Production would last through 1932.

This car has known history back to 1954 and was restored in the late 1990s (with the exception of the interior). It is powered by a 12 horsepower, 2.6-liter engine, capable of long distances at 40 mph. While French cars of this era aren’t the most powerful or the fastest, this model, with Limousine coachwork by Allignol, is rather imposing. It should bring between $23,000-$28,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $23,007.

1909 Briton 7HP

1909 Briton 7HP

Offered by Bonhams | Beaulieu, U.K. | September 3, 2016

Photo - Bonhams
Photo – Bonhams

The Briton Motor Company was based in Wolverhampton and was founded as an offshoot of the Star Cycle Company under the direction of Edward Lisle, Jr. The first cars appeared in 1909 and the marque lasted through 1928, although it was dormant for a few years in between.

Among the first models the company produced was the 7HP “Little Briton” – a seven horsepower, twin-cylinder runabout that seats two. It was a light car and it was cheap. Only five of these remain and this is the oldest, having been delivered new to Ireland. Forty years ago it was stashed in a barn and only discovered again in 2015, when it was restored to running condition and refurbished as needed. It should bring between $21,000-$26,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Not sold.

1901 Panhard Tonneau

1901 Panhard et Levassor Twin-Cylinder 7HP Rear-Entrance Tonneau by Labourdette

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | October 31, 2014

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

We featured a 1902 Panhard et Levassor about a week and a half ago. It’s similar to this car, but also quite different – especially when it comes to the body. This has a body by famed French coachbuilder Henri Labourdette. It’s a rear-entrance tonneau with a big, tall hardtop (yet zero weather protection).

This body is actually original to this car, which is very rare for a car that is almost 115 years old. The engine is a 1.7-liter twin making seven horsepower. The original owner of this car is known and it was the 11th car registered in Toulouse. At some point, probably around WWI, it was stashed away in the basement of a castle.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that the car was rescued and restored. I like that the front and rear tires are of differing diameter. This is a great example of an early motorcar – and the top retains its original leather. It should sell for between $320,000-$400,000. Click here for more info and here for the rest of this auction’s lineup.

Update: Sold $413,767.

Swift Cyclecar

1913 Swift 7HP Twin-Cylinder Two-Seater Cyclecar

Offered by Bonhams | Beaulieu, U.K. | September 6, 2014

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

The Swift Motor Co Ltd. of Coventry began as a sewing machine manufacturer. They turned to cars in 1900 and their specialty was those of the small variety. Swift were among the pioneers of the cyclecar movement that swept the world (most of Europe and the U.S.) between 1910 and the 1920s.

The twin-cylinder cyclecar was introduced by Swift in 1912 (replacing a single-cylinder model). The engine is a 972cc twin making seven horsepower. The car is tiny, light, and will seat two. I quite like the looks of it.

This car has been known in the collector world since 1959 and was used regularly up until 1968 before it became more of a static showpiece. The interior is mighty old if not original – same for the engine. It is a driver and the body and brass are in great shape. It should sell for between $23,000-$27,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $33,826.

An Incredible, 1901 Benz

1901 Benz Ideal 7HP Twin-Cylinder “Contra-Motor” Vis-a-Vis

Offered by Bonhams | Stuttgart, Germany | July 12, 2014

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

What’s so incredibly cool about this horseless carriage cannot be summed up in just one point. First, it’s from Benz – the originator of the automobile (you could argue otherwise, but we’ll ignore you). And it’s about as early a Benz as you can get your hands on that isn’t a replica or on permanent display.

The Benz Ideal was an evolution (and final iteration) of the Benz Patent Motorwagen, the earliest of automobiles, that featured a horizontally-mounted single-cylinder engine between the rear wheels. By 1901, competitors were many and they had advanced in design. So for the Ideal, Benz kept the engine between the rear wheels but added coachwork up front to make it look like many of the other vehicles on the market.

The Ideal, towards the end of its run (read: 1901), was offered with a two-cylinder engine. It’s a 2.1-liter flat-twin making seven horsepower. Ownership history here is known from new and this car completed (and won its class) in the London-to-Brighton run in 1937. The restoration was completed in 1972. You can purchase this fascinating piece of automobile history – and use it – for between $150,000-$200,000. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams’ inaugural Mercedes-Benz sale.

Update: Sold $641,004.