Two Almost-Cars

1901 Royal Enfield 4½HP Forecar Quadricycle

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | November 3, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

Royal Enfield was, primarily, a motorcycle manufacturer that was born out of a company that made bicycles. The company lasted until about 1970, though new bikes from the marque can still be acquired as the Indian arm of the company has remained active since 1949.

What we have here is a “Forecar” – meaning that the vehicle’s passenger doubles as the front bumper and crumple zone. The quadricycle portion essentially means that they strapped two motorcycles together (sort of). Enfield’s first true vehicles were in fact quadricycles and tricycles. Motorcycles didn’t technically enter the picture until 1900, so this design actually predates Royal Enfield motorcycles. This one is powered by a single-cylinder De Dion-Bouton engine.

Having resided in an Italian museum for many decades, the current owner bought this in 2007. The restoration dates to the 1950s so it definitely needs a little attention before use. It should bring between $33,000-$40,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $66,332.


1904 La Libellule V-Twin Tricar

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | November 3, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

Every year at this sale it seems like Bonhams manages to consign at least one car from a marque that has such an obscure history that no one really knows anything about it.

Enter La Libellule, or The Dragonfly. These early three-wheeled forecars were available from a number of manufacturers. It was essentially a motorcycle with two wheels at the front that support a wicker basket that you could plop an easily-influenced friend (or enemy) into. It’s like having a sidecar, but in front of you.

Not much is known about this company other than no records of it really exist prior to 1906, which is why this is listed as a “circa 1904” in the catalog. It’s had three owners since 1921 and has been in the same collection since about 1960. The restoration dates to the 1980s, when it first competed in the London-to-Brighton run. It should bring between $27,000-$33,000 today. Click here for more info and here for more from this amazing sale.

Update: Sold $42,211.

Daley Quadricycle

1898 Daley Quadricycle

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | November 3, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

M.H. Daley, who owned a company that manufactured farm equipment, was responsible for one of America’s earliest automobile manufacturers. Founded in Charles City, Iowa, in 1895, the little company lasted only through 1898. His first car used an engine he designed himself.

It’s unknown how many cars Daley built (there were at least three and he did plan to market them for $500 a pop, though it’s unlikely this ever occurred), but this is the only one left. It’s powered by a 700cc twin-cylinder engine that gets a supposed 100 mpg. Good luck spending 100 miles in this thing trying to achieve that figure.

This car used to compete in the London-to-Brighton run back in the 80s before it was put on museum duty. The current owner acquired it back in 2011 and has had the engine rebuilt. That means it’s about ready to run in upcoming events. As a very rare pioneer American automobile, this car should bring between $46,000-$59,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $39,196.

Bruneau Quadricycle

1899 Bruneau Quadricycle

Offered by Osenat | Fontainebleau, France | June 14, 2015

Photo - Osenat
Photo – Osenat

Bruneau is a very rare manufacturer of early motorcycles, tricycles, and but a handful of quadricycles. Based in Tours, France, very little is known about this marque other than where they were located and what they built. The company existed as early as 1899 and lasted at least up until the outbreak of WWI.

This car is powered by the ubiquitous De Dion single-cylinder engine and features a vis-à-vis seating arrangement. The family of the original owner of this vehicle sold it to the current owner in the 1960s. This is a two-owner car from 1899. It is thought only three of these were built and this is the only one left. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $45,600.

Three Turn-of-the-Century Cars

Three Veteran Automobiles

Offered by Osenat | Fontainebleau, France | June 14, 2015


1899 Bruneau Quadricycle

Photo - Osenat

Photo – Osenat

Bruneau is a very rare manufacturer of early motorcycles, tricycles, and but a handful of quadricycles. Based in Tours, France, very little is known about this marque other than where they were located and what they built. The company existed as early as 1899 and lasted at least up until the outbreak of WWI.

This car is powered by the ubiquitous De Dion single-cylinder engine and features a vis-à-vis seating arrangement. The family of the original owner of this vehicle sold it to the current owner in the 1960s. This is a two-owner car from 1899. It is thought only three of these were built and this is the only one left. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $45,600.


1901 Phébus Quadricycle

Photo - Osenat

Photo – Osenat

Noé Boyer was the director of a branch of Clément-Gladiator – Noé Boyer et Cie – and it would appear that his company built eerily similar quadricycles as those that Clément was putting out. It’s got a bicycle seat in the rear for the driver and the passenger sits in the compartment out front… to act as both windshield and front bumper.

This is powered by a single-cylinder De Dion engine. Phébus built quadricycles up to 1903, when they stopped producing vehicles altogether. But at the same time these primitive cars were on sale, the company was also selling the more traditional Phébus-Aster. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $59,280.


1902 Clément Tricycle

Photo - Osenat

Photo – Osenat

Clément is a fairly well-known brand among early automobiles. We’ve documented the tangled history of some of Adolphe Clément-Bayard’s companies before and this is kind of a different branch. He founded Clément cycles in 1878 to build bicycles. Motorized bicycles and tricycles came in 1902 after he merged with Gladiator.

This tricycle is powered by a single-cylinder De Dion engine and it is a runner. Use it in the next London-to-Brighton run, if you wish. Clément Cycles morphed into part of Clément-Bayard in 1903 and vehicles like this pretty much disappeared from the automotive landscape shortly thereafter. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $39,900.

Ariel Quadricycle

1901 Ariel 375cc Quadricycle

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | November 1, 2013

1901 Ariel 375cc Quadricycle

Diversifying your business is a good way to stay in business. Many early motorcycle manufacturers started out life as bicycle manufacturers. When it became feasible, they added engines and went into the motorcycle business.

But what do you do if you’re already a motorcycle manufacturer? Well, you build cars – or, at least, you try. This Ariel Quadricycle is about as much bike as it is car. The driver sits out back on a motorcycle seat, straddling the engine and tank. The passenger sits up front, acting as both windscreen and front bumper.

Actually, this car can be easily converted to a tricycle – and was sold as such with a “Quadricycle attachment.” I guess you just scoot the front wheel over, add another wheel and a seat and boom! you’ve got a car. This particular example has known ownership history from new and has been exquisitely restored.

1901 Ariel 375cc Quad-Tri-Cycle

Ariel would offer more traditional cars here and there until they focused solely on motorcycles beginning in 1925. Motorcycle production ceased in 1970. The Quadricycle is very rare but not unheard of. This one could bring between $40,000-$56,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this cool Bonhams sale.

Update: Sold $73,401.