De Dion-Bouton Perfecta Quadricycle
Count Albert de Dion was born of French noble descent and partnered with Georges Trépardoux and Trépardoux’s brother-in-law, Georges Bouton, to build steam-powered carriages. By 1885, they created several successful machines, but by the early 1890s, the Count began experimenting with internal combustion. In 1895, de Dion and Bouton produced a revolutionary single-cylinder engine of 137 cc, boasting electric ignition and a then-amazing speed of 3,000 rpm.
Alexandre Darracq, meanwhile, built a large factory at Suresnes on the southwest edge of Paris and built cycle components under the name “Perfecta.” By 1901, Darracq was building complete motor cars bearing his own name, selling more than 1,000 of them.
By 1900, France’s motor industry boasted 11 manufacturers, plus numerous independent assemblers selling motorcycles, tricycles and voiturettes using components from various manufacturers. A common example consisted of a De Dion high-speed engine in one of Darracq’s Perfecta frames.
This quadricycle is a superb example of a De Dion-engined Perfecta. The engine, dating from June 1900, is the 402 cc, 2¾-horsepower version with a water-cooled cylinder head. Perfecta frames came with handlebars, pedals and hubs but no saddle, engine, transmission or wheels. These were all procured and installed by an assembler, most of whose names are lost to time. The typical drivetrain included a Bozier two-speed epicyclic gearbox and a cone clutch.
This vehicle has been converted to wheel steering, has a later spray-type carburettor and somewhat larger tyres than original but remains true to the idiom. Complete when found in 1992, it needed nothing but restoration, a task performed by Brian Joseph. It was formerly part of the John McMullen Collection until 2007, when it joined yet another esteemed collection – that of John O’Quinn. De Dion-powered vehicles such as this Quadricycle are popular participants in the London-to-Brighton veteran car run, and with its extremely limited mileage, this example will also be a wonderful concours entry for its next caretaker.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2010 at the Battersea Evolution, London.
2¾ hp, 402 cc, single-cylinder De Dion engine with water-cooled cylinder head, Perfecta no. 2 frame, Bozier two-speed epicyclic transmission, cone-type clutch, transverse semi-elliptic front spring, and mechanical brake on rear axle. Wheelbase: 47.5"
Source: RM Auction
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel