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Avions Voisin was a French luxury automobile brand established by Gabriel Voisin in 1919 which traded until 1939.
Gabriel B. Voisin was an aviation pioneer and manufacturer who in 1919 started producing cars using Knight-type sleeve valve engines at Issy-les-Moulineaux, an industrial suburb to the southwest of Paris. His first automobile, the C1, appeared in 1919, and was based on a Citroen prototype to which Voison had secured the rights. Almost to the end, Voisons were powered by engines incorporating the unorthodox Knight sleeve-valve design. This valve arrangement, while virtually silent in operation, consumed a goodly amount of oil, and usually left a cloud of white smoke in its wake. Gabriel Voison had more than a hundred patents, including a pneumatic transfer case, spring-loaded frameless opening glass windows, and a rather complex door latching mechanism. Former student of the Fine Arts School of Lyon and enthusiast for all things mechanical since his childhood, Voisin's uncompromisingly individual designs made extensive use of light alloys, especially aluminium. One of the company's most striking early designs was the Laboratoire Grand Prix car of 1923; one of the first cars ever to use monocoque chassis construction, and utilising small radiator-mounted propeller to drive the cooling pump. The characteristic Voisin style of 'rational' coachwork he developed in conjunction with his collaborator André Noel. Noel prioritized lightness, central weight distribution, capacious luggage boxes and distinctively angular lines. The 1930s models with underslung chassis were strikingly low.
In the early 1930s, Gabriel Voisin could not pay all of his draftsmen anymore and a young creative engineer called André Lefèbvre quit, recommended by Gabriel to Louis Renault. Lefèbvre finally entered Citroën where he led three particularly significant car projects: the Traction Avant, the 2CV and the DS, using a lot of Gabriel's lessons.
Sleeve valve Knight engines were used exclusively until some later models switched to Graham 3.5 litre engines. The Knight engines included: inline four; inline six; V8 (prototype); V12 - 7.2 litre, 1921 (prototype); Inline twelve and a Seven-cylinder radial (prototype).
In 1927 Voisin introduced his first six-cylinder car, the C11, which was powered by a 2,326cc sleeve valve engine driving via a three-speed manual gearbox. Voisin's most successful model, the C11 and its derivatives remained in production until 1936; one such was the C12, which was powered by a 4½-litre sleeve valve six.
Voison had supplemented his four-cylinder sleeve-valve engine lines with a six-cylinder engine, and that motor was used in the C14 series, which was built from 1928 through 1932. Not quite 1800 examples of the C14 were built; it is said that the C14, especially in two-door "La Lumineuse" form, represented the height of Voison's success.
After the war the business was nationalised in the political turmoil and the Government installed directors who did not continue the original engineering traditions. The Voisin business was integrated into that of its principal creditor, engine supplier Gnome & Rhône which was in turn nationalised in 1945 to form the basis for what now became the state-directed SNECMA business.
Voisin presented a "Biscooter Voisin" at the 1950 Paris Motorcycle and Bicycle Show, a voiturette intended for the impoverished age, with a front mounted 125 cc engine from Gnome & Rhône. The aluminium-bodied vehicle had a three-speed transmission with a secondary gear and did not require a driver's license. The company failed to proceed with the Biscooter and instead mandated a Mr. Moglia, previously employed by Hotchkiss to develop an alternative voiturette. Moglia's design appeared at the 1952 Paris Motor Show fitted with the same Gnome & Rhône engine, but on Moglia's design the engine was moved to the rear of the little vehicle. The braking and suspension systems were also quite different. The Moglia design was presented as the new "Biscooter Voisin", a nomenclature which at least one commentator found "abusive".
The vehicle, renamed Biscúter, was adapted for Spanish conditions and about 12,000 were produced in Catalonia between 1953 and 1960.
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