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Model H 12HP Twin Cylinder Rear Entrance Runabout
Automobiles Darracq France was a manufacturer of motor vehicles and aero engines in Suresnes, near Paris. The enterprise, known at first as A Darracq et Cie, was founded in 1896 by successful businessman Alexandre Darracq.
In 1902 he sold his new business to a privately held English company named A Darracq and Company Limited, taking a substantial shareholding and a directorship himself. He continued to run the business from Paris but was obliged to retire to the Côte d'Azur in 1913 following years of difficulties that brought his business into very hazardous financial circumstances. He had introduced an unproven unorthodox engine in 1911 which proved a complete failure yet he neglected Suresnes' popular conventional products. France then entered the first World War.
in 1916 ownership of the Suresnes business was transferred to Darracq S.A. In 1922 Darracq's name was dropped from its products and this business was renamed Talbot S.A. Initially its products were branded Darracq-Talbot and then just Talbot. The London parent company suffered a financial collapse during the great depression and in 1935 Talbot S.A. was acquired by investors led by managing director, Antonio Lago.
Alexandre Darracq, using part of the substantial profit he had made from selling his Gladiator bicycle factory to Adolpe Clément, formed a société en commanditie in February 1897 and named it A Darracq et Cie. He built a new plant, the Perfecta works, in the Paris suburb of Suresnes just south of Puteaux.
Production began in January 1898 with bicycle parts, tricycles and quadricycles and a Millet motorcycle powered by a five-cylinder rotary engine and shortly after an electric brougham. In 1898 Darracq et Cie made a Léon Bollée-designed voiturette tricar. The somewhat old-fashioned voiturette proved a débâcle: the steering was problematic, the five-speed belt drive "a masterpiece of bad design", and the hot tube ignition crude, proving the 250,000 francs or £10,000 Darracq et Cie had paid for the rights a mistake.
Darracq et Cie produced its first four-wheeled car with an internal combustion engine in 1900. Designed by Paul Ribeyrolles, it was a 6.5 hp (4.8 kW; 6.6 PS) voiture legére powered by a 785 cc (47.9 cu in) single cylinder engine, and featured shaft drive and three speed column gear change, which was soon followed by 8HP and 9HP singles, 9HP and 12HP twins and, in 1902 a 4- cylinder 20HP model.
Though larger it was remarkably similar to a current Renault design. Its notable innovation was the provision of a system to vary engine speed between 100 rpm and 2,000 rpm. This was accomplished by regulating the engine's ignition and its inlet valves. By the end of September 1901 they had sold more than 1,000 of these cars but with only 300 employees Suresnes must have been essentially an assembly business.
A. Darracq et Cie was sold as of 30 September 1902 to A. Darracq and Company Limited, an English company a substantial part owned by Alexandre Darracq but majority controlled by a small group of English investors. J S Smith-Winby was appointed chairman. Further capital was raised and large sums were spent on factory expansion, the Suresnes site was expanded to some four acres in extent, and in England extensive premises were bought.
In 1902, A. Darracq et Cie signed a contract with Adam Opel to jointly produce vehicles in the German Empire under licence, with the brand name "Opel Darracq".
Advertising the new 1903 12hp Darracq, Automoblia described the car as 'perfectly silent and smooth running' before inviting prospective customers to 'call and inspect before purchasing elsewhere.' The 12hp Model H was a milestone model for Darracq in so far as it was powered by a twin-cylinder engine featuring mechanically operated valves in 'T'-head formation, an arrangement that brought with it easier starting and increased power output. Other noteworthy features advertised included an engine cast in one piece and driving direct to the back axle on top speed; ignition apparatus under front of bonnet; governor on the induction; and a wood frame.
A. Darracq et Cie prospered. By 1903, four models were offered: a 1.1-litre single, a 1.3 L and 1.9 L twin, and a 3.8 L four. The 1904 models abandoned flitch-plated wood chassis for pressed steel, and the new Flying Fifteen, powered by a 3-litre four, had its chassis made from a single sheet of steel. This car was Alexandre Darracq's chef d'oeuvre. There was nothing outstanding in its design but "every part was in such perfect balance and harmony" it became an outstanding model. Its exceptional quality helped the company capture a ten percent share of the French auto market.
In late 1904 the chairman reported sales were up by 20 per cent though increased costs meant the profit had risen more slowly. But what was more important was they had many more orders than they could fill and the only solution was to enlarge the factory by as much as 50 per cent. Twelve months later, the chairman was able to tell shareholders all the six speed records of the automobile world were held by Darracq cars and they had all been held more than twelve months and yet another had recently been added by K Lee Guinness.
In December 1905 a 22-litre V8-engined monster designed by Ribeyrolles and driven by Victor Hemery set a new World Land Speed Record of 109.65mph, and that same year Darracq won the both the Circuit des Ardennes and Vanderbilt Cup races, repeating the latter victory in 1906.
An order was accepted from a M. Charley for several thousand cabs to sell to franchised operators in major European and American cities. Darracq ordered 4,000 chassis frames and built a new factory beside the existing one but except in New York the cabs were not as popular as the Renault and Unic competition. In 1907 one-third of New York's 1,800 cabs were Darracqs. It was useful business during the recession of 1908 but Darracq turned his attention to heavy motor vehicles.
After 1907 it became harder to sell Darracq's cars, prices had to be cut, new models did not attract the expected custom. Returning to Alexandre Darracq's 1898 idea to build low-cost, good-quality cars, much as Henry Ford was doing with the Model T, Darracq S.A. introduced a £260 14–16 hp (10–12 kW; 14–16 PS) model at the very end of 1911. These, at the founder's insistence, would all be cursed with the Henriod rotary valve engine, which was underpowered and prone to seizing. The new engine's failure was reported by Darracq & Company London to its shareholders to be no more than the difficulty of achieving quantity production. It proved disastrous to the marque, and Alexandre Darracq would be obliged to resign.
New works manager Owen Clegg, appointed in October 1912, designer of the proven Rover Twelve, sensibly copied the Twelve for Darracq & Co's new model. Before his appointment as works manager Clegg had spent 12 months in USA at Darracq's expense studying automobile production. The factory at Suresnes was retooled for mass production, making it one of the first in the industry to do so. The 16HP Clegg-Darracq was joined by an equally reliable 2.1-litre 12HP car, and soon the factory was turning out sixty cars a week; by 1914, 12,000 men rolled out fourteen cars a day.
In 1912/1913, when the sleeve-valve fever was at its height, 15,16 and 20HP “valveless” cars were made under Henriod`s patents. These had a rotary “distributor” or multiply cylindrical plug valve rotating horizontally at combustion chamber level.
By the time of the Motor Show in October 1919 the prewar 16HP "Type V14" had returned to production, featuring a four-cylinder 2,940cc engine. But the manufacturer's big news at the Paris show was the 24HP "Type A", powered by a V8 4,584cc unit. This model had also been initiated by Managing Director Owen Clegg back in 1913, but production had been delayed by intervening events till 1919. The "Type A" featured four forward speeds and, from 1920, four-wheel brakes. Despite these innovative features, it did not sell well.
The French franc had suffered a sustained crisis of its own during the war years, and in May 1920 the "Type V" was listed at 35,000 francs in bare chassis form: a torpedo bodied car was priced at 40,000 francs. Even the "Type V", with its 3,150 mm (124 in) wheelbase, was substantial car, but for customers wanting more, a "Type A" appeared on the same list at 39,500 francs in bare chassis form, and 44,500 francs for a torpedo bodied car.
After the war the prewar 16HP V14 was the manufacturer's top-selling car in Britain
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