1903 CLEMENT MODEL AC4R REAR ENTRANCE TONNEAU - BONHAMS
LONDON TO BRIGHTON WEEKEND
AUCTION OF VETERAN CARS
3Oth OCTOBER 2015
NEW BOND STREET LONDON
1903 CLEMENT MODEL AC4R REAR ENTRANCE TONNEAU
Registration no. Not currently UK registered, formerly 'N1261' (see text) Chassis no. 4281 Engine no. 423
£400,000 - 500,000
€550,000 - 690,000
*Long history of participation in the London to Brighton
*Owned by numerous luminaries in the hobby *Comprehensively restored *In concours condition *Complete with entry to 2015 Run
Already a successful maker of bicycles and pneumatic tyres - he owned the Dunlop patents in France - Adolphe Clément diversified into automobile manufacture in 1899, taking an interest in the existing Gladiator concern. Rear-engined tricycles and quadricycles were made at the Gladiator works in Levallois-sur-Seine before Clément began building a conventional front-engined light car around 1901. Clément's early vehicles were powered by Aster, Panhard and De Dion engines, all three makes being at the forefront of automobile development.
By January 1903 Clément et Gladiator claimed to have an annual capacity of 1,200 cars but in October that year Adolphe Clément broke his connection with the company and set up a new factory in Levallois-Perret, manufacturing cars under the 'Clément-Bayard' name. At the beginning of that same year Clément had introduced the 2,121cc 12/16hp model which well deserved the adjective "magnificent" for it was one of the most advanced cars of its day, the 12/16 featured a pair-cast four-cylinder 'L-head' engine, four-speed transmission and a channel steel chassis at a time when many of its rivals still relied on the old-fashioned flitch-plated wooden frame. An ingenious pressurised lubrication system fed oil from the pump-fed cooling system to oil baths for the engine's big-end bearings.
This example returns to the UK from American ownership and has a long known British history. Its very earliest days were recorded in the program for the London to Brighton Run in 1934. In those days, perhaps because of the novelty of the cars and that each invariably had a recent tale of discovery before being put back on the road, many of those stories were detailed in the publication. For this car, two years are particularly useful. The aforementioned 1934 edition lists the owner as A.W.F. Smith, a pioneering collector of early motorcars and succinctly lists its history as:
'Originally in French ownership until brought to England early in 1905. Spent the last 24 years locked away in disused coach house, until purchased and run by A.R.Utley last year.'
This single annotation helpfully details its first years of existence, while interestingly in the 1938 edition, it is noted as having ;'original paintwork and upholstery', so the current fashion of originality is by no means a new one!
It is probably safe to assume that the registration number that it wore by this time 'N1261' was allocated to the Clement when it arrived in the UK and as such it would have been the 1,261st car registered with Manchester County Borough Council.
A.W.F. Smith would campaign the Clement successively on the London to Brighton Run from 1934-1938, after the war again it was on the run from 1946-1956, with the exception of 1947 when there was no event. Also in this period Smith is known to have joined the F.N.C.A.F. Les Teuf TeufClub in France and the car may well have been used on their events.
By 1957, Smith had acquired a large horsepower Daimler of the same year and this seems to have been his 'Brighton Runner' for the next decade. In 1951 it was presented to the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain and received dating as 1903, being the 17th car so certified.
Smith's extensive collection was dispersed in a legendary auction at Cross-in-Hand in Sussex in 1968. In those days a handful of lines sufficed to describe the cars that were offered, with a single sentence to sum the car up, which in this case it appears to do quite well: 'The car is original, reputedly down to the paintwork itself, and is in excellent condition'.
The combined total value of the sale that day was £77,000, a sum which equaled the record for an auction of its kind according to contemporary reports. To put the importance of the Clement in context, the hammer fell at £5,200, a considerable sum of the money and clearly reflecting its importance and intrinsic value. The buyer then was noted collector Neil Corner, who five months later would take the car on the London to Brighton, with friends and industry luminaries Patrick Lindsay and Colin Crabbe. From Corner, the Clement passed to A.M. Goodman and then to the present owner in 1977.
Over the course of nearly 4 decades of ownership the car has been used on the London to Brighton on a number of occasions, particularly in the early days of its custody. Maintained in the UK for some time, it received a new crankshaft and mechanical work in the 1980s.
In recent years the Clement has been exquisitely restored to a standard befitting the quality and refinement of the mechanical jewel it represents and sparkles cosmetically too! Offered for sale from long-term American ownership on the West Coast in California, approximately a decade ago it was comprehensively restored by noted Veteran and Edwardian 'Brass' experts Tired Iron Works. Attesting to its condition it was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2006.
After his long association, he has decided to part with it, presenting an opportunity to acquire what must be one of the best recorded and active four cylinder veteran cars around and has the further benefit of an entry for this year's event. Please note this Lot is subject to 5% import tax if remaining in the UK.
Footnote please note that the registration number 'N1261' was still attached to the Clement when acquired. It is not known to the owner to have been re-appropriated and it may be possible to make an application to return this to the car.
UK import duty is now not applicable to this lot. It is UK registered 'N 1261' and is accompanied by a Swansea V5C.