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De Dion-Bouton Populaire

De Dion-Bouton Populaire Published: 1st Jun 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

De Dion-Bouton Populaire
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Engineering excellence from this French fancy


As the name suggests the De Dion-Bouton was one of the instigators of an “everyman’s car” being small and easy to drive. And while the Populaire was one of the first horseless carriages it was very advanced for it time, boasting the famous De Dion rear axle, that eventually found its way on the Rover P6 some 60 years later. There’s variable valve exhaust timing, too!


De Dion was the first car maker to offer cars for sale, issuing its first brochure back in 1886. The open Populaire was launched in 1902 (selling in the UK for £200) but alas the car didn’t give the company the success it needed and the company faded away during the roaring twenties. According to leading UK expert Austin Parkinson, there’s around 250-300 surviving in the UK but a very healthy number across the globe.


Like the Model T, there’s a technique needed to drive the De Dion. For example, there’s a decelerator pedal as well as a brake while a lever activates both the clutch and gears, twin on pre 1905 models, three-speed thereafter. The very first models lacked a reverse… With a 6hp 700cc engine it is surprisingly nippy for its era while the steering and brakes are similarly very positive and effective.


A decade ago, you could pick up a decent De Dion for around £20,000 but prices have since soared and you’re looking at three-to-four times this and the 100K Bouton isn’t far away predict pundits.


Did you know that more De Dions survive the London- Brighton Run than any other make and in 1996 some 90 entered the famous event? That speaks volumes for the car’s reliability and according to specialist Austin Parkinson of Surrey (01403 752225) who has owned one for almost 45 years, some mechanical aspects are a work of automotive art. Spares are readily available via him although some repairs can be pricey – such as £4000 for an engine rebuild. The complex transmissions demand expert attention but Austin can advise on the best help here.

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