France and Germany were the European pioneers of the new-fangled motor industry in the late nineteenth century, with many early manufacturers entering this field from related engineering businesses including the manufacture of cycles. Just one such was Alexandre Darracq who had established the Gladiator Cycle Co. in 1891 and successfully sold out his interests in that company in 1896. That was the year in which he had dallied with the production of electric carriages and the idea of manufacture of horseless carriages captured his imagination. In 1898 Societe A. Darracq at Suresnes were to build a horizontal engined car to the design of Leon Bollee but it fell short of Darracq's hopes and expectations. By 1900 Darracq was building a highly effective 6 ½ hp voiturette to his own design, powered by a vertical single cylinder engine, mounted in a tubular steel chassis and with shaft drive – very advanced thinking at the turn of the century. By 1903/4 the company were offering 8,9,12,15,24 and 30hp cars and by that time the factory at Suresnes accounted for about 10% of France's motor car production, proof if needed of the success of Darracq's technical excellence.
The twin-cylinder Darracq 12hp model found fame much later in 1954 in the film 'Genevieve', such a model taking the title role in the box office blockbuster film based around the 'London to Brighton' run . 'Genevieve' herself was a 1904 twin-cylinder model developed from the slightly earlier model offered here.
This car was part of the vast hoard of mainly Darracq, Peugeot and Panhard restoration projects and parts amassed from all over Europe by the late Ron Knight, a stalwart of The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain. Careful cataloguing and identification of these projects following his death identified one assembly of parts as a c1903 Darracq 12 hp and it seemed probable that they all came from one car. The 12 hp Darracq parts consisted of major components including engine, gearbox, chassis side members and dumb irons, steering column and linkages, oil tank, pedal arrangements, front and rear axles and many more minor components. The hoard also included the rear seats from the swing-seat tonneau body now fitted to this car. Restoration of this substantially complete project was a most viable exercise and was to include a comprehensive mechanical restoration of all components, restoration of the coachwork including manufacture of the front swing-seat arrangement, re-making of the wood and flitch plate chassis side members which had rotted/corroded beyond safe restoration, and manufacture of fuel and water tanks to original pattern. Research with registration archives in Yorkshire enabled the period registration number W 21 to be issued to this car. Restoration was completed in 2013 since when the car has completed its post restoration 'bedding down', having covered in the order of 1,000 miles.
Substantially conforming to 1903 specification, W 21 is most handsomely presented in grey livery with red coachlining and chassis detail and furnished with deep-buttoned black leather upholstery. It is generously accessorised with Lanternes Ducellier oil sidelamps and rear lights and carries a spectacular centre-mounted Phare Ducellier No. 895 centre driving lamp. Minimal dashboard equipment includes a Stella dashboard clock, lubrication control and a charming steering column mounted dash lamp. Other equipment includes a Desmo bulb horn, a hand operated windscreen wiper, an umbrella basket, a most practical two-piece, brass-framed folding windscreen, a mulberry coloured two-piece tonneau cover and a brass rear view mirror. The car sports Royal Automobile Club and AA 'Golden Jubilee' member's badges. Practical modifications for ease of motoring include the fitting of an electric starter and a later ignition system, complementing the period trembler coil system still in place and the fitting of a more efficient Zenith carburettor – a common modification to early cars in the Edwardian period.
We are advised that W 21 drives strongly 'four up' on the road. It recently won the premier veteran award at the prestigious Newby Hall Concours d' Elegance in the North of England and the car will be offered with a current Swansea V5C registration document for its distinctive W 21 number.