Amelia Island

8 March 2014

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Lot 173

1901 De Dion-Bouton New York Type Motorette

  • Engine no. 2822
  • Body no. 126

Sold for $115,500

3.5 hp, 402 cc single-cylinder engine, two-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and a De Dion tube rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, a mechanical gearbox brake, and a sprag brake. Wheelbase: 61 in.

  • Rare Brooklyn-built New York Type Motorette
  • Amazing near-original condition
  • London-to-Brighton Veteran

In 1900, De Dion, Bouton et Cie. was in the forefront of the world’s motor industries. Having built steam cars, gasoline tricycles, and four-wheeled voiturettes, the company had the distinction of being the largest engine manufacturer in the world, supplying powerplants to 140 manufacturers around the globe. The four-wheel, four-seat vis à vis (face to face) voiturette was increasingly popular. America had taken notice when a De Dion was demonstrated in Boston in 1898, and subsequently, Kenneth Skinner, of Boston, took up licensing De Dion patents in the United States.

There were a number of importers, but, in 1900, a consortium of Americans, headed by Cornelius Field, took a license from Skinner and set up the De Dion-Bouton Motorette Company in Brooklyn, New York, with a salesroom on 66th Street in Manhattan. Three models were offered, a Brooklyn Motorette with a single two-passenger seat, a New York Motorette with facing vis à vis seating, and a telephone-booth-like Brougham. De Dion Motorettes took prizes in hill climbs on Long Island, they raced with the Auto Club of New England at the Pan-American Exhibition at Buffalo, and one took 1st place in a September 1901 New York-to-Buffalo endurance test. The life of the Brooklyn-built De Dion, however, was short. By mid-1902, Skinner had canceled the company’s contract, citing violations of its conditions.

This remarkable example of the New York Type Motorette was discovered in the 1960s by the late California collector Ben Moser. It was owned by a single family for at least half a century, and then it was purchased by Moser from the grandson of the long-time owner. When purchased, it was removed from a barn intact, accompanied by a parasol, an early photograph with the owner, and a well-preserved chauffeur’s hat, and it was virtually original, with only a few cosmetic touches made by the grandson. Moser went on to collect additional period-appropriate tools and memorabilia to go with the car.

Prior to Ben Moser’s death in 1992, his friend and attorney Jeremy Hass reportedly acquired the De Dion-Bouton. The car was in very good condition and quite complete, except for the fact that its leather seating was loose, but it was salvaged by carefully underlaying the original material with a flexible backing. The paint was judged to be largely original, and the engine ran well after a brief tune-up. Hass entered it for the 1992 London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run in England, where it started at Hyde Park in London and motored happily southward toward the finish line. On the final hill, however, it stalled with engine trouble, failing to make “Punctual Arrival in Brighton” for the commemorative medal. Nonetheless, it was a valiant effort!

Mr. Hass had the engine and gearbox rebuilt after returning to the United States, and the differential gear was also changed to a more favorable ratio. In 1993, he sold the car, and it has had two owners in recent years. As presented here, it has recently been detailed, but it still retains the original features described, such as the parasol, the photograph, and the chauffeur’s hat, as well as a white rubber floor mat with a red De Dion emblem in the middle.

This car, one of very few surviving Brooklyn-built De Dions, is in remarkable condition and comes with an exceptional provenance. It is eligible for all manner of horseless carriage and one- and two-cylinder tours and events, and it is eager to make another try for punctual arrival at Brighton.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more