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Avions Voisin

'now for something completely different'


we give our thanks to Automobiles Voisin for much of the Voisin material

Gabriel Voisin was a man who would always do things his own way. He was an early aviation pioneer and a Voisin-Farman aircraft held the world air speed record for a time and a Voisin aircraft was the first to shoot down another in World War 1. He lost his brother in a car accident in 1912 and from that time on he appears to have become slightly eccentric. He became incapable of leaving any aspect of car design alone. It is only after restoring a 1929 example did I really begin to understand the man.

Nothing was similar to another car! He engineered his marvels to a very high 'aviation' standard. Often the bodies were semi monocoque with cast door pillars, beautiful flush bronze rivets, piano hinge doors and unique door latches. At a time when ash framed cars had a tendency to drop doors and have numerous draughts apart from their rattles, the Voisin door fitted perfectly, even after 30 years and at speed one never detected wind noise or a draught. At the top and bottom of the door were a series of pegs that engaged with a plate with drilled holes fitted to the door pillar: probably the most secure system ever.

The horn mechanism was really Voisin! A large spring plate that was squeezed to make electrical contact with a ring on the steering column: a design that would never go wrong. Built in jacking systems, cast iron exhaust boxes that never wore out; the list is endless. Voisin used the Knight sleeve valve engine system in his cars. This meant that they were probably the most quiet vehicles of their time. A pedal to the left of the clutch would enable the driver to bypass the silencer for extra power.

When this was engaged, the sound level hardly increased at all! After some wear, the sleeve valve engine also prevented other cars ever passing you, as the smoke screen laid down obscured oncoming traffic. Voisin owners soon discovered that the worst thing that could happen to the car was to leave it standing for a while. The sleeve valves would seize and an expensive and time consuming strip-down would be necessary. An extended vacation would necessitate hiring a 'Voisin sitter' who would turn the engine every few days using a handle in the vast dynastart which was always fitted between the dumb-irons.

If one had a flat tyre, one of my Voisin cars had an automatic jacking system. Just sit in the car with engine running...lift safety cover and press knob with foot. The car would majestically rise from the ground to the astonishment of all!

To drive the car was always a delight and comfort level was as good as cars thirty years younger. Its performance in all areas was almost identical to the much later Triumph Herald or Vitesse. It had excellent brakes, was light on the wheel, handled well and even had a 24 ft turning circle. Surprisingly the car was also economic in fuel although oil consumption made up for that!

Altogether a special and unique car that always had its own 'presence' even when parked alongside other thoroughbreds. The mascot, cast alloy with aluminium riveted sheet wings could easily have come out of a youth training scheme workshop but somehow always looked right with the car.