1904 Clement-Bayard 911hp AC2K

1904 Clement-Bayard 9/11hp AC2K Twin-Cylinder Rear-Entrance Tonneau

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. As he was unable to call the cars it built 'Cléments', he adopted the trade name 'Bayard' after a statue of the legendary medieval French hero 'le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche' that stood in front of his branch factory in Mézières in the Ardennes region, and officially changed his name to Clément-Bayard. He also formed a joint venture with the Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot to assemble Clément-Bayard cars in London, where they were known as 'Clément-Talbots', eventually becoming the celebrated 'Talbot' marque as assembly developed into manufacture.

Introducing the 1904 'Bayard' range, launched in the autumn of 1903, the French magazine La Vie Automobile wrote: 'Clément is one of the three or four giants of our special world. This man who says little and thinks a lot, whose activity is as great as his daring, is one of the unstoppable forces that drive the stupefying speed that we see in the automobile revolution.'

The Clément-Bayard company was a pioneer of vertical integration, with little reliance on outside suppliers. Casting and rough machining work was carried out at Mézières and bodies were built in coachworks near the Levallois factory. Clément-Bayard's products were well-built and stylish, aimed at the well-to-do middle class, and in 1904 the Levallois-Perret factory employed some 1,600 men who built around 1,200 cars annually. Around 1906 Clément-Bayard began building taxicabs, a market also exploited by the rival Renault company, and between them the two firms dominated the Parisian taxicab scene.

Clément-Bayard's factories produced munitions in large quantities during the 1914-18 war, after which he retired and sold his Levallois works to the up-and-coming André Citroën. He died from a heart attack while at the wheel of a car in 1928.

In single family ownership from the 1930s until 2009, and on display in the Swiss National Transport Museum at Lucerne for 50 years from 1960, this twin-cylinder 4/5-seat rear-entrance tonneau is in a state of remarkable originality. Apart from a repaint long ago and a change from low- to high-tension magneto ignition just before The Great War, it appears to be just as it left the Levallois factory in 1904.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams & gracesguide

Production Start 1904
Country of origin USA