1906 Minerva 40-hp Roi des Belges

1906 Minerva 40-hp Roi des Belges

Few Edwardian cars rank as high as Minerva, Belgium's "Goddess of Automobiles". Its founder, Sylvain de Jong, was a Dutchman born in Amsterdam in 1868, who moved to Belgium in 1883, opening a company importing English bicycles six years later. He soon moved to England to study cycle manufacture, and returned to Belgium to capitalise on the low cost of labour, building bicycles in Antwerp under the "Mercury" trade mark. He spent time in America studying production methods, and in 1897 left Mercury to establish a new company producing cycles – the first Minervas. By 1899 production was running at 200 cycles a week, but he had greater ambitions and had taken on a de Dion-Bouton agency. Learning much from de Dion quality, in 1900 he began making Minerva motorbikes, which enjoyed many competition successes. At the same time, he began experimenting with prototype voiturettes, but the demand for two-wheelers meant that car production only got slowly under way from 1902.

The "Société Anonyme Minerva Motors" was founded in 1903, with De Jong and his friend David Citroën, a Dutch-born naturalised Englishman who had been Minerva's highly successful British agent since 1900, as directors, and a new factory equipped with the latest machinery was opened in Antwerp in December 1904 with 550 workers. Production began with a range of T-head cars with two, three and four cylinders and chain final drive, initially with armoured wood chassis, but soon with pressed steel frames.

In 1905 the agency was taken up by the Hon C. S. Rolls, who entered two 20-hp four-cylinder Minervas for the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy; they failed to finish, but the spark of competition had been kindled.

In 1906, when Minerva production reached 600 cars and 3000 motorcycles and engines and a four-storey building was added to the Antwerp factory, standard production Minervas took second place in the team prize in the Coupe de Liedekerke and won their class in the Circuit Touriste de la Semaine d'Ostende among other successes.

Late that year Minerva introduced the big pair-cast T-head 40-hp six-cylinder Type K of 6235cc.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams & en.wheelsage

Production Start 1906
Country of origin Belgium