1928 Avions-Voisin KE Sport Roadster

1928 Avions-Voisin KE Sport Roadster
Gabriel Voisin was an aviation pioneer, but his skills as an engineer and designer would make his creations, not for the air but for four wheels.
Born in 1880 in Belleville-sur-Saone, France, Gabriel's father would abandon him at a very young age and would lead to him and his family moving to Neuville-sur-Saone. After his grandfather passed away, Voisin would be sent to Lyon and Paris for school where he would learn industrial design.
Initially working in an architectural firm in Paris after graduating, Voisin would come to see the Clement Ader Avion III at the Paris International Exposition in 1900 and he would be absolutely mesmerized with flight and solving the problems associated with heavier-than-air powered flight. Soon, Voisin would become associated with Ernst Archdeacon, a leading figure in the French aviation scene at the time. Voisin would begin building gliders of many different types and would even be approached by Louis Bleriot to build what was to become known as the Bleriot II. However, during testing of the aircraft, Voisin would nearly drown as he would be trapped inside when it plunged into a river.
Throughout the first decade of the 20th century, many throughout Europe did not believe the claims of the Wright Brothers, especially their claims of sustained flights. Therefore, many aviators throughout Europe would continue to fiercely compete for sustained flights and Voisin would be right in there amongst them. In fact, Voisin's Appareils d'Aviation Les Freres Voisin would be considered the world's first commercial airplane factory. And Henry Farman would use a design of Voisin's to complete the first one-kilometer closed-circuit flight in 1907.
In 1909, at the age of just 29, Voisin would become the youngest Knight of the French Legion of Honor. And as the world plunged into its first world war, Voisin would play a prominent role in French military aviation. Besides himself volunteering for the French air corps, Voisin's aircraft company would produce a number of aircraft that would see action in the war.
But war is hell. And after experiencing and suffering the horrors of war, and the fact his airplanes played a major part in the conflict, Voisin would step away from the aviation industry but would not abandon it for a quieter, much more tranquil way of life. Instead, he would use his extensive knowledge gained from aviation engineering to start his own automobile manufacturing company called Avions Voisin.
Voisin would start his company in 1919. His cars would quickly become known for their luxury and for the use of the Knight-type sleeve valve engines. Coming from the aviation industrty, Voisin would be dedicated to the use of light alloys. One particular favorite of his would be aluminum.
Throughout the 1920s and into the early 1930s, Avions Voisin would consistently produced some of the most expensive, and therefore, most luxurious cars in the world. His Laboratoire grand prix car, built in 1923, would be one of the first to make use of a moncoque chassis construction. Recognizable for spacious designs with their angular lines, Voisin's cars were as striking as his airplane designs.And one of Voisin's designs.
A true mystery in so many ways, this KE Sport Roadster is known to be based upon the C11 chassis, which would be Voisin's most successful and best selling chassis. Given its design, it is very likely this chassis was part of Voisin's dream to build road-going versions of his Laboratoire sports cars as it prominently features the sweeping fenders and a design much more aerodynamically-minded than his much more opulent designs.
With a chassis number stamped on the left front chassis horn, KE 27188 resided for a number of years with the Grell collection based in Basel, Switzerland. Walter Grell had an incredible collection of some truly magnificent racing machines and the history surrounding Voisin and his achievements in the aviation and automotive industries would have made this car a very special part of the collection. Still, there is very little known about this car other than conjecture.
The true history and story of the car would end up being lost forever when Mr. Grell passed away in the late 1990s. But it is obvious this car is certainly different than Voisin's other chassis designs. The one story relating some of the origins of the car is that it was specially built for the manager of the Orion radiator factory in Zurich. This story is believed to be true given the difference of the flat radiator compared to the much more usual 'V'-shaped radiator Voisin usually employed.
At the time of sale out of the Grell estate, the car was known to have a dark red finished and appeared to have been neglected, possibly even stored away for a number of years. However, after being sold, the KE Sport Roadster underwent restoration. The grill would be stripped right down to the aluminum and refinished along with the rest of the car. Now presented in a royal blue finish reminiscent of the colors worn by French manufacturers, the small roadster is quite striking to behold.
Complete with its fully restored C11 engine, red leather seats and wire spoke wheels with Goodrich Silvertown Cord tires, the car provides a glimpse at the genius of Gabriel Voisin. Brilliantly designed and very sporty even when sitting still, the car reminds all of a nearly forgotten about carmaker. It also begs the question, 'What would have been?'
This obvious one-off creation of Voisin.

Descriptions & pictures by conceptcarz & flickr & classicdriver & other
Production Start 1928
Country of origin France