True pioneers the Farman brothers Henry and Maurice were actively involved in the France's earliest motor races and aviation exploits. At the end of the 19th century they had already made quite a name for themselves as successful bicycle racers and balloonists. To fund their adventures they ran a large car dealership in Paris, which also had a branch in their native England operated by their brother Dick. A few years into the 20th century both Henry and Maurice set about building planes. Eventually the two companies merged and produced some legendary planes including the 'Goliath', which was one of the first passenger planes. They also funded one of the first airlines, which would eventually be absorbed by Air France.
Like many of their competitors, the Farman brothers feared that peace would have detrimental effects on the airplane business and in 1919 they branched out into building motor cars. Their aim was never to sell as many cars as possible, but instead to create the ultimate luxury car rivaling the likes of Rolls-Royce and Hispano Suiza. Having sold many cars produced by all of their competitors, the brothers had a wealth of automotive experience without ever having constructed a car themselves. Their exploits in the airplane business had learned them invaluable lessons into the use of lightweight materials and aerodynamics. Like their contemporary Gabriel Voisin, the brothers possessed all the right knowledge to build some very special cars.
The Farmans' biggest source of inspiration was Hispano Suiza, which had also manufactured airplane engines during the War. This is most apparent when looking at the six cylinder engine first shown in 1919. The 6.6 litre unit was almost an exact copy of the Hispano engine right down to the cylinder dimensions. The straight six featured a single overhead camshaft and sported two Zenith Carburetors. It was modestly estimated to produce 100 bhp. It was fitted in a conventional ladder type frame and mated to a four speed gearbox. Unusually for the time, Farman created their own bodies and at the launch they offered a stately luxurious coupe and a sporty roadster. This large contrast embodied the brothers love of high speeds and the desire to build luxury motor cars.
Dubbed the A6 A, the first Farmans rolled off the production line late in 1919. Priced at the level of the most exclusive competition, the Farman grew out to be a distinguished alternative for the established luxury manufacturers. Royals and Aristocrats were among the fledgling company's few clients. One of their most famous customers was famous hunter and Ace of the French airforce Charles Nungesser. He had shot down no fewer 45 planes during the war. Taking a direct stab at the competition, the brothers used the slogan "a car rolls, the Farman glides".
In the early 1920s the engine was slightly revised. The sheet engine block was replaced by a much lighter block constructed from aluminium. The chassis equipped with the more advanced engine were known as the A6 B. Further revisions came in 1926 when the design team by Charles Waseige redesigned the chassis, fitting a highly complex front suspension setup. The revised car was known as the New Farman 1 or NF1 for short. A few years later the NF2 was introduced with a 7.5 litre version of the engine to rival Hispano's eight litre car.
Hit by the depression, the Farmans struggled to sell their highly exclusive cars and in 1931 they were forced to cease production. Eventually only 120 Farmans were produced; only ten per year. The brothers continued the production of airplanes until their factory and airline were nationalized by the French government in 1936. Today the Farman motor car is very little known and certainly not regarded as highly as their competition or as highly as the finely crafted machines deserve. Sadly only four examples are known to have survived today. Two of them, an A6 A and a NF1, can be viewed in the former Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse, France.
Source: Conceptcarz, Bonhams, other