"Anyone unfamiliar with a pre-1914 automobile cannot claim to be a motoring enthusiast..."
So said the society writer and classic car buff, Albert Mordant. Mordant would undoubtedly have been familiar with this car: the most powerful pre-1914 Delaunay-Belleville ever built.
This classic car is even more remarkable for having been in the same family, the Michelins, since it was brand new.
The 1913 Delaunay Belleville Type O6 8L is today held among car historians as having been the "jewel in the crown" of the Delaunay Belleville marque.
Delaunay Belleville started manufacturing automobiles in 1904, building on its reputation as a renowned marine, railway and industrial boiler manufacturer and supplier to the French and foreign navies (including the discerning Royal Navy).
For its classic cars, Delaunay Belleville developed manufacturing technologies and procedures of the highest level.
The firm's innovations included adding pressurised lubrication to nautical machines, using modern techniques to balance and improve their operation. The speed with which its cars' water-tube and rapid vaporisation boilers reached pressure also impressed the Royal Navy.
Delaunay Belleville also earned respect for its first vehicles with four separate cylinders. These classic cars were recognised for their quality of build, with superior steel, precise machining and hand-built construction. The company progressed to six-cylinder engines in 1908.
Later, by the summer of 1914, Delaunay Belleville was producing its most prestigious models.
This prestige was further added by the firm's inspired appointment of Marius Barbaroux from Benz, who left behind the raging internal conflicts of his old employer to bring a touch of class to Delaunay Belleville.
Solid collectible: the most powerful pre-1914 Delaunay-Belleville ever built
Barbaroux's appointment attracted the attentions of wealthy motor car enthusiasts with a passion for powerful, silent and fast automobiles.
This Delaunay-Belleville Type O6 45/50 dates to early 1913 and is equipped with the biggest engine ever offered to the public from the marque's Saint-Denis factory. The six-cylinder 7990cc Type 36 engine was formed of two groups of three cylinders, sized 103 x 160mm each.
The result is a revving engine producing 100 bhp at 1500rpm.
Other unique period features under the car's bonnet include its crankshaft, which operates like a small steam cylinder whose operation is controlled by the driver with a pressure gauge installed on the dashboard.
The car also has dual ignition with magneto and an independent distributor. Its clutch is also specific to Delaunay-Belleville: the multi-disc dry type clutch was rarely used at that time because of the costs involved. This only adds the car's luxury appeal today.
Emblematic of its marque's international status, the 1913 Delaunay Belleville Type O6 8L is a true superstar classic car of its era. It will auction in Paris with a €400,000-600,000 presale estimate.