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Interesting perspective on the "debate."

I don't think it's so much a debate on Voison as it is about aesthetics of the car that won Pebble Beach. Some like the design, most don't. No one suggested that Gabriel Voison's engineering was not worthy.

The restoration on Mullin's car is so spectacular, you can't help but appreciate it. In my opinion, though, aesthetics takes a back seat to condition at Pebble, which is mandated in that the only cars elegible to win Best of Show have to first win Best of Class, which is determined by points only. Kind of gives a new definition to concours d'elegance, in my opinion... concours écouter.

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I think people would be surprised by the number of PB best of show winners that have been "tweaked" during restoration. I can think of a particular Mercedes that had the spares moved from the fenders to the rear. Whatever the modifications, I can't imagine the car looked better prior to them.

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Here is one with a Dubos body that I like but may not be universally loved. At this point they were using supercharged Graham engines. I recall this car selling at one of the Pebble Beach auctions.

EDIT: Note the subdued original colors and the showy later transformation.

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Edited by alsancle (see edit history)
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  • 8 months later...

I'll comment here since this seems to be more of an "appreciation" thread, but I rather like the PB winner, the line extending from the cowl through the subtle curve of the lower door glass opening then leads visually into the arc of the rear fender profile. Very elegant and not immediately noticeable to the eye, but recognized by the brain instantly. My favorite form of auto design are those that require you to try to figure out why you perceive an automobile in a certain way, despite what you think you see at first glance. So many fine details here, truly like admiring a sculpture in a museum garden, I would enjoy viewing it unrushed on the greens somewhere.

I do agree that the flat top versions look best, a more mean-spirited design that evokes even greater emotions, but they still retain the cues I've noted.

While I may not prefer the support strakes, they are evocative of the company origins and reminiscent of bi-plane wing supports.

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Yikes, it's back!...All kidding aside, I think the body lines are interesting and unique, but that interior makes me want to hit somebody (fureur de route, anyone?)

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I don't personally love the interior either but I appreciate it, especially when you consider the context of the era. We know it's wild today, but imagine what it must have looked like at the time!

BTW, your Zephyr is one universally appealing beauty. Enjoy her!

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Thanks, Marrs: I sort of think of the Zephyr coupe as a poor man's Delahaye ;). BTW, even though my first *running* car was my Mustang, my first car of any sort was a 1963 MB 220SEb which I bought when I was 13 with my paper route savings. Needless to say, my folks were nonplussed, but I actually made a $200 profit when I sold it -- still not running -- 9 months later :)

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That must have been one long summer delivering papers, but perhaps they were less costly when you found yours. I had my share of non-runners/pipe-dream cars as a kid, I went in on two cars with different friends, one was a '63 Cadillac hearse the other was a Jaguar MKX sedan (I already had an XJ6L that was my daily). Neither of those cars ever moved, but we lost money on both. My first running car was a 1957 Cadillac Series 60, leghorn beige with the most lovely original bronze painted metal and tapestry interior. 50,000 original miles, I think I will post looking for info on that car in the Cadillac forums now!

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  • 10 months later...

It'd be interesting to hear about Voisins from someone who both owned and worked on them. You get the impression they were essentially what was called an "assembled" car as were Elcar, Gardner, Jordan in the US, perhaps more akin to Auburn-Cord, which used existing Lycoming engines, despite the fanciful Gallic styling. France enjoyed a system of smooth, well-established roads long before we did, and Paris is flat, nothing like Pittsburgh, PA or San Francisco, so wildly overhanging coachwork is a wee bit more practical there-- the French always more willing to suffer for fashion than us.

From what we've heard, the Knight sleeve-valve engine is one of those constructs that sounds better than it really was, a notorious oil burner. Smooth as any inline six has natural balance, but at a cost in horrific oil consumption.

Anyone amongst those here gathered have real world experience, long trips, casual use of Voisins? Meanwhile, would love to hear more about the three Voisin inline 12s; a pair of existing sixes end-to-end. Bore/stroke, did they have a periodic? How were they, really? Only three were built, the back of the rearmost block intruding upon the driver's compartment, disguised as a console. Equally, it'd be a nice comparison with the one-off 1929 Packard monobloc straight 12 as this is about all we could find:

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Edited by Water Jacket (see edit history)
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I can't disagree with anything you are saying, except maybe to quibble a bit with Auburn-Cord being an "assembled" car. E.L owned Lycoming too so it wasn't just part of the overall corporate entity and the bodies were all built by E.L companies.

The definitive Voisin book is Automobiles Voisin: 1919-1958 by Pascal Courteault which I unfortunately cannot find for less than $1,100.

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  • 3 weeks later...

There is an excellent, comprehensive chapter on Gabriel Voisin and his cars in the book edited by Barker and Harding, titled "Automobile Design: Great Designers and their Work".

The man himself was an extraordinary work of art. The use of a Graham engine when he no longer had financial control was an extreme insult to him and his standards. (I know perfectly well that a Graham engine could be indestrucible provided it was not run without oil and water: Henry Formby drove an old barred-up Graham in the mid-late 1950s in what they called "Stock car racing" here, where the winner was the last car running; and it was impossible to blow that Graham engine up). But it changed the character of the the Voisin cars. You would have to drive a Voisin to be able to give an authoritative opinion on what they were like. What is known is that they were amazingly fast between distant points, recording better trip times than more powerful highly rated cars. Voisin was outraged his after his cars had won first, second, third, and fifth places in the production car class of the 1922 Grand Prix at Stasbourg because of their light weight and excellent aerodynamic characteristics. The ACF changed the rules to ban streamlining, so he entered his cars as racing cars, even though everyone was too dumb to understand the point.

Stuart Middlehurst and I jointly bought a Voisin in about 1963, which a previous owner had altered to fit a 6 litre 6 cylinder cuff-valve Peugeot and a Minerva gearbox. What happened to the 4 litre Voisin engine with its gearbox, and what happened to the rest of the Peugeot(s?) is not known. The next owner partly pulled it apart till he learned that it was a practical impossibility. Stuart and I would share ownership of interesting items that no-one else would touch at the time and we payed fifty pounds for this. Stuart is no longer with us, and I have gathered enough Peugeot parts from seven or eight lost cars to rebuild an authentic car. ( One restored car in France is the only other one of these known to be left; though a former owner here, who also owned 6.5 lire Hispano Suiza and Tipo 8 Isotta Fraschini at the time, rated the Peugeot more highly than those).

The Voisin eventually went to a friend in New Zealand, who is a former owner of one of the small Voisins. He still has no engine. There used to be a correct engine at Ponderosa Ranch near Reno, Nevada. I have a photo of it with the block removed. Does anyone know where it, or another spare engine, are , so that Michael Rose can restore his car to drive? If we can get an engine we can fix it. ( I can use a molybdenum wire-feed thermospray coating to rebuild the junk-head rings so compression does not leak past them to blow oil into the exhaust. You can actually compel a sleeve-valve engine to give up smoking ). The body is one of Voisin's own manufacture; and it is a sports type for four passengers with a rounded back.

I never worry that many of Voisin's cars look different and not totally of a style I would most admire. I appreciate that he always built them to best satisfy their intended purpose.

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Ivan, this doesn't have anything to do with Voisins, just the Peugeots. I understand that apart from your Type 156's, there is a restored Type 156 in France (painted red, I think), as well as a couple of unrestored Type 156's in Melbourne? (belonging to a restoration workshop?). I'm very interested in the cuff valve Peugeots, if you can add any info, and the fact there seem to be so many in Australia.

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Edited by Craig Gillingham (see edit history)
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Winning a class at Pebble Beach is not determined by points only - there are often multiple 100 point cars in a class.To separate those the class judges are given a 10% "elegance factor". That said, I strongly feel that this system is still superior to the "walk by" judging.

Interesting perspective on the "debate."

I don't think it's so much a debate on Voison as it is about aesthetics of the car that won Pebble Beach. Some like the design, most don't. No one suggested that Gabriel Voison's engineering was not worthy.

The restoration on Mullin's car is so spectacular, you can't help but appreciate it. In my opinion, though, aesthetics takes a back seat to condition at Pebble, which is mandated in that the only cars elegible to win Best of Show have to first win Best of Class, which is determined by points only. Kind of gives a new definition to concours d'elegance, in my opinion... concours écouter.

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As someone who's been in involved with what was once upon a time, this "hobby," and on both coasts, the Pebble Beach mentality has destroyed this pastime as much as anything,

and i say this having auld friends who've won both best in class and best of show there.

Phi Hill said it best, that he'd "....seen more cars forever ruined for the sake of another few points" at tournaments of credit lines and ego like Pebble Beach.

The wrong materials, the wrong finishes; grotesque overrestoration is de rigueur, despite all the sputtering, proclamations to the contrary. Concourses d'elegance in Europe in the late '20s, '30s, were just that, NOT janitorial d' nonelegance. In the day,

the cars were driven through rain and parked on the field, perhaps a bit of mud still on the tires, the cars judged solely on their design, aura, innate allure----nothing else.

Retaining a sole "Preservation Class" at Pebble is a bit of cynicism fooling no one, so business can proceed as usual.

It says much for the state of the hobby that i post a question about an extremely limited-production Voisin (above) and the only response is that i might purchase a $1,100 tome on the company. And now we're back to yacking about trophy hounds because MOST of these old cars are cosmetically restored old bombs with occasionally rebuilt engines, merely as people like doing engines but not attending to the myriad details that comprise an automobile.

Can't help notice that increasingly, posters on this site have some attendant business.

Be nice to get back to the cars, the facts.

Edited by Water Jacket (see edit history)
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It might be interesting to note that Voisin, unlike most other small manufacturers, used only very few parts from external suppliers: wheels, electrical system, instruments, radiators – that´s about it. Everything else was designed and manufactured in-house, down to minor stuff like door handles and cast-alloy side lights. I bought a Voisin some 12 years ago; its restoration caused lots of grey hair due to the non-availability of spare parts and detailed technical information, as expected on any „exotic“ vintage car. The car is on the road since 2009 and rather trouble-free – just add petrol and the occasional pint of oil, that´s it. Remarkably easy to drive for a vintage car; at certain speeds the only audible noise is the carburetor´s air intake: spooky indeed – and remarkably quiet for such a small (2.3 litre) engine. (By the way, Voisin didn´t pay any royalties for his engines because Knight´s sleeve-valve engine patent wasn´t valid in France!) With its all-aluminum body, servo-assisted brake system, 12-volt electricals and delightful ergonomics it was quite an advanced design for its day. Regarding the dizzying interiors: that´s the work of a then-popular fashion designer, commissioned by Gabriel Voisin!

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How "occasional" is the pint of oil? I'd heard such sleeve valve engines used considerable oil, but you own one. Sounds like Voisin tooled themselves to death much as Packard did,

producing so much of their car inhouse. Perhaps it's finally time for Voisins to have their day in the sun.

To that end, nicely framed and most Gallic a photo above. Are you able to retake it earlier in the day so the light's on our side of the car?

Really wish we could find out some details about the trio of Voisin straight twelves.

Perhaps someone amongst those here gathered owns the aforementioned $1,100 book and might share a synopsis of the inline 12.

Edited by Water Jacket (see edit history)
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„Occasional“ in this case is one pint every 100 miles. As previously stated in this thread, oil consumption mostly depends on the condition of junk heads and rings. Choosing the correct type of oil also helps... somewhat.

Voisin´s inline-12 engines are poorly documented. Most likely only two were built (one 4.6-litre and a 6-litre) and photographs are scarce. Frankly, I´m inclined to believe these beasts were not Voisin´s brightest idea – rather, an expensive way to find out about possible effects of crankshaft torsional vibration!

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Standard-issue, basic factory four-door on the 2.3 litre chassis. Fancy streamliners like the Aerodyne and Aerosport only appeared in the 1930´s and only a handful were built.

Your modesty belies the beauty of that automobile, thank you for sharing this with us. As you can tell, we don't all require French curves and seizure-inducing seat patterns to appreciate these cars. Please do show us more, inside and out, under the hood, etc., if you have some time, and congratulations on finding her. How often do you drive her?

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This one spent most of its life in France (where I bought it in 2001). It is licenced for road use but gets exercised on a limited scale only – approx 1500 km per year – cars this old are not ideally suited for today´s traffic. This car neither has a water pump nor a ventilator so it isn´t too happy in traffic jams.

The interior has been re-done with the infamous art-deco Voisin cloth, faithfully replicated to match the original. Bear in mind that this pattern also was available in bright red – a sight which may seriously damage one´s retina: sunglasses are a good idea ! In comparison the blue cloth appears almost dull and reserved...

One more footnote regarding the inline-12. Gabriel Voisin claimed that his personal 4-6 litre car was clocked at 170 kph (105 mph) – re relates this story in his autobiography, now available in a fine, annotated, English translation („My 1001 Cars“) which is an enlightening read.

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Has anyone here seen his 3D sales brochure,,,that need 2 color glasses to view..

I met Kity V at a friends house around 1955,and she had a 6'' stack of grandads paper,,

a sight to behold,,There was info on the 12 also,,rear 2 cyl in a box passenger side of the firewall

Neat trick,,,Wish i could'a met him

He thought the big 4 p speedster was still in Paris,but didn't know where,,

AAAhh,,,Memories,,,Ben

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  • 2 weeks later...
How "occasional" is the pint of oil? I'd heard such sleeve valve engines used considerable oil.

My understanding as a point of comparison was that the Minerva 6 liter engine would consume approx 1 gallon of oil every 800 miles.

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I asked Tom Hogan for you a few minutes ago. Tom owned the two Willys Knights , for which I rebuilt the Junk head rings, and honed the sleeves parallel and to common size. New rings went onto original expanded pistons of the big model 66 roadster, and Tom managed to find a set of semi-finished pistons for the (smaller model) 77. I cam-ground these to suit the sleeves; and of course they went in with new rings. He said the oil consumption was about a quart in 1000 miles. I feel that the metal-spray Molybdenum coating rebuild of the junk rings (Metco Spraybond) was an important improvement. I have explained the process and the logic of the method a couple of times.

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Good to see that the big Minerva´s oil consumption lines up with that of my car!

The photo shows a new junk head (rings still to be fitted) and it can be clearly seen in the old drawing. The rings of course tend to wear out quickly as lubrication at this point must be erratic at best. Mr Saxton´s advice is genuinely helpful. One quart in 1000 miles - I guess this is quite excellent for ANY vintage car engine. Of course there are plenty of jokes (funny and not-so-funny) dealing with "smoky" sleeve-valve cars.... just make sure you never get stuck behind one on the road.

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I wondered about that term, too. For once, the internet provides an answer (from Wikipedia):

"The term "junk head" originates from these sealing rings or "junk rings". The term was previously in use with steam engines. Whereas a piston ring must slide within the cylinder and so be made of the best quality long-lived materials, where a fixed cylinder cover was sealed by a ring, this stationary ring could be of the lowliest materials or "junk", often a greased or graphited rope or oakum packing. Although the high cylinder temperature of an internal combustion engine requires high quality materials even here, the term stuck."

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