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tomcotez

Zenith and Solex carbs in the US

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Hi all,

 

I am based in France and researching the history of two French carburettor manufacturers – Solex and Zenith for a magazine article. I have a couple of questions about their presence in the US market that I am hoping you can help me with.

 

Zenith – I know that they had success in the US in the teens and 1920’s and they built a factory covering 47,000sq ft on Hart Avenue in East Detroit. I believe that their carbs were standard fitment on Model A Fords –  can anyone confirm this and tell me what else they were fitted to as standard? I don’t know what happened post war, presumably they were squeezed out by domestic manufacturers?

 

Solex – Maurice Goudard, the director of Solex, visited the states a few times and met Henry Ford. However, I can’t find any trace of their products being made or sold in the States pre-war. Has anyone come across a solex carb fitted to a US built automobile?

 

Any help will be gratefully received!

 

Tom

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Posted (edited)

Tom -

 

I have no record of a Solex fitted by a USA manufacturer.

 

Zenith is quite a different story. I show Zenith as being original equipment on USA produced cars as early as 1912, and there might be some earlier. They were used on literally hundreds of different cars, trucks, marine, agricultural, industrial, and even air applications; including the Ford model A as you mentioned.

 

Sometime is the early 1920's, the company was acquired by Bendix Aviation, along with the Stromberg Carburetor Company.

 

Sometime in the mid-1970's, Bendix went through the anti-trust breakup, and divested both Zenith and Stromberg to another holding company (Facet). Stromberg pretty much ceased operation, but Zenith continued to produce carburetors, and is still in business today, producing carburetors for some industrial applications.

 

For the most part, Zenith sales for passenger applications in the USA ended in the mid-1930's. But they were still very much involved with truck, marine, industrial, and agricultural sale.

 

Here is a link:  https://archived.zenithfuelsystems.com/

 

If you would like to see various Zenith (and other) applications, try this link: http://www.thecarburetorshop.com/  and click on the various kit links (passenger, truck, marine, etc.) 

 

I never researched the early ownership of Zenith USA, but guessing it was organized as a totally different entity, possibly paying royalties, than Zenith France.

 

I would love to acquire a copy of your article, when finished and you are able to release it.

 

Jon

Edited by carbking (see edit history)
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Carbking is always the best source of info on carbs in the USA. I know that carburators were produced in England and France under the name Stromberg-Zenith, and they published catalogs in Europe in both French and English. They were used on cars and trucks, and my best guess as to dates were from about 1933 to the start of the war. I think they were after the high end market, as most of them I see today are on the big French cars. Ed

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The "hands across the sea" ownership, sales, etc. is quite difficult to track down 75 or so years after the fact.

 

In the original Stromberg (USA) documentation, there are a number of carburetors sold to "Bendix - London Branch", and "Bendix - Paris Branch". Many of these were designated to go to Zenith France or Zenith UK.

 

Without digging into the files (still not completely digitized, hopefully by the end of 2019), some makes that come to mind are Rolls Royce, Daimler, Bugatti, Humber, Horch, Armstrong-Siddeley, Nerve-Stella, Adler, and Hotchkiss.

 

Additionally, Delage, Delahaye, and Talbot used hybrid carbs that were basically Stromberg USA with some modifications (like the leaky banjo fuel fittings rather than normal fittings). Thanks to some of our European friends, we have been able to determine that these basically used Stromberg USA calibration parts and gaskets, and as such, we have been able to offer rebuilding kits.

 

The records are not clear if Stromberg produced the carbs, or produced prototypes and the tooling, and the carbs were actually produced in Europe. 

 

My Zenith USA records are very good, but nowhere near as complete as the Stromberg files.

 

Would guess there are many more, memory not as good as it once was.

 

And would offer a shameless plea for ANY European carburetor application and bill-of-material documentation for pre-WWII vehicles.

 

Jon.

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4 hours ago, tomcotez said:

 

Solex – Maurice Goudard, the director of Solex, visited the states a few times and met Henry Ford. However, I can’t find any trace of their products being made or sold in the States pre-war. Has anyone come across a solex carb fitted to a US built automobile?

 

Any help will be gratefully received!

 

Tom

 

Volkswagen used the Solex 34 PICT-5 Carb in the 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit built at their Westmoreland Plant located in Pennsylvania.

They did not build many of these cars in 1980 since most Rabbits built in Pennsylvania were fuel injected and the diesel Rabbits were build in Germany.

 

They also used different model carbs in the pre-1980 rabbit (not built in Pennsylvania) and a different carb in the 1981-84 Rabbit (built in Pennsylvania). Not sure if they were Solex as I cannot check my library of books right now.

 

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Posted (edited)

My Stromberg-Zenith Tripp set up for a Talbot Lago Grand Prix car says made in France on the castings. They look like Stromberg EX-22's with a bunch of weird stuff on them. Jon, I have a Stromberg-Zenith catalog in French from 1935, if I can find it I'll scan it and sent it to you......not much useful information in it.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)

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Ed - Talbot used both EX-22's and EX-32's made in France. Don't know if yours have this feature, but some of these have a fuel inlet featuring S.A.E. male thread into the carburetor bowl, and metric female thread to accept the metric banjo bolt ;)

 

Would delight in having a copy of that early catalog.

 

Jon.

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1 hour ago, charlier said:

 

Volkswagen used the Solex 34 PICT-5 Carb in the 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit built at their Westmoreland Plant located in Pennsylvania.

They did not build many of these cars in 1980 since most Rabbits built in Pennsylvania were fuel injected and the diesel Rabbits were build in Germany.

 

They also used different model carbs in the pre-1980 rabbit (not built in Pennsylvania) and a different carb in the 1981-84 Rabbit (built in Pennsylvania). Not sure if they were Solex as I cannot check my library of books right now.

 

Renaults were assembled in Canada in the 1960's and early 1970's.  I believe they also used a Solex carb.

 

Craig

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6 hours ago, carbking said:

Tom -

 

I have no record of a Solex fitted by a USA manufacturer.

 

Zenith is quite a different story. I show Zenith as being original equipment on USA produced cars as early as 1912, and there might be some earlier. They were used on literally hundreds of different cars, trucks, marine, agricultural, industrial, and even air applications; including the Ford model A as you mentioned.

 

Sometime is the early 1920's, the company was acquired by Bendix Aviation, along with the Stromberg Carburetor Company.

 

Sometime in the mid-1970's, Bendix went through the anti-trust breakup, and divested both Zenith and Stromberg to another holding company (Facet). Stromberg pretty much ceased operation, but Zenith continued to produce carburetors, and is still in business today, producing carburetors for some industrial applications.

 

For the most part, Zenith sales for passenger applications in the USA ended in the mid-1930's. But they were still very much involved with truck, marine, industrial, and agricultural sale.

 

Here is a link:  https://archived.zenithfuelsystems.com/

 

If you would like to see various Zenith (and other) applications, try this link: http://www.thecarburetorshop.com/  and click on the various kit links (passenger, truck, marine, etc.) 

 

I never researched the early ownership of Zenith USA, but guessing it was organized as a totally different entity, possibly paying royalties, than Zenith France.

 

I would love to acquire a copy of your article, when finished and you are able to release it.

 

Jon

Jon,

 

Thanks that is really helpful and confirms what I had thought.

 

The corporate history of Zenith and Solex (in Europe at least) is complex and i only have a rough idea of it. I think that both companies established subsidiaires in different markets which were initially wholly owned by the parent company but presumably they gradually turned into franchises with rights to use certain products. The director of Solex UK acquired the Zenith UK franchise in the 30's even the though the parent companies were presumably competitors. Zenith became connected with stromberg in europe in the 30's, maybe some sort of share swap? They were branded Zenith Stromberg in europe from the late 30's. Solex bought out Zenith completely in 1965, and the hole lot was merged into Magnetti Marelli (along with Weber) in 1986 and the brands disappeared. I have seen references to Bendix in the UK too, not sure how that ties in!

 

I'd be happy to send a copy of my article when it is published (in the bulletin of the Vintage Sports Car Club). I have a couple of interesting documents, one is a general history of Zenith in French and another is an article on Zenith Detroit from the 20's which I have just got from the Detroit Public library. I'll send them by PM when I have time.

 

Tom

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Tom - thank you, looking forward to the article. Should you have additional questions about American carburetor companies, I will try to help.

 

Jon.

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 Stutz used 105d bronze carb 1927 28,  105dc 1929 30 pot metal,105 de ? in1931 34, 105dc used in Ruxton cars  Lancia 1930? and dodge fire truck do not  know  what motor.  STUTZL6

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