Indestructible Zébre?

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76

Sir,

Sorry, but here I am again; this time about the inquiry of your reader R. R. Brain, of Oxford (page 15), about the Le Zébre car. I drove a Zébre for two years and over 20,000 miles in the French army (heavy artillery) in 1917 and ’18. It was supposed to be a liaison car, but was used for all sorts of jobs, one of which—often unpleasant —was to take the observation officer “as near as possible” to the observation post, which itself was “as near as possible” to the German lines. Needless to say, cars took some heavy punishment, including pieces of “flying metal” at times. We were always in a hurry to get out of the unhealthy zone, and the potholes were many and deep, being caused mostly by German shells. I, of course, broke innumerable springs, with curses from the repair-shop officer, who said I drove too fast—he never went “up there”—but otherwise that baby car appeared to be indestructible.

It was called a 5 c.v. It revved up willingly and was quite lively for its vintage, much more so than the later, but heavier, 5 c.v. Citroën. The snap enclosed Not reproduced.—Ed.) was taken near Verdun in 1917. As you will see, it is much the same as the “modern” 1921 version shown on page 15, except that the latter has domed wings and a nicely shaped radiator, also electric headlamps instead of acetylene. Notice the canvas pail hanging from the paraffin lantern. All European cars, of course, had right-hand steering at the time. Talking about steering: one painfully weak point about the Zébre was the steering lever (at the receiving end, near the right-wheel), which broke off three times while I was driving the car, and once more with my successor. That last time resulted in a complete wreck, because the fellow wasn’t used to it and lost his head. This may never occur in civilian—and civilised—driving, but it is distinctly unpleasant.

I have known, but not driven, another type of Zébre, about 1908. It had a single-cylinder engine and fixed wooden wheels, and appeared to be painfully slow.

I am, Yours. etc.,

C. Jorrand – Blessac, France.