The Clement-Bayard

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Bill Boddy

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Who can fail to wish to know more about this great pioneer French marque after this evocative description of the passage of one of these cars in the 1908 French Grand Prix at Dieppe, from the pen of Gerald Rose, the earliest of accurate motor racing historians, who was there at the time — The man who never saw — and heard — the tremendous rush and roar of one of the Clement-Bayards coming down the straight at 100mph, the driver crouching under the wheel and the mechanic’s head just visible above the high scuttle, has missed something which modern racing cars and conditions (Rose was writing this in 1949) can never again give him, in the years to come”.

The person behind the Company making at first bicycles, later cars and aircraft, was Adolphe Clement. Born at Pierrefonds in the Oise district of France, in 1894 he set himself up in Charleville in Paris with his first bicycle factory, “La Macerienne”, as he named it. At first he made only components, then followed with Clement bicycles. The motor cars came in 1899, financed by the considerable fortune Clement had amassed from his bicycle business and his acquision of the exclusive rights to Dunlop pneumatic tyres in France, However, his original venture in the automobile field had been to obtain an interest in the Gladiator concern, so that these cars became known as Clement-Gladiators.

This formed a development away from the first Gladiator motor-tricycles and quads from before the turn of the century, to a Clement rear-engined voiturette using 2 1/2hp De Dion Bouton power and the Clement-Panhard, the work of Comdr Kerbs of Panhard-Levassor, a rather crude car driven by a primitive 3 1/2hp engine at the back. There was no reverse gear on the early versions and a centrally-pivoted front axle was used. One such Clement-Panhard appeared in the first “Old Crocks” Run to Brighton in 1927, before this event became dignified and world-renowned. Adolphe Clement displayed his business acumen by selling licences to build these vehicles, which the parent company had ignored, to Stirlings of Edinburgh, who put them about as StirlingPanhards, overbodying them with coupe coachwork. Clement also managed to import some Columbia electric vehicles from America He was also a director of the Panhard-Levassor Company.

Much better cars followed, with the engines conventionally before the occupants, these Clements having been designed by Maurius Barbarou. He used 7hp single-cylinder and 12hp twin-cylinder power-units. The link with the talented designer Barbarou had come when Clement had him driving one of two 12hp Clements in the great 1901 Pans-Bordeaux race. Clement, if not in quite at the start, was among the legendary drivers who competed in these epic early town-to-town races.

In the 1903 Paris-Berlin, a little matter of 687 arduous miles, Clement competed with a 40hp Panhard and came home 20th, at 31.3mph, compared to the winner’s pace of 44.1mph achieved by the flying Gabriel on the 60hp Mors.

By 1903 Clement had opened a second factory, at Levallois-Perret, by the Seine in Paris, where Gladiators were made alongside Clements, the former with chain final-drive but the latter having shaft-drive. However, by October of that year he divorced himself from the ClementGladiator ties and began to produce ClementBayards, calling himself by that name, having adopted the second part from the brave soldier who had saved the town against the advance of the Duc de Nassau on Mezieres in 1521, a stature of whom stood close to the “La Macerienne” factory, permission to make this move having been obtained from Consul d’Rtat. (This addition to Clement’s name may have been convenient commercially but it did result in his cars becoming known as Clement-Bayard, BayardClement or just Bayard). Meanwhile, his 9,12 and 16hp cars had been modernised, with mechanically-operated inlet valves, the last two being four-cylinder models. Eventually, a third factory was opened at Tulle, in the Dordogne.

The original factory is still intact, as some recent photographs kindly sent to us by Mr R Stallard prove. Although part of the building appeared to be unoccupied when these pictures were taken last May, some of the factory, rather appropriately, was in use as a bicycle outlet. . . It is remarkable how, over the years up to the outbreak of war in 1914, the pattern of the model range at the Clement-Bayard factories was similar to that of many other companies, ranging from a small twin-cylinder light-car to very large cars such as 35/45 and 50/60hp chassis and even a venture into a model with a Knight sleeve-valve power-unit. The similarity is emphasised by sixcylinder cars of various sizes up to 30hp, but the chain-drive monsters had gone after 1911 and the trend towards smaller cars was revived when a 7hp two-cylinder Clement-Bayard was introduced in 1912. Complication was increased when the British Automobile Commercial Syndicate under D M Weigel sold these cars here, and Gladiator-built Clements were imported by E H Lancaster until 1908, after which the latter were manufactured in Coventry…

The dashboard radiator had become normal for most Bayards, the “coal scuttle” bonnet more stylish than that of a Renault for example, at a period when quite a number of makers used these dust-proof engine-covers. All the small Bayards made up to 1915 could be so recognised.

While all this production activity was going on, racing was not neglected. Clement cars were entered for most of more important continental events, in the hands of Barbaroux, Tart, Dompter, Weigel, Comiet, Vonlatum, Fournier, Rasson, Demier, Stoppani, Hanriot, de Bosch etc. They were not particularly successful, although Vonlatum was second in the Voiturette class in the 1902 Circuit Des Ardennes, behind a Corre. As for those exciting cars which thrilled Gerald Rose, for the 1904 Gordon Bennett race Clement Bayard produced 80 and 100hp racing monsters, the smaller cars with 11.3-litre engines and shaft drive and the more primitive 16.2-litre cars with chain drive. Adolphe’s 19-year-old son Albert was to drive one of the newer cars, later he won the voiturette Circuit des Ardennes with an 18hp C-B. But the G-B cars were overweight and did not qualify. However, the young driver justified the confidence his father had placed in him when he took an 80hp C-B to America for the Vanderbilt Cup race that October and finished second to the winning 90hp Panhard, at 51.9mph for the 284 1/2 miles.

For the 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup contest C-B put in T-head 12.8-litre cars developing 120bhp at 1200rpm but again they failed to get as far as the race itself. The youthful Clement, Villemain and de la Touleubre were entered with the 120hp C-Bs for the 1906 French GP and Albert was third, behind Szisz’s victorious Renault and a 16.2-litre FIAT, but a damaged gearbox and damaged wheels retired the others. The 120hp cars were also entered for the 1907 GP but the fine result of 1906 was not repeated; Garcet and Shepard were eighth and ninth, but Alezy lasted for only four of the ten laps.

The big Bayards that made a lasting impression on Gerald Rose in the 1908 GP were undoubtedly a memorable sight at full speed, and the estimated 100mph was no exaggeration. There was a timed kilometre on the Dieppe course and apparently about 20 of the 48 cars so timed did over “the ton”, in spite of a race distance of 477 1/2 miles over dusty, tar-melted roads and the high rate of tyre wear. It was a bad day for the French, who dismally witnessed the German domination, Mercedes first, Benz in second and third places. But the Marseillaise rang out as Victor Rigal’s Bayard crossed the line fourth, although he was 54m 52.8ses behind Lautenschlager, having changed 19 tyres; he had averaged 63.6mph to the Mercedes’s 69.05mph. Such was motor racing, in those heroic days. Gabriel’s C-B was 12th, Hautvast went out with a damaged wheel at half distance.

In spite of these race performances the company produced no fine sportscars. In fact, postwar Bayards were small cars and it was these that had been in vogue before that, even if the old 30hp Six was continued up to 1914. Frenchmen must have appreciated the solid worth of these little Bayards, which were more individual than a Renault. One motoring writer who had owned a 12hp Bayard in 1904 and. in the language of the motor papers of those times, “had been afforded the opportunity of giving a 1913 12hp four-seater a 100-mile trial trip”, found it flexible and responsive, not withstanding the long, unheated, small-bore inlet manifold of its monobloc 75x130mm (2297cc) engine. The price was £350 with full equipment and it was judged “as good as its famous predecessor”, If you know the road from Haywards Heath, Balcombe, Worth and Henley today it may amuse you to know that only twice in 1913 did this bring the Bayard off its 4-to-1 top gear; it managed Reigate Hill in that gear until 100 yards from the summit of this “stone tramway”. . .

The cars were now sold here from Great Portland Street — where else? — and at the 1919 London Show a new 17.9hp 2,6-litre model was shown, along with the older 8hp four. The new car was light, built on American lines, so a good performance was forecast, as the 85x115mm engine gave 22bhp at only 1600rpm, for a weight of about 1980Ib. But it was expensive, a four-seater tourer being listed at £725. A transverse single spring was used at the rear, shackled below the axle, copying T-Ford and Overland suspension, and the foot-operated transmission brake was hidden within the gearbox casing, which suggests nightmares of overheating on British hill roads. . . This new model was called a 12/24 and like all post-war Bayards had a frontal radiator. The three-bearing engine had full pressure lubrication from a piston pump, aluminium pistons, and Delco coil ignition. An anti-theft device, unusual on French cars then, was a feature, the secret of which was wisely not disclosed.

However, Lord Shrewsbury and Talbot had financed the BAC syndicate which had built fine premises at Ladbrooke in London and from importing French-built Clement-Talbots the London Talbots emerged and the link with Clement-Bayard ended, Adolphe Clement had turned his attention to airships from 1908 and then to aeroplanes, Clement-Bayard II was the first airship to cross the English Channel, in 1910, and in 1913 the Clement “l’Adjudtant Vincenot” put the duration record to 34hr 20min. Clement captained his dirigibles, but retired from the company in 1914, His Mezieres factory had closed and in 1922 Citroen took over the larger plant at Levallois-Perret. The London-built Talbot flourished, and although Lord Montagu could justifiably call it a “Lost Cause”, it is by no means a “Forgotten Make”. So there is no reason to continue this account any further. W B

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