MOTORING SPORTSMEN, M. Armand Bovier.
By THE EDITORe
I T was only with the greatest amount of persuasion that M. Armand Bovier consented to appear as a “Motoring Sportsman” in our series of reviews of notable personages in the racing world. One of his arguments was that he had not actually participated in many races, his energies having been confined principally to the technical development of small racing cars and the organisation of team work.
As the technical and organising side of racing is just as important as the more spectacular phases, we feel that our readers will welcome the opportunity of knowing more of one who is naturally of a very retiring disposition, though we may venture to state at the outset that the Salinson car owes a great deal to his personal efforts.
M. Armand Bovier was educated at L’Ecole Industriel, Paris, where he went through a very complete course of theoretical and practical training. In the year 1899 he was apprenticed to MIVI. Lacoste et Batnan, who may be remembered by some of our readers as the manufacturers of the Lacoste car, one of the pioneer French machines. At the termination of his indentures, he gained a post as chief tester to Mm. Joseph Prunel et Cie, constructors of the” J.P.” car, and for two or three years extended his practical knowledge of automobile engineering in these works. Like many other men of wide technical experience, M. Bovier did not hold to the belief that “the rolling stone gathers no moss,” and by making several changes in the early stages of his career, he gathered something far more valuable than moss in the shape of a very extensive knowledge of all branches of the motor industry. A thirst for adventure in 1901 led him to accept a position as engineer in charge of a large fleet of automobiles belonging to a high official personage in the Russian Government and for two years his activities
were transferred to remote outposts of the Russian Empire, where motor cars were regarded by the peasants as “Devil machines.” Whilst in Russia M. Bovier learned many things about the need for mechanical reliability, for it was no mean achievement to keep a fleet of early motor vehicles in constant service in places remote from civilisation, where no workshop facilities were available.
Early Engineering Experience.
It is a matter, therefore, for little surprise that M. Bovier cultivated something of an inventive bent and on returning to France saw opportunities in experimental engineering. He started in Paris on his own account with a small but well-equipped workshop and placed his resources at the disposal of those who had inventions that needed development. Unfortunately, however, he was not long in discovering that the way of the inventor is hard and his money is hard to get, so he decided to return to the more stable motor industry and became associated in a technical capacity with the Th. Schneider Company in Paris, where he was largely responsible for developing the designs and production of that firm’s racing cars. When M. Th. Schneider severed his connection with the older company to take a more active interest in racing car work, M. Bovier came to England to represent the new models until he started once again in his own factory at Kilburn, where under the name of R. Bovier and Co. he was engaged in the manufacture of Gnome aero engines.
At the outbreak of War he was called to the Colours and was detailed to serve as Lieutenant in charge of a detachment of armoured cars attached to the Corps de Cavalerie Independent, which operated on the Belgian front. M. Bovier would not give any details of his military service, explaining that he had done no more than others in the service of his country, but, nevertheless, he was decorated with the Croix de Guerre and collected a sufficient number of wounds to warrant his being invalided out of the service.
Developing Aero Engines.
Returning to England, he resumed control of the factory at Kilburn, and was very successful in handling War Office contracts for the manufacture of Gnome and Rhone aero engines, as well as complete A.B.C. aero engines and component parts for the latter make. Still maintaining an active interest in the progress of the motor car industry, he was one of the first persons to realise the enormous possibilities for the future of the light car and it was largely through his instrumentality that the” G.N.” car was introduced to the notice
of Societe des Moteurs Salmson, who at that time were engaged in the manufacture of aeroplane engines. As a result, the French patents of the ” iG.N.” were purchased and about i0,000 of these machines were built and sold in France. As a matter of fact, the Salmson car is a direct linear descendant from the” G.N.” and with a four-cylinder engine rapidly became popular both in France and in this country. In his capacity of director of the French Company, M. Bovier introduced various improvements in the Salmson engine and incorporated much of his experience as a constructor of aeroplane motors. The nature of his success in a technical direction can be judged from the fact that the very first Salmson car made was entered in the French Grand Prix des Voiturettes in 1921 and won
M. Bovier’s ability as a team organiser. Perhaps British drivers regret that Frenchmen are usually brought specially from Paris to take part in the big racing events, though, of course, Mr. George Newman, to quote one instance, has on occasions acted as a member of the Salmson team.
M. Bovier’s experience as a racing driver has been confined to the early Continental events, his principal recollection being that of driving a Ravel car in the first Circuit de Boulogne, when his machine caught fire and was completely destroyed. He also took part in several Tours de France and other classic reliability trials on the Continent. M. Bovier has been closely associated with the perfecting of the supercharged Salmson, which is capable of
the race in a particularly brilliant fashion, M. Bovier being present to witness the success of his achievement.
The same car, driven by Lombard, ran second in the Two Hundred Miles race (r,r 00 c.c. class) at Brooklands in 1921, and since then trophies have fallen to the Salmson with consistent regularity, this race being won by them four years in succession.
The first successes of the Salmson in this country aroused the greatest interest amongst racing men and it was not long before heavy demands were made upon the French factory for their models both for racing and competition events, and since that time M. Bovier has been busy as the British concessionaire for the make. Notwithstanding the excellence of the little car, its racing success has been due in no small measure to
a speed of 120 miles per hour and took the World’s records at Montlhery last year by setting up the speed of 113 m.p.h. for the flying kilometre and 110.5 m.p.h. for the flying mile.
It is hoped that three of these cars will be entered for the British Grand Prix at Brooklands in August, and even though they may have difficulty in maintaining the speeds expected to be set up by the larger cars, M. Bovier is at least confident of putting up a good show and to demonstrate once again that Salmson regularity is difficult to surpass. A further development in which M. Bovier is interested is a new eight-cylindered engine of a modified two-stroke type fitted with a supercharger, which it is expected will create a great sensation when it appears.