Fragments on forgotten makes

No. 48. The Sizaire-Naudin

The death of Maurice Sizaire on January 28th, last year, at Champigny sur Yonne has decided us in honour of his memory to outline the history of the Sizaire Brothers before publishing the career of Darracq as was planned for this issue.

It was at the Paris Exhibition of small inventors, in March 1904, that the Sizaire & Naudin light car made its first appearance at the very low selling price of 2,950 francs. They were certain of success, despite the fact that the three partners were practically penniless.

Maurice Sizaire, who was the designer of the new car, was a building constructor’s draughtsman. This is perhaps the explanation of his outstanding inventions, so different from the work of the copyists of that period.

By making the gearbox and the rear axle one unit, by abolishing the beam-type front axle, by using a single-cylinder engine, manufacturing costs were reduced to a minimum. Doubtless the study of flexibility in building construction decided Maurice Sizaire to make use of wood for his frame members. This was particularly the case for the long-stroke engines which followed later. What light all-metal chassis would have stood up to the vibrations of the single cylinder? Finally, if the independently sprung front wheels were his invention, a second invention for which he must be given credit is that of the single-plate clutch.

In 1904, Georges Sizaire, who was one year older than his brother, was an apprentice turner at the De Dion Bouton works. Then Naudin, who was also a turner, joined the two brothers and formed the trio which produced the first voiturettes in a small shop on the Rue de Lourmel, Paris 15°. The light car was exhibited and met much success at the Salon of November 1906. Orders were received in big numbers. At the beginning of 1906 they were producing two cars per day. But by reason of their low selling price they needed a financial backer. He was found in the Duc d’Uzes, who became Managing Director. The new firm adopted as emblem the Duke’s flag, which was blue and orange with a white background. The initials S.N. were inscribed on this triangular flag.

In the Coupe des Voiturettes, a race organized by the newspaper l’Auto, Georges Sizaire won at an average speed of 36.4 m.p.h. The firm had entered three over-square single-cylinder cars of 120 mm. x 110 mm. It was a real success for the firm.

The rules were then changed, a limit of 100 mm. being adopted for piston bore of a single-cylinder engine for the 1907 Coupe des voiturettes race. In complete secrecy, Maurice Sizaire invented the “long-strokes”. Before Sizaire & Naudin became active no engineer would have dared produce an engine with a piston stroke more than 10 per cent greater than the cylinder bore. Among motor engineers of the period it was considered a heresy to break this law. Maurice Sizaire was not troubled by any such consideration and this is how he related the condition as they appeared to him in 1964:—

“On October 21st, 1907 we appeared on the starting line with three cars having single-cylinder engines of 100 mm. x 150 mm. We were thus able to win this race once more, Naudin being first at an average speed of 40.66 m.p.h., Georges Sizaire was second, two minutes behind the winner. During the regularity portion of this race there occurred an incident which it was necessary to keep absolutely secret, for had it become known to the organisers we should certainly have been disqualified. In view of the very long piston stroke and the unusually high lineal speed, we had decided against the use of cast-iron pistons generally employed at the time, in favour of steel pistons machined out of the solid. At that time engineers had decided that piston speed should not exceed 4 metres per second, whereas in our case the speed was 11 metres per second.

“But we had calculated the thickness of the piston heads too closely and they began to give way during the endurance portion of the race. The only solution was to change the pistons. In order to do this, our drivers hid their cars, one after the other, in a small wood and were able to change the pistons rapidly without anybody being aware of what was happening and without falling back on the required average speed. The work was relatively easy, for it was only necessary to remove the four nuts holding the cylinder down, to lift the cylinder, to drive out the gudgeon pin, to put the new piston in place and tighten the holding-down nuts. It was possible to do this work in about ten minutes. Of course the stewards noticed that one lap was longer than the others, but they attributed this to a natural operation.”

The long-stroke engines made it necessary for Sizaire to increase the height of the bonnet. This was done very naturally by taking advantage of the torpedo-shaped header tank. This characteristic shape was also adopted for the production voiturettes fitted with an 8-h.p. engine of 120 x 110 mm. and a 12-h.p. sports model of 120 x 130 mm. This was produced from 1907.

In 1906, Sizaire’s work was copied by both De Dion Bouton and Lion Peugeot, who also tinkered with long-strokes. De Dion produced several single-cylinder engines for the Coupe des Voiturettes for Delage and Demester, the piston stroke being 200 mm. (8 in.) and the Lion stuck its neck out so far that it went through the ceiling. In fact the motor was so high that it was necessary to make a hole in the bonnet to get the engine under it. The driver could only see the right-hand side of the road. Sizaire also lengthened the stroke of his engine by producing models of 100 x 250 mm. The appearance was not ridiculous, for the torpedo-shaped header tank gave the appearance of an aeroplane without wings.

Georges Sizaire & Naudin won a number of events in 1907 and 1908, among them being the Targa Florio in 1907, and the 1908 Coupe des Voiturettes, at 47.0 m.p.h.

However, the single-cylinder engine had reached its maximum development and the time had come for the appearance of the four. In 1910 the first four-cylinder was produced in the shops at 79, Rue de Lourmel, the engine being a 12-h.p. Ballot on quite normal lines. The radiator kept the same general shape as the preceding single-cylinder models, but there was no need to use such a big header tank. During the same year there was a 15-h.p. single-cylinder engine of 120 x 150 mm., but it did not meet with success.

The four-cylinder Ballot engine did not suit the sporting type of Sizaire & Naudin owners and steps were taken to rectify this mistake by producing a four-cylinder with the long stroke of 120 x 170 mm. During the same year the factory produced its last single-cylinder, a 15 h.p. of 120 x 170 mm.

In 1912 the Due d’Uzes retired from the firm, but the two Sizaire Brothers continued to manufacture cars under the title Sizaire & Naudin until the year 1921. These cars had a Sizaire chassis fitted with various Ballot engines of 8/10 h.p., 65 x 110 mm., 12 h.p. of 75 x 130 mm., and the 17 h.p. of 80 x 150 mm. All these had four cylinders. A few chassis were produced with the S. & N. long-stroke four-cylinder engine of 15 h.p., 120 x 170 mm., produced by the firm in 1911. Output during this period was very low. The registered offices were moved to 103, Rue Saint Lazare, Paris.

Naudin, whose health had began to fail in 1912, ceased to take an active part in the work of the company and died tragically after the war.

The Sizaire Brothers were brought into contact with Mr. F. W. Berwick of London by the intervention of Mr. W. F. Bradley, who was friendly with both parties, and who, at 92 years of age, was still the translator of this article. The Sizaire-Berwick Company was established in 1913, the registered office and the factory being at 58, Rue d’Alsace, Courbevoie, near Paris. The Sizaire reputation stood high in England and the partnership ought to have met with success. However, the war caused the two brothers to be called up for military service. The only production of the Courbevoie factory was a 20-h.p. chassis with a 90 x 160-mm. four-cylinder engine. This was a high class car, very carefully designed but too classical in its features.

At the end of the war Maurice Sizaire discovered that his factory had been removed to London, at 16 Berkeley Street. He therefore emigrated and in 1919 redesigned a 25-h.p. four-cylinder chassis of 95 x 160 mm. which was an improvement over the 1919 model of 25 h.p. with a four-cylinder engine of 95 x 160 mm., this also being an improvement over the 20 h.p. of 1913. Then, discovering that the London fogs did not suit his health, he returned to Paris, where he redesigned the chassis as a very good roadster, but with improvements to the front suspension which he had adopted in 1904. Independently sprung front wheels had become a reality.

From his earlier designs he took the outline of the Sizaire-Berwick radiator which, in reality, was a copy of the Rolls-Royce radiator, the emblem SF being very similar to that of the RR. As a result there was a minor Law case and as in our day law and publicity went hand in hand, advantage was taken of this to describe the Sizaire Frères as the French Rolls-Royce. In all sincerity the SF was an excellent roadster, silent, comfortable, and well-sprung, but it was only a small four-cylinder 13 h.p. of 76 x 110 mm. giving a piston displacement of 2 litres. It was presented at the Paris Salon of 1923 and was built at 109, Rue Aristide, Briand, Levallois-Perret until 1929. In 1928 the 17-h.p. 3.2-litre six-cylinder made its appearance, the dimensions being 75 x 121 mm. This model was the end of the Sizaire production, in 1929. The total production for the last six years had been about 1,000 chassis.

It is curious to note that at the end of the war, in 1922, three car manufacturing firms carried the name Sizaire at the same time. In reality only the Sizaire Frères was in production. The two other dying firms, Sizaire-Berwick and Sizaire & Naudin, sold cars under these names. Making use of the title Sizaire & Naudin, the Duc d’Uzes produced a car with a Ballot engine, which he also sold to Raymond Wallut, Boulevard de la Villette (Agricultural machinery). The chassis was resold by Wallut under the title “Queen of the Fields”, fitted with Chapius-Dornier engines. The Duke also sold parts which formed the T.A.M. voiturette (1920 to 1922). In London, Berwick manufactured the 25-h.p. model designed by Sizaire and put it on the market until 1925.

In 1933 Maurice Sizaire abandoned motor construction and took a position with the Tecalemit Company, where for 30 years he “tinkered,” as he says in his memories. He left Tecalemit at the age of 83. From 1961 he lived at Champigny-sur-Yonne, 80 kilometres to the South of Paris, where he occupied himself with painting, which was his favourite pastime.

Georges Sizaire died its 1931. With his brother Maurice, the last of the trio has gone—a trio which in 1904 started out practically without a penny, but had real faith in the future of the automobile. Their view was correct. They spent all their energy, but they forgot to take advantage of it themselves. They paid no attention to patenting their work, which later was copied by other car manufacturers. The single-plate clutch was invented by them in 1904 and was used on all cars from 1930. Independently sprung front wheels also appeared in 1904 and were improved on the Sizaire Frères in 1922. From the year 1929 it was copied by a large number of manufacturers.

[The above article on the Sizaire-Naudin is reproduced from their Bulletin by kind permission of Mon. Jean-Paul Boutet, Directeur of Depanoto & Cie of Nogent-le-Rotrou, France, who are well-known as suppliers of all manner of rare vintage and old-car parts, and who issue a catalogue thereof in English.—Ed.)