Even as France was recovering from the devastating war of 1914-18, a number of small sportscars were being produced in factories bordering the Seine: Amilcar at St Denis and Boulogne, Rally at Colombes, BNC at Levallois-Perret, Salmson at Bellancourt and Sénéchal at Courbevoie. They were quite popular at the end of those long years of hostility. I have always thought they typified the open road, whereas British marques make one think of muddy trials hills.
Yet as late as 1924 no comparable offerings were evident in this country. The Austin was quoted in sporting guise as the pointed-tail version of the Chummy, its speed increased to about 50mph, ignoring the Gordon England ‘Brooklands’ A7, already obtainable and guaranteed to do 75mph. In the irresistible The Light Car &Cydecar (3d, every Friday) which I read whenever pocket money would allow me, the Salmson was remembered as a semi-sporting job with a third seat behind the fronts, with its occupant’s legs between them, although a 70mph model was hinted at
However, very soon the competition successes of both Amilcar and Salmson were recognised, and these and the Sénéchal were eulogised in Motor Sport. The BNC was seen here rather later and was perhaps a faster car in its supercharged form. It was the product of Bollack, Netter et Cie, which made rude people laugh; if they watch TV today with its continual bad taste they must be permanently hysterical!
The first BNCs had SCAP engines, of around 1100cc, or Ruby power units in the sportscars. By 1925, it really took off when a vertically mounted Cozette supercharger was used for the Montlhéry model, with the radiator now inclined. In short-wheelbase non-supercharged form this was named the Monza BNC and the long-wheelbase car the Miramas, after the racing circuits. The design was conventional except for steel strips applying the brakes. Never as well known in this country as the Amilcar and Salmson, a s/c BNC was raced at Brooklands by J B Johnson and Charles Brackenbury in 1929, ‘Brack’ finishing third in a 90 Long Handicap, lapping at 92.74mph. Dr Benjafield also borrowed it. In 1925, Boris Ivanowksi began a fine career in a BNC, being second in the Cydecar GP du Marseilles and fourth in class in the Marne GP, in which Gogun’s BNC finished second to a Salmson. Ivanowski then won the 1100cc Comminges race at 43.1mph, from a Sénéchal and two Amilcars, and in 1926 Montlhéry BNCs were third and fifth at Miramas, and Henry de Joncy was first in the small car race at the Italian GP.
In the five-lap cyclecar Miramas races in 1927, BNCs finished 4-5-6, and in the small car event of the Targa Florio, Ignazio Zubigna was third against two coming top drivers in Salmsons, and Valentini’s BNC was third at La Baule sand races, behind two Salmsons. At Cannes in 1928, BNCs were first and third, and Lobre won his class at Dijon.
In 1929, there was a one two finish at Dijon, a second at Lyons and a third in class at the Bordeaux `cyclecar’ races. With a few finishes in 1930, BNC was not too badly represented in racing during the vintage years.
The factory’s tone then changed, to the production of luxury Aigle cars. A brief return to sportscars with Meadows 1500cc engines failed to prosper, and by 1931 it was all over.