In his day the late W J Brunell was a very skilled photographer, working mostly for the yellow-cover journal The Auto (not to be confused with The Autocar) but also specialising in fine photographs of the interiors of stately houses and their changing garden scenes throughout the four seasons.
When I heard Brunell was offering his entire collection of photographs and glassplate negatives for sale, I thought MOTOR SPORT would be well advised to purchase them, and drove down to see what I could do. Brunell greeted me by asking what make of car I would like to look at first, implying that he had photographed them all. Feeling this to be rather pompous I sought to catch him out by replying: “What about the Butterosi?”
I knew practically nothing about this make, but thought it would be sufficiently rare to defeat the old photographer. “Ah, that will be in the B file”, said Brunell, and a moment later he was handing me a set of photographs of a Butterosi. Not only that, but these prints showed both sides of the car’s engine, its dashboard, front and back and side views!
Feeling suitably chastened, I realised that as a penance one day I should have to do some research on this obscure make! As for Brunell’s enormous collection of photographs, I believe it is now in the Beaulieu Library of the National Motor Museum.
About this Butterosi. It was made at Boulogne-sur-Seine, and some called it the best of the French light-cars. C R Finch-Noyes of Lennox House, Norfolk Street in London, sensing that at a time of acute car-shortage, after the Armistice, it was highly desirable to have something on wheels to sell, took a stand at the 1919 Olympia Show and exhibited thereon a 12hp Butterosi six-light saloon, a four-seater tourer edition of which was priced at £600.
The specification embraced a four-cylinder 65mm x 100mm (1327cc) side-valve engine with trough lubrication, distinguished only by its magdyno. Also notable, however, was the unit construction of engine and four-speed gearbox, with the multi-plate clutch fully enclosed by the clutch-pit but accessible through a big rectangular cover-plate.
Otherwise the Butterosi was just a typical French small-car of the period, with disc wheels shod with 765 x 105 tyres, a neatly made back-axle, with two steel castings bolted together on the differential centre-line. It was claimed that although thermo-syphon cooling was used , the radiator header-tank stood some 12in above the top of the cylinders. But as the bonnet-top sloped downwards and the radiator was not particularly tall, the threepoint-mounted engine unit must have been hung very low in the chassis.
Evidence of economy was to be seen in the braking system, which although compensated and equipped with finger-nut adjusters, used the same drums for both systems — the pedal working external brake-bands, the lever expanding shoes.
That Mr Brunell was able to produce a set of photographs of this race and unsung car is all the more to his credit, for in May 1923 the Light Car Company of Euston Road was still trying to get rid of an almost-new 1920 Butterosi saloon (probably the Show car) for £165.
The make made its debut at the 1919 Paris Show, but little more was heard of it after the London Show, although one was shown on the James H Gatt stand at the Scottish Show in January 1920 (held in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall which, before being burnt down and rebuilt, resembled an aeroplane hangar with a wood-supported roof).
Early in 1921 the Welbeck Auto Agency of Great Portland Street was advertising a new four-seater Butterosi, said to do 38 mpg, for immediate delivery, dubbing it “France’s Best Light-Car”. But whereas that other rare car for which a similar slogan was used, the Sequeville-Hoyau, appeared in the 1921 MCC Land’s End Trial driven by a Mr Myson (and I discovered one during WW2 in the garage opposite the RAE in Farnborough), the Butterosi just faded away. WB