Another Rare Make

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Practically all the makes which matter, those that went into production anyway, can be found in the well-known Georgano Encyclopaedia, so it is interesting to discover one which cannot. Consequently, I was intrigued when I was introduced to some notes on a car produced in the vintage years by Alfred Mandel of St Martin D’Estreaux. Even so, little is known about this rare car, the chassis and bodywork of which were apparently made by local craftsmen. That apart, there was a sporting version possessing just a bonnet, two bucket seats and a box behind them that could serve as a very scanty seat for additional occupants. Centre-lock wire wheels were used, with blade-type mudguards above them and the running boards accommodated a spare petrol can and toolbox. This was presumably an early effort, because gas headlamps were fitted and there were only back-wheel brakes, but it was a very sporting-looking motor-car. No shock absorbers appear to have been fitted but with the windscreen removed the car was described as a voiture de course. Whether M Maridet ever raced it I do not know, but if he did, his mechanic was Firmin Savel. The radiator of this Maridet car was somewhat like that of the British HE, and its badge was a bat with splayed wings on an oval background The car was, indeed, normally called a Bat…

The engine seems to have been a long-stroke 5-litre, manufactured under licence by Janvier at Chatillon-sur-Bagneux. How many of these Bats were made is not known but probably not more than seven, in all. In fact, it appears that M Maridet never attempted to create a viable commercialised business, regarding the building of his cars as more or less a hobby, a chailenge to his love of mechanical research. However, abandoning for the occasion the Bat name, and entered as an AM, based on the initials of those who created it, a car was entered for the hill-climb at St Auban and also for the touring-car race run in conjunction with the 1922 Grand Prix de l’ACF at Strasbourg. This competition AM had a T-head engine of 90x180mm (4185cc), with a Zenith carburettor and two magnetos. A cone clutch, half-elliptic suspension and four-wheel-brakes were part of the specification, and the Rudge Whitworth wheels were shod with 895×135 tyres. It has been estimated that this T-head engine would hardly have developed more than 7 bhp/ litre at 1000rpm and as it was restricted to a maximum safe speed of 2000rpm at the very best, it probably did not provide more than 65 to 70bhp, restricting top speed to some 75mph. Alfred Maridet drove the car himself but in the touring-car race spectators soon saw flames on the far side of the circuit; unfortunately, the AM was on fire. Maridet drove into a field to avoid involving other competitors; as the fuel tank was almost full and held 26 gallons of petrol the AM burnt for half-an-hour or more… Maridet had made a leisurely start but all the competitors had got away on their self-starters. The entry, apart from the forlorn AM, comprised four Voisins, three Peugeots and three Bignans.

The winner was Rougier’s Voisin, in 6hr 35min 9sec, equal to 66.9mph for this 443.7mile fuel-rationed race. A fine sports Bat with side-mounted spare wheels had appeared in 1928, but no more is known to me of this seldom encountered French make. However photographs suggest that the last one was made in 1936, this being a handsome two-door coupe with fixed cycle-type mudguards front and back, and side steps for the passengers, rather as Kissel had used. Perhaps, however, M Maridet realised that his pastime was primarily experimental work, because for competing in the 1929 Paris-Nice trial he had entered an open-bodied Renault 45, again with fixed cycle-type mudguards all round and cut-away front doors. W B

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