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SNAPSHOT 171: 1909 20 h.p. Nordenfelt

The Nordenfelt is a curious make.  Its name is Swedish in origin, Georgano states that it was made in Belgium, but other sources claim that it was made in France.

This Snapshot comes from a British 1909 advertisement for a used Nordenfelt “Two-seated Victoria”, full of eulogies about its quality but including the somewhat desperate words “A reasonable offer entertained. To be cleared immediately.”

The Nordenfelt was made between 1906 and 1909 at an unknown location – but we do know that the make had its origins in the motor cars manufactured between 1900 and 1907 by La Société des Usines Prunel in Puteaux, a western suburb of Paris much more famous in the motoring world as the location of the De Dion-Bouton factory.

The Prunel company started to manufacture cars under the Nordenfelt name from 1906, principally for distribution in Belgium.  The British press claimed that various components of these cars were made by the steel firm John Cockerill of Liège, although Cockerill denied having anything to do with this or any other make of car.  The British sales operation was run by the former racing driver Clifford Earp, known for his flying kilometre record of 23 seconds at Brighton in July 1905 in a 90 h.p. Napier and a win in a 1906 race in Daytona.  Earp also sold the Thames car from his own agency, and took four world records at Brooklands in 1907, driving a 60 h.p. six-cylinder Thames.

Nordenfelt made cars in a range of engine sizes from 12 h.p. to 40/45 h.p., all with 4-cylinder engines by the French company Bariquand et Marre, whose subsidiary The British Bariquand & Marre Engine Co., Ltd appears in advertisements as the British sales agency for Nordenfelt and for ‘Frankonia’ mudguards – which also feature in our picture.  Cars exhibited at Olympia carried English-built bodies by Hewers or Withers.

One of the delightful elements of motoring advertisements of this time is the testimonial – and we therefore end with the one that aimed to promote the Nordenfelt in this week’s Snapshot:

“W. ACHESON GRAY, ESQ., Surbiton, who owns a 20 h.p. Nordenfelt, writes that the total cost of repairs to his chassis during 12 months’ constant running was only 26/9 [£1.34], while the consumption of petrol was quite satisfactory.


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