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SNAPSHOT 30: Gladiator 1903

By this date motorcars regularly appeared on picture postcards and to encourage purchase of them they almost always had people of some degree of note in attendance. Even then it was generally ladies that were employed in the rôle of decorating motor vehicles, presumably the thinking being that men would be attracted to buying such postcards, which apparently worked, even with this rather crudely tinted example. In this case it is Miss Kitty Gordon who is about to climb aboard her husband’s car, he being Captain Henry Beresford. Kitty, who had been born in 1878 and lived until 1974 was an actress, initially on the stage, but later she appeared in a number of silent films.

In 1891 the Gladiator name had been adopted for the bicycles made by Alexandre Darracq and Jean Aucoc in a factory on the eastern edge of Paris at Pré-Saint-Gervais. Late in 1896 an English financial syndicate that included Harvey Du Cros, head of the Dunlop Company, and Harry Lawson, brought together the cycle firms of Clément, Gladiator, and the French Humber branch. The comings and goings that then followed are complicated, but Darracq soon left and established his own Perfecta works, whilst Adolphe Clément remained involved with Clément-Gladiator business through the several financial reorganisations that Du Cros found it necessary to make.

Gladiator had a small car on the market by 1900 and the model range steadily increased so that there were single, twin and four-cylinder cars available, all Aster-engined, by 1903. That year output was around 1200 cars and a significant majority of these were sold in Britain. Clément departed from the organisation in 1903 to run his own Clément-Bayard firm but the Pré-Saint-Gervais works continued to produce both Clément cars that were shaft-driven, and Gladiators which had side-chain final drive. In 1909 Vinot et Deguingand bought the Gladiator business, moved manufacture of the marque to its Puteaux works, and the original factory returned to making bicycles.

So, Gladiators were French-made, the business was a British limited liability company until the 1909 sell off, and most of the cars were exported to Britain. This is but one early example of the international nature of the motor industry, a feature that has persisted right through its existence and shows no sign of abating.


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