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SNAPSHOT 46: Vivinus 1900

The postcard on which this image appears has no message written on the back, only a name and address of the intended recipient: Mlle Julia Mahouse, à Gilly Chaussée de Montigny. Since the postmark is ‘Gilly’, and the card was mailed on 11 février 1907, we can reasonably assume that the anonymous sender was known to Julia, and that words were unnecessary since the picture says it all.

But what about the car? Given that Gilly is just to the east of Charleroi in Belgium, it should be no great surprise that this voiturette was made in that country’s capital, it being a Vivinus of around 1900. These first appeared in mid-1899 and had an air-cooled vertical single-cylinder engine at the front and belt drive to the gearbox that was integral with the back axle.

They were also made under licence by the firm of Georges Richard in Paris, by De Dietrich at their Niederbronn factory in Alsace, which at that time was in Germany, and also in Twickenham near London by the New Orleans company, although their premises were so small that it is possible that they were actually Vivinus-made and simply rebadged. Confirmation that the pictured vehicle is one of the originals comes from the plate on the front of it on which the sequential letters UXEL are just legible, and these occur in the middle of the word Bruxelles.

When the motorcar was still in its infancy there was a range of postcards available of the type seen here, almost always in colour and generally produced as a series of five or six cards. The same car plus lady and gentleman featured on each, so that if you had the set, a story of a sort, with a marginally risqué element in it, was told. During this early period the cars involved all seem to have been of the voiturette class – maybe because they were cheaper to hire for a few hours’ filming. Makes featured included Lilliput and Piccolo, both of German manufacture, Decauville from France but ‘snapped’ in England, and there were undoubtedly others, as well as this Vivinus.

If, dear reader, you wonder what might be the ‘all’ referred to above that the picture conveys, try adding 3 days to the postmark’s date, and if you still can reach no conclusion then we must assume that you have long since kissed romance goodbye.

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