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SNAPSHOT 74: 1903 6hp Chainless

Four previous ‘Snapshot’ images have featured early examples of printed colour photographs. An internet search reveals that the chromo-lithographic process in use from the late Victorian era and up to the Great War was both complex and labour-intensive – and therefore very expensive. This photograph of a rear-entrance tonneau-bodied motor car was chosen in 1903 by a firm of printers to advertise their capabilities to best advantage by featuring a colourful subject that incidentally would also have borne a message linking their skills and services with up-to-the-minute technology.

Messrs. John Swain & Son Ltd. of 58 Farringdon St., London EC, whose studios were located in High Barnet, produced this image as an advertising flyer with their details on a surround, cropped here, where also is quoted, “Photographed direct in three Printings.” Doubtless a distant fore-runner of the cyan-magenta-yellow printer ink cartridges of today.

The Société Anonyme des Voitures Légères Chainless was to be found at 10bis Avenue de la Grande-Armée in Paris: they were one of a host of small companies who briefly marketed cars assembled from chassis components manufactured by Messrs Lacoste & Battmann, also of Paris, that were fitted with one or other of a range of proprietary engines. L&B kits came in various sizes and appearances and this is the familiar 6hp single-cylinder type that aped the contemporary De Dion-Bouton. The hey-day of the L&B-based makes was between 1902 and 1907. For long they were a puzzle to motor historians, and Michael Sedgwick’s investigation published in The Veteran & Vintage Magazine issue of August 1979 was the first to throw illumination into a hitherto dark corner.

In 1995, SAHB Member David Hales drew up a list of ‘makes’ of car that were known or suspected to have significant L&B content. His in-depth research is fully referenced to period journal descriptions and greatly advanced our knowledge on a subject that understandably attracted minimal comment in period. David’s listing includes, where known, make and size of engine, number of forward speeds, and more: there are 41 ‘definites’, and a further 18 ‘probables’. Best-known of the former are Anglian; Dennis; Gamage; Jackson; Napoleon; Régal and Speedwell. How do you spot a ‘Lacoste’? It’s a combination of several give-away features plus an overall ‘feel’ that a vehicle superficially looks like an example of a well-known make, but on closer inspection is seen not so to be.


One response to “SNAPSHOT 74: 1903 6hp Chainless”

  1. peter C says:

    The oil-powered site lamps are Salsbury-Deitz and the single acetylene gas lamp at the front is a Salsbury ‘Flario’ of circa 1902.

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