Royal Enfield and De Dion-Bouton
1896 - 1905
The first motorised Royal Enfield cycles were fitted with the built-in engines of De Dion-Bouton. They were the Tricycles with a 2.5hp engine and Quadricycles with 2.75hp engine both 237cc and manufactured from 1898 to 1904.
In the early 1880's the wealthy aristocrat the Count De Dion was very interested in steam locomotives and would like to attemt to build a steam road vehicle for transporting passengers. At the same time Charles Trepardoux and Georges Bouton produced a miniature steam engine in their Parisian workshop. De Dion saw this and asked them to build another working model resulting in a partnership of De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux.
Together they produced steam powered tricycles, quadricycles and commercial transports for road use with considerable success in the coming decade. They did win the World's first race held in their country France with their primitive steam powered vehicles. It became crucial for this new industry.
What realy made their way forward was the concept of the new "Otto" four stroke internal combustion engine with petrol as fuel. The count and Bouton parted with Trepardoux to form a new company "De Dion Bouton et Cie." based in a larger premisis still in Paris. Count de Dion was the man with the money and Georges Bouton the brilliant engineer behind a series of innovations like a small horse power high speed engine, which revolved at twice the speed of competing products, a unique electric ignition system and a simple gearbox which made those early motor vehicles relatively simple to operate.
They started producing motorised tricycles and quadricycles and their ever expanding factory space produced "built-in" engines for other manufacturers, and in doing so became supplier to dozens of new small motor manufacturers, some of whom like Renault and Royal Enfield are still on the scene today.
The De Dion Motor Tricycles Races organised and managed by Team Jarrott on 29 November 2017. A re-enactment of the first of all British motor races that took place on the same day in 1897, then organised by the Motor Car Club. The 120th Anniversary saw 20 Trikes in a series of races, from one mile sprints to the finale being the Club's Five Mile Championship on the Finishing Straight. To find out more about Team Jarrott, the De Dion Bouton UK's racing team go to De Dion Bouton Club of the UK.
You can view the same 35 minutes video of the Tricycle races at the Vimeo website.
Royal Enfield started making tricycles and quadricycles with a little different layout and with a built-in de Dion-Bouton engine of 2.5hp air cooled for the tricycle and 2.75hp water-cooled for the quad. In stead of the vis-a-vis seating of the de Dion-Bouton quads the Enfield's quadricycle front seat was viewing in the riding direction. It was called a 'forecar' layout. The Royal Enfield was very succesfull as were the de Dion-Bouton vehicles themselves. They were manufactured from 1898 till around 1904. After that Enfield started to make proper light-weight motor cars with 10hp, 15hp and even 25hp engines. Around 1910 the motor car division was taken over by Alldays & Onions and the Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd. went on with their motorcycle production (see Motosacoche) which was was at a low ebb since 1905 (see Minerva)
In 1899 the firm launched their first petrol driven four wheel "petit voiture" (little car) which was capable of carrying four persons in a vis-a-vis seating, two oposite each other. It was an instant success and at the turn of the 20th Century, De Dion Bouton quickly became the largest car, or quadricycle as they were called, manufacturer in the world.
Over the next 25 years, the company designed and built dozens of models from small single cylinder vehicles to the world's first production V8 engine. Producing commercial vehicles, omnibuses, military transport, vans and even rail cars and bicycles, the name De Dion Bouton was a household word, not just in France, but around the world as there were very few developed countries which they did not export to or have manufacturing licence agreements with. Great Britain was a particularly strong market. At last the company fell by the wayside and stopped producing private cars by 1930; it continued to produce commercial vehicles, but that too ultimately ceased in 1950.