1900 Voiturette Bertrand Type C
The vehicle shown here is one of the rarest automobiles in the world. Today, the Voiturette Bertrand is proudly owned by Debbie and Justin Fellows from England. They use the small car (translation of Voiturette) in many international events, such as the London Brighton Veteran Car Run, with great fun and success.
The small car of the first hour was found by me in central France. It probably only survived because it was used on a farm for a long time to power a circular saw. The single cylinder De Dion Bouton engine has a belt drive. An attempt had been made to restore the car in the early 1980s. However, the efforts were quickly abandoned and the results were not usable. Through a friend I was made aware of the automobile. After a short negotiation and a long journey, I was able to buy the car, which was unknown to me until then.
Before I could start the restoration, I first had to research the history of the car and the manufacturer Bertrand. For this purpose, various archives and museums around the world were inquired. The breakthrough, however, came only after a visit of several days to the " Bibliothèque nationale de France" in Paris. Here, the first usable information was found in the archives of the tax office of the city of Paris. With the now known data it was possible to point out further activities of the Bertrand company. My wife Claudia, with her criminalistic brilliance, supported me substantially in this work.
With this information the car could be restored historically correct. This work took about 3 years. It quickly became apparent that the small voiturette was not suitable for people with a body height of almost 2 meters. I was therefore ruled out as a possible driver. But I was very happy that the car found a new owner with expertise and passion in the Fellows family from England
I would like to use this website to make the results of the research public. It would be a pity if they would be lost. According to current knowledge, there are probably only two Bertrand vehicles left in the world. However, the exact whereabouts of the second is currently unclear.
Historical research on the manufacturer of the Voiturette Bertrand
>>> 1899 <<<
We have found various information about a company called MM.Bertrand et Cíe. It sold gasoline-powered locomobiles in 1899 and 1900. In some technical articles, the company that produced the Voiturettes Bertrand is also called MM.Bertrand et Cíe. MM.Bertrand et Cíe or MM. J. Bertrand et Cíe was active in Marocco, Italy, Tunisia and Algeria, as the advertisement shows. A photo of the 1901 Paris Motor Show shows a company named C.Bertrand et Cíe on the sign of the booth. There is no evidence of any connection between these two companies. Bertrand was a very common name. Perhaps later research has mixed these two company names. M. or MM. is the French abbreviation for Messieur or Messieurs.
The address of the company could be the solution to find the correct production year of my Voiturette. It seems clear that Bertrand et Cie produced cars before 1901. At that time, the company was located on Avenue Malakoff in Paris (see photo of 1901 Auto Salon below). My Voiturette Bertrand was car #54, but it was manufactured at 198 Bd Pereire in Paris. This is evidenced by the nameplate that is part of the dashboard of the car.
La Dépêche tunisienne 16th February 1899
La Dépêche tunisienne 28th February 1899
La Dépêche tunisienne 15th October 1900
>>> 1900 <<<
>>> November 1900 <<<
Ariejan Bos gave me the information that the first Bertrand company was founded on April 19, 1900. Their first car was launched in the fall of 1900. A description of the Bertrand ("a new car with extremely graceful lines") seems to have been published in L' Avenir de L' Automobile (Paris, November 1900).
A reference was published in Automobile Magazine in 1901:
>>> 15. November 1900 <<<
I have found the application for a patent of the company "Systéme Automobile Bertrand". This company is identical with the company "Voiturette Bertrand". The brass production plate of the car shows the same address "198 Boulevard Pereire". In 1900, the company was located at "Avenue Malakoff". This is proven by various sources.
Text in the “Bulletin des Lois” Page 365
305 415, Brevet de quinze ans, 15 November 1900; Bertrand; à Paris, boulevard Pereire, n° 198, --- Systéme Automobile Bertrand.
It documents that the company was headquartered at 198 Boulevard Pereire in Paris in 1900. The car with the #54 was also produced at this location. By January 21, 1901, the company had moved to Avenue Malakoff (see "1901 Auto Salon" photo below). So the car was built in 1900.
>>> 9. February 1901 <<<
Article "Salon de l´automobile 1901", 21.1.–10.2.1901, Grand Palais in Paris
A new firm to embark upon the trade are C. Bertrand et Cie., 151 Avenue Malakoff, who exhibit two nice-looking machines – on a tonneau and the other a four-seated car of the char-à-banc type. Power is transmitted from the five and a half horse-power Aster motor by means of a long belt to the countershaft, which is geared directly on to the rear-driving axle. The pulleys are of small diameter, and there are three of them for change speed and reversing.
>>> 16. February 1901 <<<
Article about the "Salon de l´automobile 1901", 21.1.–10.2.1901, Grand Palais in Paris
The Motor-Car Journal
MM. Bertrand et Cie., 148, Avenue Malakoff, Paris, showed two exceptionally attractive small cars, the one fitted with a 6,5 H.P. water-cooled Aster, and the other with a 4,5 H.P de Dion. The former carriage is designed to accommodate four persons all facing forward, and the latter is of tonneau type. Built low with long wheelbase, the Bertrand car looks as stable as it is stylish. The transmission is effected by means of a long belt from the motor in front to the differential shaft, upon which are found three pulleys. One of these is loose and the other two give the fast and slow speed respectively. A reverse gear is also provided. A lever placed upon the sloping pillar of the wheel steering actuates the speeds, while one hand brake and a couple of pedal brakes render the vehicle under perfect control. The weight is 380 kilogrammes, and the price is 200 GBP. MM. Bertrand et Cie would appear to have got hold of a capital little car singularly devoid of anything approaching complication in its mechanism.
>>> 27. June 1901 <<<
Three Voiturette Bertrand took part in the VI Grand Prix race from Paris to Berlin. The starting numbers 140 to 142 were Bertrand cars. Car 140 was driven by Mr. Bertrand. However, the official press photo of the ACF shows another car with the number 314. It was a 4-seater Voiturette Bertrand, driven by M. Forain, a French cartoonist. This car participated in the tourist class. However, the three cars with the starting numbers 140 to 142 did not then participate in the main Paris-Berlin race (source: la triomphale course Paris-Berlin 1901 written by Jean-Robert Dulier). The reason why they did not participate is unknown.
Publication "Gil Blais"
Je vous signale également :deux voiturettes Bertrand engagées dans la course Paris-Berlin : 27/29 juin 1901
>>> 1901 Paris-Berlin Grand-Prix race <<<
These photos were taken in front of the ACF building in France in June 1901 at the departure of the tour cars. The starting number of the car is different to the starting list printed in the newspapers. It was the VI Grand Prix and the first great automobile race. (Photo publication of Jules Beau and "La Vie Ilustrée" from 1901)
The following article "Le Journal, 22.06.1901, page 3) shows a listing of the tourist class starters. No. 314 is the Voiturette Bertrand of Mr. Furain.
According to current knowledge, it is not certain whether a Bertrand ever reached the German border in this race. However, it can be assumed that the cars were raced in the tourist class. A recently discovered map shows that the drivers of this class were not near my hometown. The competition class drove through the town of Dülmen, 10 km away. The route runs further south through Hesse.
>>> 1901 Moscow-St. Petersburg trial <<<
Vladislav from Barnaul in Western Siberia sent me the following photos of the Moscow-St. Petersburg route. Thanks also to RCForum.ru and the Ultimatecarpage.com.
This photo shows the winning car, a Starley-Bertrand, driven by Louis Mazy and Vadim Mihailov.
The longest race of 1901 was finally to be completed in one run, unlike previous years, and was not split into two heats. All five riders mentioned reached the starting point in Moscow, but Peltzer (RUS) could not start his tricycle due to mechanical problems. Finally, Mazy (together with Vadim Mihailov) finished in proud unity, although he almost didn't make it in time. Fedor Tanskiy and Samuel Suurmets retired near Tver (problems with tires for Tanskiy, while Suurmets had problems with a stone on the road), and Alekseev broke the axle near Novgorod. (Source: www.ultimatecarpage.com)
Photo of Louis Mazy
First automotive race ever held in Russia was initiated by Louis Mazy - French driver, who opened a shop in St.-Petersberg called 'Bicycles and motors' to deal with Clement, Gladiator and Phebus companies. Before it opened there were only about 12 cars (almost all were Benz cars, except one Delahaye, which, in turn, was a copy of German car) and several motorcycles (Hildebrandt and Wolfmuller) in St.-Petersberg. The race was planned to be an advertisement for his production and for horseless transport in general. Mazy's companions in case of competition organization were members of Society for Cycling in Russia.
1901 Starley-Bertrand 6.5hp
Specially for 1901 Moscow – St.-Petersberg race Louis Mazy remade one of the cars produced on his Starley-Psycho factory in Russia. While the technical part remained the same, including a standard 6.5hp Aster engine, the body was a completely new. Two seats instead of four for basic French body and much lighter aluminium bodypanels. It was one of the latest cars produced at Starley-Psycho (maybe even last) – on August, 8, 1901 a fire occurred at the plant – 200 bycicles and 6 tricycles were destroyed, and Mazy left Russia and returned to France, though entered one more race in 1902.
What is interesting, this exact Starley-Bertrand 6.5hp was sold to Port-Arthur, where worked in a fortress, and after Japanese took Port-Arthur it was taken to Japan and became a first-ever car there.
General information about the Moscow-St. Petersburg race:
Sources: contemporary reports in Russian magazines Avtomobil', Sport, Sportsman
III Moscow – St. Petersburg Race
Date of race: 17.07.1901 (04.07.1901 according old russian calender)
Distance: 693.42 km / 650 versts (obsolete Russian unit of length
1. place and winner:
Louis Mazy (F) / Vadim Mikhailov (RUS) on Starley-Bertrand 6.5 HP in 37:50'00 = 18.328 kph
Did not finish:
Fedor Tansky (RUS) on 3-seater
Alekseev (RUS) on 2-seater voiturette
Samuel Suurmets (RUS) on tricycle (accident)
Did not start:
Peltzer (RUS) on tricycle (mechanical problems)
>>> 11. September 1901 <<<
During the time from the 10th till the 25th of Decembre 1901 Bertrand et Cie was participating the "4e Exposition Internationale de l´Automobile, du Cycle et des Sports" in Paris (Grand-Palais). (Source: La Chaffeur, 11. Septembre 1901, Page 342)
>>> 1902 <<<
>>> 11. October 1902 <<<
At that time, "Voiturette Bertrand" filed for bankruptcy.
"Archiv Comerciales" Issue 31. December 1902 (1105,A29), Page 150
Déclaration de Faillites
Bertrand et Cie – Constructions d´automobiles – 11. Oktober 1902 – Paris 1320
>>> 1903 <<<
In 1903 another famous car builder, Théodore Schneider, was operating from 198, Boulevard Pereire in Paris.
Annuaire des grands cercles (Paris), Page 319
We found this interesting detail in a member list of the Automobile-Club de France. Maybe he continued to use the facilities of Bertrand & Cie after the bankcruptcy at the end of 1902.
More information about the Voiturette Bertrand
>>> Brass Voiturette Bertrand plate <<<
Content of car plate:
No.54, Type C, VOITURETTE BERTRAND & Co, Paris, 198 BD Pereire
The Voiturette Bertrand has the production number 54. The engine number is 993.
>>> Technical article in "La Locomotion" 26. July 1902<<<
Technical article about Voiturette Bertrand. Please click on the photo to enlarge.
>>> Technical article in "L´avenir de l´automobile" November 1900 <<<
Very early technical article about Voiturette Bertrand. Please click on the photo to enlarge.
>>> Technical article in "L´avenir de l´automobile" January 1901 <<<
Early technical article about Voiturette Bertrand. Please click on the photo to enlarge.
>>> Technical article in "La Automobile France" 07.06.1902 <<<
Late technical article about Voiturette Bertrand. Please click on the photo to enlarge.
>>> Article in "La vie de l´auto" June 1999 <<<
This article was written about a 4-seater Voiturette Bertrand with Aster engine. The car is in France today. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.
This could be the same car in an advertisement from the 50's or 60's. Many thanks to Fons Alkemade for sending this photo.
>>> Voiturette Bertrand Type C "Les Sports Modernes" January 1901 <<<
Article about "voitures legeres" in "Les Sports Modernes" from January 1901. Please click on the photo to enlarge.
>>> Photos from Port Arthur in China <<<
Photos of 3 soldiers driving a 4 seater Starley-Bertrand in Port Arthur. This photo was taken in the early years of the 20th century. Port Arthur was an ice-free Russian port in China's Liaodong Province. Please note that the hood has been modified.
>>> Photo of a 4-seater 1901 Voiturette Bertrand <<<
... found on a Russian web site.
>>> Photo of a 1901 Voiturette Bertrand with different bodywork <<<
Photo "La France Automobile" 26.01.1901. Article about the 1901 Salon l´automobile in Paris. It shows a 4-seater Bertrand with different bodywork.The seats are the same design as the 2-seater car shown on different photos.
>>> Photo of a Voiturette Bertrand with van bodywork <<<
Photo "La France Autmobile" 26.01.1901. Article about the 1901 Salon l´automobile in Paris. It shows a 4-seater Voiturette Bertrand with van bodywork.
>>> Photo of a 2-seater 1900 Voiturette Bertrand <<<
Photo "L´avenir de l´automobile" November 1900. Article about the 1900 Voiturette Bertrand cars. It shows a Voiturette Bertrand with different levers at the steering wheel.
>>> Voiturette Bertrand advertisement in 1901 <<<
Advertisement in the "Annuaire général de l'automobile et des industries qui s'y rattachent 1901", Page 2
>>> Facebook site "Renaissance auto Rambouillet" <<<
I found these photos on the Facebook page of Renaissance Auto Rambouillet. This could be the second car that survived.
I would like to thank all the classic car enthusiasts, museums, libraries and organizations that provided me with information.
The photos show the car directly after the restoration.