As a kid, my parents gave me Peter Robert’s A Picture History of the Automobile. I spent a thousand hours reading and pouring over the photos. One in particular has always stuck with me; a photo showing a veteran-era (pre-1905) open car with a sort of transverse walkway between the firewall and the front of the passenger cab, with the doors facing forward. I found it to be perhaps the most enduringly fascinating car in the whole book. I recently tracked down a copy of the book specifically to check it out again. The caption said it was a 1902 De Dion-Bouton Type K. Some additional digging online taught me that only a couple of Type Ks had this weird configuration. As was typical of the time, De Dion-Bouton did not build coachwork but left that to, well, coachbuilders. It’s called a motor-hansom, and I didn’t realize until very recently was that the car I saw in the photo was missing a removable hardtop, which was its more normal configuration. The odd body design was short-lived attempt to translate the “hansom cab” style of horse-drawn hire-carriage to motor power. Unfortunately, having the doors face the engine really didn’t make sense, and the idea quickly faded. But it certainly looked cool and unique to my 10-year-old brain. And frankly, it still does today. Click through the jump to see a photo with the hardtop in place, as well as a YouTube video about the car (which will only make sense to you if you speak French).
A more detailed overview of the car is available at the Auto Concept Reviews web site.
Image credits: Zack’s Motor Photos‘ Flickr stream, YouTube.