The First Six Wheeler

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In the 1890s Léon Turcat and his brother-in-law Simon Méry were among the many pioneers who helped France to forge its way to first place in the infant world of the automobile. They began work on their first car in 1896 and soon proved that they would not be content with mere simplicity in their designs. Their 1899 model, with 4-cylinder engine of 2.6-litres, boasted a gearbox giving five forward speeds and two reverse. A couple of years alter, short of capital for their own company, they entered into an agreement to design cars for De Dietrich.

Many racing successes followed, among them in 1904 a third place for one of their 12.8-litre cars in the prestigious Gordon Bennettt race, bringing a sales boom for De Dietrich. In 1905 De Dietrich, based in Lunéville in Lorraine, changed their name to Lorraine-Dietrich. In the same year their design partners developed an innovative 6-wheeler car with interconnected springing and shock-absorber system which endowed it with an extremely smooth ride for its day. To have taken drive to both the centre- and rear axles would undoubtedly have invited problems with transmission wind-up and tyre-scrub on cornering, so chain drive took power to the centre axle only. One source, however, notes that wheels on the rear axle as well as the front steered.

After testing at the Marseilles works of its designers, the 6-wheeler appeared in the 1907 Lorraine-Dietrich catalogue, being suggested as the foundation for car, bus or commercial. It is probable that very few were built an this example, a photograph of which appears in Michael Ware's book 'A Roadside Camera' published in 1974, was perhaps the only one to be registered in England. Described as a luxurious Pullman car, it was fitted with a 4-cylinder 40HP engine. Seats in the passenger compartment folded flat to form two beds, while built in behind the rear seats was a small washroom which could be reached both from inside the car and from outside via a back door.

'This was not a complete motorhome but more what today we might call a 'day van' and a sleeping-car. The master and mistress of the house could rest or sleep on their beds in the comfort of the rear whilst the chauffeur drove protected in a rudimentary way by the roof over his head from whatever the elements might throw at him. Up front, too, there was room for another travelling member of the household staff, who could wait upon the employer and his companions at picnics in the countryside, a race meeting or an overnight halt at hotel or inn.


Note: Article published in Motorhome Monthly, Britain's former number one motorhome magazine, by Chris Burlace, now an author at Motorhome and Campervan Magazine.

Did You Know?

First cross-Canada trips by car: In May of 1946, Brigadier R.A. Macfarlane, DSO, and Squadron Leader K.A. MacGillivary dipped the rear wheels of a new post-war Chevrolet in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean at Louisbourg, NS, and nine days and 4,743 miles (7636 km) later, dipped the front wheels in the Pacific Ocean at Victoria. By this accomplishment, Macfarlane and MacGillivary were the recipients of the A.E. Todd Gold Medal first offered in 1912 by the then mayor of Victoria.

World's First Pneumatic Tyre The world’s 1st pneumatic tyre was invented in 1888, in Belfast, by John Boyd Dunlop, a veterinary surgeon by profession. He was watching his son ride his tricycle. Noticing that his son was encountering difficulty and discomfort while riding over cobbled ground, Dunlop realized that this was because of the vehicle's solid rubber tires and began looking for a way to improve them. The solution he came up with was a rubber tube filled with air to give it cushioning properties. Dunlop patented the design and it wasn't long before bicycle and automobile manufacturers recognized the design's potential usefulness in their fields.

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