Georges Bouton is one of those rare automobile pioneers whose name still resonates. Initially a proponent of steam power, he quickly converted to the thermic engine. His first petrol-fuelled automobile, the Type D in 1899, serves as a testament to the innovative spirit of the marque he created with the Count De Dion. At the beginning of the 20th century, De Dion-Bouton became the world's first car manufacturer. The marque blazed trails in many respects, creating the modern engine and laying the foundations for the first V8, which was to have a direct influence on American manufacturers.
The first seeds of inspiration leading to the modern automobile were perhaps sewn by Leonardo da Vinci, who produced several sketches illustrating a vehicle capable of propelling itself over several yards by means of a clockwork-inspired mechanism. The most meaningful first step towards automotive movement came in 1769, when Frenchman Joseph Cugnot built a steam-powered artillery carriage, which was able to move at 2.5 mph for almost a quarter of an hour. It would be another one hundred before Amédée Bollée presented L’Obéissante (“The Obedient”) in 1873; the first steam-powered automobile capable of carrying a dozen people, and the first automotive vehicle to be allowed on French roads. This was the first in a rapid succession of developments that was to lead to automotive mass-production. In February 1884, Édouard Delamare-Deboutteville patented the first car to boast a petrol engine, while at the same time, in 1886, the German Karl Benz filed his patent for the Benz 1 - a light single-cylinder tricycle. Meanwhile, Gottlieb Daimler fitted his light, 4-wheeled, hippomobile car with a 4-stroke engine. This heralded the beginning of the automotive age... and the battle between electricity, steam, and petrol had just begun.
On April 29, 1899, progress took the form of a cigar-shaped, electrical car. Conceived by the Belgian pilot Camille Jenatzy, La Jamais Contente (“The Never Satisfied”) managed to break the 60 mph barrier! Nevertheless, from 1904-1905, the gas-powered engine was in the ascendency, becaming the evolutionary focal point. This is the historical context in which the automobile embraced modernity, and French manufacturor De Dion-Bouton layed the founding stones of its enterprise.
To be continued...