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95-yr-old behemoth for auction

2013-05-21 10:19

95 AND STILL GOING: This 14.5-litre LaFrance Open Speedster will be auctioned off in June 2013 and another will take part in the Peking-Paris rally. Image: Newspress

LONDON, England - The mighty 14.5-litre, 1918 LaFrance Open Speedster, which would be frowned on as a fuel-guzzling, eco-ignorant behemoth if manufactured today, will be auctioned at Historics at Brooklands, England, on June 1, 2013.

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One will race in the Peking-Paris rally which will see 100 classic cars journey from China on May 28 2013 to reach the finish in Paris on June 29.


With roots that go back to around 1830, American LaFrance was, and remains, a manufacturer of fire trucks. But it also applied its talents to building passenger vehicles on its fire-truck chassis, hence the significant proportions of the LaFrance Speedster.

The model at Historics, SV 5636, was imported to the UK in the mid-1980s. It was used on tours and rallies before it received a complete overhaul, that brought it to its current standard. 

Driver and passenger sit on a blue leather bench with wicker finish, a long aluminium bonnet stretching out before them and a touring trunk to the rear and it has artillery wooden wheels.

The car weighs 3.5-tonnes and measures of its gargantuan proportions is in the fact each of the six cylinders in the 14.5-litre engine displaces 2.4-litres, more than the total engine capacity of a modern sedan.

Starting the car is by hand crank (although for the less physically adept, the push-button provided is a better choice). Given its torque, a gearbox has little relevance other than to accomplish greater vigour and panache, with three forward gears capable of propelling the vehicle to a heady pace, 150km/h being typical for Speedsters used in competition.

The sale price of the American LaFrance Open Speedster could be as high as R690 000.

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