De Dion-bouton Type EF
Veteran car enthusiast Bernard Holmes purchased his 1913 Type EF Open Tourer about 10 years ago. “I discovered it, unrestored, three years before that,” Holmes explained, “with a collector in Jersey who stored the car in Holland. Then he moved to Switzerland, where there is a limit on the number of veteran cars that you can have, so he put some up for sale.
“It had been bought out of the Henry Ford Museum – on a rare visit to Europe, Henry spotted the De Dion and decided that he wanted it for his collection because he regarded it as the forerunner of the American V8s.
“It was originally one of a shipment of five, bound for New York, but there’s no evidence that it got there and was first registered in La Rochelle. It was reputedly Marshal Ferdinand Foch’s car; there are no photos of him with it, but it’s well-documented that the French military used De Dion V8s.”
As Holmes pointed out: “The V8 began life as an aircraft motor; it was offered in three sizes, each in a bigger car, and the 7.7-litre was the largest. We had to go through the suspension, but the engine has never been apart; all we’ve done was to take the top and bottom off.” In 1923, the Type EF was fitted with a Renault front axle, so it has brakes on all four wheels. “Which is useful,” he says, “because it will do 70mph! Like all of my cars, it’s regularly used. We’ve been to the south of France with it and to Germany.”