Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Labourdette
Solis Family, Extremadura, Spain (acquired new in 1925)Toda Family, Madrid, Spain (acquired from the above circa 1970)Tom Price, Larkspur, California (acquired from the above in 2011)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2014)
Trofeo Schweppes Rally, 1970Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, 2011
Celebrating 120 years of continuous production, Renault history spans a wide breadth of automotive conveyances. Best known in the US for its economical offerings for the masses, the French firm reached its apogee during the 1920s, producing a true giant among motorcars, the 40 CV. By any measure – luxury, exclusivity, styling, or sheer size – the 40 CV provided a select clientele with the ultimate in transportation. The example offered here reaches for another level, finished with custom coachwork commensurate with its impressive chassis in a most dashing body style.
The trio of Renault brothers was led by Louis, an engineer, with Marcel and Fernand addressing the business side of the operation. Almost immediately after the company was founded, participation in racing became a priority with a significant win garnered in 1902: 1st Place in the Paris-Vienna Rally, besting a number of much larger and more powerful entrants. By 1913, Renault was France’s largest manufacturer of automobiles with a wide range of models and sizes. After WWI came the introduction of a six-cylinder model, which served as Renault’s top-tier offering and evolved into the 40 CV of 1923. An array of bodies was available including formal limousines, landaulets, and town cars.
This example, chassis 233894, is equipped with rare and decidedly sporting coachwork, Labourdette’s torpédo skiff design. Henri Labourdette’s signature style mimicked a sleek wooden vessel and first appeared on a Panhard et Levassor chassis in 1912. Eric Le Moine, who retains the Labourdette archives, reports that this was the final skiff body built by Labourdette and is original to this chassis.
In designing this body for Renault, Labourdette was careful to retain the signature “coal scuttle” hood design, a function of the radiator positioned behind the engine, rather than in front of it. The massive hood, hinged at the rear, opens to reveal the heart of the 40 CV – a 9.1-liter inline six-cylinder engine, Renault’s largest six-cylinder engine in the company’s history. The resultant 140 hp was necessary to propel the large formal cars, but this engine was equally at home in competition use. A 40 CV finished in 1st Place at the 1925 Monte Carlo Rally and in August of the following year, a streamlined, single-seater set a 24-hour speed record at Montlhéry, averaging 107.89 mph and eclipsing the mark set by Bentley.
The original owner of this car was the Solis family of Extremadura, Spain, and it remained in their possession for approximately 45 years. It then passed to Mr. Toda of nearby Madrid who owned a Renault repair agency. Eager to enjoy his new acquisition, Mr. Toda entered the extraordinary machine in the Trofeo Schweppes Rally in 1970, a 600-mile trek from Madrid to Benidorm and back. A badge commemorating that event accompanies the car. Following limited use by the Toda family, Tom Price of Larkspur, California, acquired it in May 2011, interested in its original condition after having spent more than 85 years in the semi-arid climate around Madrid.
This impressive Renault made its US debut at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® in the Prewar Preservation class. Fantastic original details abound, and the Labourdette body number (5102) is stenciled in several locations of the highly detailed skiff coachwork.
The current owner acquired the car in March 2014 and has been careful to preserve the original character of the car. The dark mahogany wood panels of its body contrast beautifully with the polished aluminum used for the hood. Black fenders and artillery wooden wheels complete the design, resulting in a unique and sporting open phaeton. Leather on the front seats was replaced, but hides were carefully matched to the original grain and color. The original hides have been preserved and accompany the sale of the car. The 40 CV’s dual cowl design features a second V-angled windshield, providing protection from the elements for its rear-seat passengers. A period Louis Vuitton suitcase is mounted at the rear of the Renault, and the sale includes an exceedingly rare factory sales brochure and owner’s manual.
From introduction in 1923 through 1928, just over 600 of these magnificent 40 CV models were built, most with factory coachwork, and very few survive today. The combination of an exceedingly rare model coupled with the final Labourdette skiff body, in largely original condition courtesy of just four owners who preserved it for 94 years, makes for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity A young member of the Solis family dwarfed by the 40 CV Labourdette Skiff, circa 1927 for its next owner.