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Coachwork by Van Den Plas
*Please note this vehicle is titled 1933.
This fantastic Minerva AL Three-Position Cabriolet with coachwork by Van den Plas is a masterpiece, and quite possibly the marque’s single greatest remaining example.
As the only known cabriolet of the handful of Minerva ALs in existence, it carries the finest coachwork available at the time. While some may mistake Van den Plas for the more common English coachbuilder Vanden Plas, Carrosserie Van den Plas was a noted Belgian coachbuilder, and certainly one of Europe’s best.
The Three-Position Cabriolet seen here is a striking example of the builder’s heightened aesthetics. Recalling the AL’s 153.5" wheelbase, one can begin to gauge the scale of the Minerva, with its long hood, low windscreen, and tidy four-place cabin with a removable trunk at the rear. The fenders flow elegantly, curvaceous for their entire length as if penned in one gentle stroke. The sweeping dip of the running boards is matched by that of the doors, and the top, in any of its three positions, is clean and handsome.
Discovered in America in the late 1970s in need of restoration, the car was tracked down and eventually purchased by Minerva enthusiast and author Philippe Boval. During Mr. Boval’s ownership, a restoration was performed and the finished AL graced the cover of Le Minerva d’Aujourd’Hui (The Minerva of Today). The book, perhaps one of just two published exclusively on the marque, features the Three-Position Cabriolet throughout. Remaining in Belgium with Mr. Boval for quite some time, the car eventually returned to the US.
In 2004, the Minerva was purchased by the consignor, a Southern California gentleman with a passion for the finest coachbuilt cars of the prewar era. In need of additional restoration, deservingly so, the consignor selected his friend Alan Taylor of Escondido to take on the project. Having restored numerous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance award winners and otherwise-praised automobiles, Alan Taylor Company was a perfect fit for the Minerva, as the completed project would surely be a contender at major events around the globe.
When tasked with the AL’s restoration, Alan Taylor Company approached the effort conscious of the intricacies and detail of the Minerva AL. The quality of the work performed had to match the level of quality and presentation that the Minerva AL was originally known for. The Three-Position Cabriolet was as deserving a candidate a craftsman can be privileged to restore.
Beginning in 2004, the car was completely disassembled and, over the next few years, each item was carefully taken down to individual pieces, restored, and reassembled. The lamps required special care, as the unique Belgian-made Supralux units remain exceedingly scarce. While very few items needed replacement, everything was lavished with attention and carefully refinished to the highest of standards.
The chassis and running gear were entirely rebuilt and, after minor metalwork, the finished coachwork was refitted. The interior was expertly retrimmed, while the interior wood trim was retained as original but perfectly refinished. The gauges were restored, and all electrical components were also restored or replaced. Close inspection of the AL is encouraged, as details abound, including the silver-plated hardware throughout the interior. The car was further enriched with an exceptional period tool kit fitted in the trunk accompanied by two pieces of fitted luggage.
As the years passed, the Minerva proved to be a significant project, as extensive photos of the work completed help document the incredible number of individual pieces that make up the AL. It was no surprise that the car weighed in at over 6,000 lbs.
After 18,000 man-hours, the completed restoration was a resounding success. The finished product captured the essence of the marque. While the textures and finishes were bold, the colors were tasteful and subdued. Although the car’s many elements stand alone, from the jewel-like lamps to the stunning interior woodwork, the result is a perfectly finished automobile of significant presence. With three slightly differing shades of taupe and a green leather interior, the combination is sensational.
Completed in time for the 2007 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the Minerva was proudly displayed after roughly three years of restoration. Garnering great attention, the Minerva handily won its class. Later that same year, the Three-Position Cabriolet was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and in another successful showing, the car was awarded First in Class and earned a nomination for Best of Show. The Minerva extended its record, winning a Senior Award at the Kirkland Concours d’Elegance and, finally, a Best of Show at La Jolla, Rocky Mountain, Keels & Wheels, and Greystone events. Further accolades were achieved at a number of other venues, but it should be noted that the Minerva is still eligible for numerous international concours events, including Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, to which it would surely be welcome.
Given this Three-Position Cabriolet’s merits as perhaps the finest surviving example of Minerva’s most impressive product, it is only enhanced by an undeniably exceptional restoration. This regal automobile is a noteworthy addition to any collection and should be strongly considered for its paramount qualities. Gooding & Company is delighted to offer one of the greatest luxury automobiles ever built. The Minerva AL presented here is most definitely a world- class automobile. The Minerva AL
While few examples of the Minerva automobile are seen today, the marque is well known the world over for its exceptional quality. A frequent sight amongst Europe’s royals and social elite, the Minerva was prized for its luxurious qualities and exceptional craftsmanship. Given the dedicated effort afforded each automobile, Minerva’s offerings were durable, yet they were fitted with some of the late 1920s finest coachwork, and thus were quite elegant.
In the growing market in Belgium, throughout the remainder of Europe, and across the globe, the marque gained a reputation for grandeur, although a Minerva was primarily a practical, yet stylish, automobile. A Minerva was a status symbol in the most tasteful sense.
Although Minervas were produced beginning in 1902, by 1910 the company had exclusively equipped its cars with the Knight double sleeve- valve engine. Sylvain De Jong, the company’s founder, preferred the sleeve-valve technology for its flexibility and refined manners.
For 1929, the Belgian automaker reached new heights with the development of the type AL. In short, most quality cars of the era paled in comparison. The AL boasted the sleeve- valve 6.6-liter eight-cylinder engine, which was capable of producing an estimated 125 hp, adequately propelling the 153.5"-wheelbase, coachbuilt cars with ease. Each AL was outfitted with the finest auxiliary items available: The wiper motor was the best Bosch had to offer, the instruments were Jaeger, and the switch plate was Scintilla. Inspection of the chassis confirms the unmatched level of engineering with far finer and more impressive components than those of a lesser automobile.
In all, fewer than 50 examples of the opulent AL were built, of which just eight are believed to remain today. The AL was assuredly Minerva’s greatest offering: It was smooth, quiet, and powerful. The majority of the ALs produced are thought to be clothed in rather formal coachwork, with a limited number of more sporting owner-driver examples constructed. To put it simply, the AL was exceptionally civilized.