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Formerly the Property of Henry Browne de Kilmaine
Among French automakers, Avions Voisin was unique: With a background in architecture and a successful career in aviation, Gabriel Voisin reached his pinnacle as an automotive engineer in the late 1920s and 1930s.
Voisin’s aim was not to create highperformance racing cars or flamboyant show cars; he strived to build the perfect automobile: modern, safe, comfortable, reliable, and efficient. Like Le Corbusier, his contemporary in the field of architecture, Voisin believed that modern life could be greatly improved through design. Many believe that Voisin’s approach to auto design was informed by his brother’s death in 1912, the result of an automobile accident.
As such, each Voisin automobile was designed as a whole, in response to the number of passengers and their needs, then suitably titled, codified, and catalogued. Engine, chassis, and body were specifically tailored to passenger requirements and almost every model – constructed entirely in-house – featured aero-inspired electrical systems; sophisticated suspension geometries; highly efficient sleeve-valve engines; precise castings; interchangeable components; and radically formal, avant-garde coachwork.
The incomparable automobiles of Gabriel Voisin are the culmination of a gifted engineer’s vision, beautifully realized.
The 28th Paris Salon de l’Automobile, held in October 1934, was a showcase for several groundbreaking French offerings. Even among the likes of Citroen’s Traction Avant and Gaston Grummer’s Renault Aeroprofil, Avions Voisin’s show stand attracted the largest audience. Everyone had come to see the new Voisin Aérodyne – an automobile that represented the very essence of modernity.
The Aérodyne is a perfect example of Gabriel Voisin’s “rational design” philosophy, expressed by the famous dictum, “No line which does not fulfill a function can be beautiful.” Here was an exclusive car with no concession to contemporary fashions – a true engineer’s car – whose original concept and brilliant execution captured the public’s imagination.
Aerodynamic efficiency guided the creation of the bodywork, which employed cutting-edge construction methods and lightweight materials developed from aircraft design. With the Aérodyne, Voisin’s traditional wings gave way to streamlined forms and the trunk was fully integrated in the fastback design of the body, creating a wonderful sweeping arch in profile.
Evolved from the previous C24, the new Voisin was brimming with mechanical curiosities. While the C25’s advanced sleeve-valve six-cylinder engine was typical Voisin practice, it was on this model that an option of an electromagnetic gearbox first appeared.
The most remarkable feature of the Aérodyne was its retractable roof, which opened and closed by means of an ingenious two-cylinder pneumatic suction motor located in the trunk. This mesmerizing feature gave the Aérodyne the dual personality of a sporting open touring car and a comfortable, closed sedan. Even when the roof was in its closed position, a series of portholes extending across the roof panel ensured that the cabin was well lit.
Aimed at the top of the market, the Aérodyne was generously equipped with the finest modern amenities. The painted dashboard was complete with every imaginable feature, from a full array of beautiful Jaeger instruments to controls for the adjustable Dufaux-Repusseau dampers. Boasting comfortable seating for five, the cockpit was upholstered in vibrant Art Deco prints and was equipped with niceties such as individual Lalique ashtrays.
With an asking price of 88,000 francs, the C25 was available only to an elite clientele of discerning motorists. In total, just 28 examples were built between 1934 and 1935, of which only eight were built with exotic Aérodyne coachwork.
The history of this Voisin C25 Aérodyne, chassis no. 50023, can be traced back to 1963, when pioneering collector Henry Browne de Kilmaine acquired it for his growing stable of important early motorcars.
A well-known figure among French enthusiasts, Henry de Kilmaine served for many years as an officer of the Automobile Club l’Ouest and helped organize the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Between 1949 and 2004, he attended every running of the famed endurance race, and in 1961 participated in the foundation of the Le Mans Museum. It was at this time that he began to acquire cars for his private collection, with a focus on innovative French classics.
After learning of M. de Kilmaine’s latest acquisition, the Comité d’Organisation des Salons Internationaux de l’Automobile asked him to display the Aérodyne at the Les Belles Voitures d’Autrefois, a major classic car exhibition. Held on October 17, 1963, the event was reported in the Revue Automobile, with the Voisin illustrated as a highlight.
In 1972, Henry de Kilmaine entered the Aérodyne in the Coupes de l’Age d’Or, a historic motor sports event held on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans. According to a period article, the Voisin wore race number 56 and “scored good results in the regularity event.”
In 1984, M. de Kilmaine’s Voisin was invited to take part in the prestigious exhibition 100 Years of Motoring held at the Grand Palais, where, 50 years earlier, Avions Voisin had unveiled the C25 Aérodyne. Most recently, the Voisin was displayed at the Châtellerault Museum (2002–2008) and the Le Mans Museum (2008).
Following M. de Kilmaine’s passing in 2008, his collection was dispersed and the prized Aérodyne was sold to the current consignor, an English collector with a passion for important automotive designs.
Complete and very original, but in need of restoration, the Voisin was entrusted to UK specialist Blakeney Motorsports Ltd., a firm that has been internationally recognized for their magnificent show-quality restorations and exceptional racing preparation. No expense was spared in returning the Aérodyne to its original splendor. The entire restoration process is well documented, with many photographs and reports confirming the breadth and quality of the work performed.
With great care and attention to detail, all of the mechanical systems were restored to operating condition, from the complex pneumatic retractable roof mechanism to the clever gearbox. The sleeve-valve engine was completely rebuilt with new sleeves, pistons, and connecting rods while the crankshaft and camshaft were refinished to exacting tolerances to allow for the smooth, seemingly effortless operation for which these engines are renowned.
When time came to refinish the original coachwork, a tasteful two-tone combination of dark blue over London Grey was selected. This color scheme perfectly highlights the Aérodyne’s brilliant aerodynamic profile and serves as the ideal pairing to the splendid blue and grey cord upholstery.
With its two-tone paint, wraparound pontoon fenders, low-mounted headlights, and skirted rear fenders, even the most basic automotive elements appear marvelous on this Aérodyne. By any standard, this is a true Art Deco masterpiece.
Since restoration, this C25 Aérodyne has been displayed only once, at the prestigious Windsor Castle Concours d’Elegance in 2012. Significantly, this Voisin motorcar has never been displayed in the US – and rarely outside of France – offering its next owner the opportunity to share this beautifully restored 1930s classic with a receptive new audience. Beyond its promising future as a concours entrant, the Aérodyne ought to be an exciting rally participant, as its advanced chassis and unique coachwork are sure to reward driver and passenger with an utterly unique motoring experience.
A credit to their inspired concept and exclusivity, C25 Aérodynes are widely regarded as the most significant Voisin automobiles. These streamlined machines are a stirring reminder of the grandest years of automotive design, where bold, uncompromising ideas were championed by individuals and put forth without regard to current trends, internal politics, or price. Without question, they are among the most technologically advanced and thought-provoking automobiles of the 1930s.
Built in extremely limited numbers, only four Aérodynes are believed to survive today. One example is maintained in a private Swiss collection; and another, a fixture in the Mullin Automotive Museum, received Best of Show honors at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
With a rich provenance, great originality, and a superb restoration, the Aérodyne presented here is an outstanding example of a rare breed and a kinetic sculpture like no other.