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Mors 24/32 Roi-des-Belges 1904

Mors 24/32 Roi-des-Belges 1904

Sunday in London , 03 November 2013 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run 2013

This 24/32-hp four-cylinder Mors represents the pinnacle of veteran motoring, built by a firm that had more than earned its laurels in the epic city-to-city races of the early 20th Century. It is a large five-seater Brighton car which has the capability of carrying seven people utilising the rear-facing upholstered bench seats.

The Mors company was founded by Emile Mors, who was one of France’s leading electrical engineers, heading one of the country’s biggest telegraph, telephone and electrical equipment factories. He had built a three-wheeled light steam carriage in the late 1880s, pioneering the use of oil as a fuel, and displayed it at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. He built seven or eight of these steamers, but realised the limitations of the design, and in 1892-93 made petrol motor trucks for light railways to an English design. He built his first petrol car in 1895. Powered by a rear-mounted air-cooled V4 engine with water-cooled cylinder heads, it had coil and dynamo electric ignition.

The marque first appeared in competition two years later, when Emile Mors finished seventh in the 106-mile Paris Dieppe Race in a two-seat 5-hp Mors at an average of 19.6 mph. Two four-seater Mors finished sixth and seventh in their class, only averaging 12.2 and 11.9 mph. Serious racing began in 1899, when the company’s brand-new chief engineer Henri Brasier designed front-engined 4.2-litre four-cylinder racers on Panhard lines. Declared the Parisian Motor Review: "There began a struggle for supremacy that forms the most brilliant page in automobile history… The brand-new Mors, built purely for speed, eclipsed everything in that year by winning the events in which it took part and raised the record for long distance races to 37 miles an hour."

That record was made in the 163-mile Paris-Bordeaux-Biarritz race, the last contest of the old century, by "Levegh" (the nom de course of the rich amateur Alfred Velghe) driving a Mors with a distinctive wedge-shaped bonnet.

The ensuing battle on the roads of Europe between Mors and their chief rival Panhard-Levassor created huge public interest and, noted Motor Review, "the popularity thus given to racing did a vast amount of Great to automobilism, and the struggle itself had the more important result in compelling the makers to surpass each other in the building of speedy vehicles."

Racing certainly did the Mors image a great deal of Great: from 200 workmen in 1898, by 1904 the workforce had risen to 1200 and Mors’ immense factory in the Rue du Théâtre in Paris was turning out two cars a day.

Victory in the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux and Paris Berlin races were further triumphs for Mors, whose racing achievements peaking in 1903 when Gabriel won the truncated Paris-Madrid race by reaching Bordeaux first in his streamlined Mors "Dauphin" at an amazing average speed of 65.3 mph only to find the race had been abandoned because of the number of accidents en route.

Describing the 1904 range in its issue of 14 May 1904, La Vie Automobile declared: "The approach of the eliminating trials [for the Gordon Bennett Race] recalls the sporting successes of the house of Mors… These are cars designed and built with the scrupulous care that has always been lavished on its creations by the great factory of the Rue du Théâtre."

There were three cars in the line-up, all with four cylinders 14, 19 and 24 hp and all with pressed steel frames capable of accommodating side-entrance coachwork, "designed and built to take long and relatively heavy bodies". All had T-head engines and there were four speeds forward and reverse, with final drive by side chains. A handsome brand-new design of "shouldered" radiator had been adopted in 1903, which writing in La Vie Automobile Count Mortimer-Mégret remarked "must necessarily be the most beautiful ornament of any self-respecting up-to-the-minute automobile".

Top of the range, the powerful 5.5-litre 24/32-hp had a decompressor that lifted the exhaust valves at the start of the stroke to ease starting; this device had been adopted from the firm’s racing cars.

This particular 24/32-hp "English Licence" Mors is one of the "first generation" of Brighton Run cars that took part in the event before World War Two. It was discovered in 1938 by Harold Arthur Pierpoint, who entered it for that year’s Run. It must have been a last minute effort, for the car was only registered the week before the event!

Unfortunately Mr Pierpoint does not seem to have recorded where or how he found the car, but it was one of the first 100 veterans to be officially dated by the Veteran Car Club when the process was instigated after the War, and was awarded Certificate No 99.

It was in action soon after the Armistice, appearing at the VCC’s September 29 rally at The Ely Hotel in Camberley, where Bill Boddy of Motor Sport noted: "Pierpoint’s 1904 English Licence Roi de Beige Mors was silent, accelerated well and displayed excellent Blériot headlamps."

It successfully finished the first postwar Brighton Run in 1946 (there was no Run in 1947) and in 1948 Bill Boddy was again smitten, describing the car as "a truly beautiful 1904 touring English Licence Mors with chain-drive, white-painted front tyres of modest section and big Blériot headlamps."

Over the years the Mors, which Michael Banfield acquired from the Pierpoint family on brand-new Year’s Day 1975, has been a consistent and reliable entrant for the Brighton Run. It also has full weather equipment for the inevitable wet "Brighton".

Refurbished in 2004 to Michael Banfield’s typically impressive standards and newly coachpainted in two shades of green, this outstandingly handsome veteran is up and running and ready to take to the Brighton Road as reliably as it has done for the past three-quarters of a century. (www.bonhams.com/auctions/22201/lot/1248/)

Mors 24/32 Roi-des-Belges from 1904

Start Number : 386
Reg Number: LN 2231
Chassis no. : SM24000
Engine no. : 24119
Year : 1904
Make: Mors
Body: Roi-des-Belges
Cylinders: 4
Horse Power: 32
Entrant: Mrs Susan Banfield
Driver: Mr Raymond Ingram
County : Kent
Country : United Kingdom

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