To be offered by Silverstone Auctions as part of the 'Silverstone Classic Live Online Sale' on Friday 31st July. Please see our website for full listings and to find out more on how to register for bidding.
Lot No. 319
Estimate: £15,000 - £18,000
Buyers Premium 12.5% + VAT
Rare 1920's cycle car produced by Maurice Jeanson in 1927
945cc Chapuis-Dornier engine with a sports car body
Diminutive styling in line with Amilcar and Salmson
One of the first vehicles to be offered under a finance agreement
Your earliest inspection is encouraged and welcomed
This car has formed part of a large collection with little or no use. An element of recommissioning is to be expected to return it to the road once again
A new V5c will need to be requested by submitting a V62 form
It's not only quality, engineering, innovation or competitiveness that can make a car manufacturer successful. Perhaps most important of all is marketing. And this is where French manufacturer Maurice Jeanson excelled, albeit for a limited time. Jeanson entered the car market in 1921 during the cyclecar craze. He chose the name of his nephew, Benjamin, as a brand name and introduced a small 750 cc 4-cylinder car with shaft drive that weighed just under 350kg. That meant that the car benefitted from the tax advantages for cyclecars whilst offering the better build quality of more conventional cars. More importantly, he concocted an innovative financing scheme for his customers. In association with bank Société Générale, he offered a credit scheme which meant that the cars could be bought by paying 12 monthly instalments, which added only 200 Francs to the price. Benjamin acted as a security to the bank, which proved to be both productive as well as risky.
At first business boomed and sales grew rapidly. In 1923 the range was expanded with a long-chassis model that could be fitted with 4-seater bodies but was also offered for commercial vehicles. That same year a 2-seater sports model was introduced with a single overhead cam engine that propelled the car to a maximum speed of 100 kph. A year later a true cyclecar was marketed as the Benjamin P2. It was powered by a 525 cc twin-cylinder 2-stroke engine that was mounted in the rear of the boat-tailed car. Though it had some success in competition, the car didn't sell well and the model soon disappeared from the range. After that Benjamin stuck by 4-cylinder 4-stroke models and capacities up to 1095 cc were offered.
Up to 1926 production grew and grew and Benjamin prospered. Four-wheel braking was introduced on the cars, which had made a name for themselves for offering quality at a modest price. But then things went awry as the economy declined and customers failed to pay off their loans. Since Benjamin acted as guarantor, the company was obliged to reimburse the bank for the failed payments of their customers and this led to bankruptcy in 1927. As the creditors saw more advantages in continuing production as opposed to selling the assets the company was not liquidated and Jeanson was allowed to re-establish his company, but now closely governed by his main creditor, the bank. Benjamin was renamed into Benova, meaning "new Benjamin".
The most notable new car was the Type G with a 1502cc (later enlarged to 2 litres) straight 8-cylinder engine provided by S.C.A.P. This was a luxury car quite unlike the preceding models and was produced up to 1929. More common were the models powered by the 4-cylinder engines provided by Chapuis-Dornier. They ranged from 945cc to 2100cc capacities and powered models varying from small 2-seaters, conventional 4-seaters to commercial vehicles. They sold reasonably well but with the recession, the competition from mass-produced cars and without the attractive financing scheme the market dried up for Benova and its last vehicles were sold in 1931.
It's not quite clear how many Benjamins or Benovas were made in total but of the B3 model shown here, there were more than 300 built between 1927 and 1929. Most of them had regular tourer, coach or saloon bodies but there were sportscars as well. This example is fitted with the 945cc Chapuis-Dornier engine and fits in quite nicely with contemporary small sportscars from Amilcar and Salmson. There are still a number of Benjamin and Benova cars extant, mostly in Western Europe and often as 2-seater sports specials which still enjoy some popularity. This diminutive cycle car presents well to this day and will make a welcome and rare addition to any collection.
In recent years this car has formed part of a large collection and as such has received little or no use and an element of recommissioning is to be expected to return it to the road once again. Your inspection pre-sale is welcomed and encouraged to appreciate the potential of this rarely offered motor car.
You can now book a one to one appointment (up to one hour) to view this lot at our central location between 16th and 30th July. Please contact us on 01926 691 141 to secure your appointment or [email protected]
to discuss the car in more detail. The health and safety of both our customers and team remains the utmost priority, we are therefore operating to strict COVID-19 guidelines and full instructions for arrival and inspection protocols will be given when making your appointment.