Darracq and Company London

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A Darracq and Company was renamed
S. T. D. Motors in 1920
A Darracq et Cie
Industry Automotive
Fate sold to A.Darracq & Company Limited in 1902
Founded 1897 1896 (business)
Headquarters Suresnes, France
Key people
Alexandre Darracq, founder
Products Automobiles
A Darracq and Company Limited
A Darracq and Company (1905) Limited
S. T. D. Motors Limited
Public Listed Company
Industry automotive
Founded 1902 in United Kingdom
Defunct 1935
Headquarters England
Darracq Flying Fifteen Rear Entrance Tonneau - 1905

A Darracq and Company Limited owned a French manufacturer of motor vehicles and aero engines in Suresnes, near Paris. The enterprise, known at first as A Darracq et Cie, was founded in 1896 by Alexandre Darracq after he sold his Gladiator Bicycle business. In 1902, it took effect in 1903, he sold his new business to a privately held English company named A Darracq and Company Limited, taking a substantial shareholding and a directorship himself. The attraction for the British venture capitalists was that French automobile technology and industry experience led the world.

Alexandre Darracq continued to run the business from Paris but was obliged to retire to the Côte d'Azur in 1913 following years of difficulties that brought Darracq & Co into very hazardous financial circumstances. He had introduced an unproven unorthodox engine in 1911 which proved a complete failure yet he neglected Suresnes' popular conventional products. France then entered the first World War.

A Darracq & Co became S T D Motors Limited in 1920. In 1922 Darracq's name was dropped from products, the Suresnes business was renamed Automobiles Talbot and the Suresnes products were branded just Talbot. He died in 1931.

Alexandre Darracq's Suresnes business was to continue, still under British control, under the name Talbot until 1935 when it was acquired by investors led by the Suresnes factory's managing director, Antonio Lago.

S T D Limited, previously known until 1920 as A Darracq and Company (1905) Limited, was liquidated in 1936.

History of the business[edit]

Alexandre Darracq, using part of the substantial profit he had made from selling his Gladiator bicycle factory to Adolpe Clément,[1] set up a plant in 1897 in the Paris suburb of Suresnes. The company to own the business was formed in 1897 and named A Darracq et Cie. Production began with a Millet motorcycle powered by a five-cylinder rotary engine and shortly after an electric brougham. In 1898 Darracq et Cie made a Léon Bollée-designed voiturette[2] tricar.[3] The voiturette proved a débâcle: the steering was problematic, the five-speed belt drive "a masterpiece of bad design",[2] and the hot tube ignition crude, proving the £10,000 Darracq et Cie had paid for the design a mistake.[2]

9 CV single cylinder tonneau 1902

Darracq et Cie produced its first vehicle in 1900 with an internal combustion engine. Designed by Ribeyrolles, this was a 6.5 hp (4.8 kW; 6.6 PS) voiture legére powered by a 785 cc (47.9 cu in) single, and featured shaft drive and three speed column gear change.[2] While not as successful as hoped, one hundred were sold. In 1902, Darracq & Co signed a contract with Adam Opel to jointly produce vehicles in the German Empire under licence, with the brand name "Opel Darracq".[4]

Ownership change 1.

Also in 1902 A Darracq et Cie was sold as of 30 September 1902 (it was not completed until the following year) to an English company, A Darracq and Company Limited, a group of eight English investors led by J S Smith-Winby. Further capital was raised and large sums were spent on factory expansion, the Suresnes site was expanded to some four acres in extent, and in England extensive premises were bought.[5]

The Darracq & Co automobile company prospered, such that, by 1903, four models were offered: a 1.1 litre single, a 1.3 l and 1.9 l twin, and a 3.8 l four. The 1904 models abandoned flitch-plated wood chassis for pressed steel, and the new Flying Fifteen, powered by a 3 l four, had its chassis made from a single sheet of steel.[2] Its exceptional quality helped the company capture a ten percent share of the French auto market.[citation needed] In late 1904 the chairman reported sales were up by 20 per cent though increased costs meant the profit had risen more slowly. But what was more important was they had many more orders than they could fill and the only solution was to enlarge the factory by as much as 50 per cent..[6]

Ownership change 2.

At the following Annual meeting, twelve months later, the chairman was able to tell shareholders all the six speed records of the automobile world were held by Darracq cars and they had all been held more than twelve months and yet another had recently been added by K Lee Guinness. He also reported that during 1905 a large property had been bought in Lambeth for examining adjusting and stocking new cars ready for the peak sales period.[7]

An announcement followed two days later of a scheme of reconstitution of the company to raise more capital for further expansion. The reconstituted company was named A Darracq and Company (1905) Limited. Paris resident Alexander Darracq remained managing director, there was a managing director of the London branch.[8] The "reconstitution" was to circumvent holders of the company's shares who were unwilling to share the prosperity and blocked proposed new issues. So the company was (technically) sold, they were paid out and obliged to buy new shares like anyone else. J S Smith-Winby continued as chairman.[9]

Italy and Spain[edit]

In 1906 Darracq established Società Italiana Automobili Darracq (SIAD) in Portello, a suburb of Milan in Italy through a license arrangement with Cavaliere Ugo Stella, an aristocrat from Milan. The business did not do well and Darracq shut it down in 1910.[10] A new partnership, Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (ALFA), acquired the business. In 1914 Nicola Romeo bought ALFA and it became Alfa Romeo.[10] In 1907, Darracq formed Sociedad Anonima Espanola de Automoviles Darracq in Vitoria, Spain with a capitalization of 1,000,000 pesetas.

Steam buses[edit]

Darracq engined Demoiselle of Alberto Santos-Dumont

A joint venture into steam buses designed by Leon Serpollet was not a success. Only twenty were sold, and Darracq and Co lost money on the project.[10] London's Darracq-Serpollet Omnibus Company incorporated in May 1906 was hampered by delays in building a new factory then by the death by cancer of 48-year old Serpollet in early 1907.[11] The nurse of either Mr Nickols or Mr Karslake believed the steam buses would blow up and would not allow any of her charges to travel on one. The unpopular buses proved to have a brief uneconomic service life and their manufacturer was liquidated in 1912. Darracq and Co had to write off an investment of £156,000, a substantial portion of their capital.[9]


In 1907 Darracq & Co became interested in aviation and by 1909 were building light aero engines, used by Louis Blériot and Alberto Santos-Dumont.[10] They were clearly based on their racing engines. There may have been just the two built.[9]

Rotary Valve Engine[edit]

Darracq rotary-valve engine

In April 1908 the directors found it necessary to formally deny rumours of M. Darracq's intention to resign noting his contract did not expire until September 1910.[12]

Returning to an 1898 idea by Alexandre Darracq to build low-cost, good-quality cars, much as Henry Ford was doing with the Model T, Darracq & Co introduced a £260 14–16 hp (10–12 kW; 14–16 PS) model at the very end of 1911.[13][10] These, at the founder's insistence, would all be cursed with the Henriod[note 1] rotary valve engine, which was underpowered and prone to seizing.[10] The new engine's failure was reported by Darracq & Co to shareholders to be no more than the difficulty of achieving quantity production. It proved disastrous to the marque, and Alexandre Darracq retired.[10]

In late 1911 Alexandre Darracq was replaced by new managing director Paul Ribeyrolles[13] former head of Gladiator and motor racing enthusiast. In June 1912 Darracq resigned, he had already sold all his shares.[9] A main board director, Hopkins, was sent to Paris to take charge of general administration and Owen Clegg was sent to Suresnes from Rover in Coventry and appointed works manager.[14] At the end of 1912 the chairman reassured shareholders a return on their investment in the valveless motor would arrive in 1913.[15]

M. Alexandre Darracq is leaving Paris
Clegg's 16 horsepower type V14

By February 1913 shareholders had set up their own inquiry into the unsatisfactory position of their business and it reported poor co-operation between London and Suresnes, they had been pulling against each other, furthermore there had been considerable loss through "recent changes in personnel".[16] The committee then went on record saying:

"M. Darracq, as a typical Frenchman, probably possessed far more originality and initiative than any Englishman of corresponding situation, but, if he displayed a failing, it was that he, like most of his brilliant race, lacked the Englishman's pertinacity, and, after a time, seemed to lose interest, as it were, in his original conceptions without making any serious effort to strike out a fresh line."[17]

The chairman of the investigating committee, Norman Craig, was appointed chairman of A Darracq and Company (1905).[9]

New works manager Owen Clegg, designer of the proven Rover Twelve, sensibly copied the Twelve for Darracq & Co's new model.[10] The factory at Suresnes was retooled for mass production,[10] making it one of the first in the industry to do so. The 16HP Clegg-Darracq was joined by an equally reliable 2.1-litre 12HP car, and soon the factory was turning out sixty cars a week; by 1914, 12,000 men rolled out fourteen cars a day.[10]

First World War[edit]

During the First World War, the Darracq & Co factory was converted to the production of various war materials.

Ownership change 3.

During 1916 the Suresnes assets were transferred to Société Anonyme Darracq, a new company incorporated in France for the purpose, British assets were transferred to a company named Darracq Motor Engineering Company Limited. A Darracq and Company (1905) Limited was now no more than a holder of shares in these two businesses.

After the War automobile production resumed as soon as the Suresnes factory had ceased making munitions, arms and planes.[18] By the time of the Motor Show in October 1919 the prewar 16HP "Type V14" had returned to production, featuring a four-cylinder 2,940cc engine.[18] But the manufacturer's big news at the Paris show was the 24HP "Type A", powered by a V8 4,584cc unit.[18] This model had also been initiated by Managing Director Owen Clegg back in 1913, but production had been delayed by intervening events till 1919.[18] The "Type A" featured four forward speeds and, from 1920, four-wheel brakes.[10] Despite these innovative features, it did not sell well.[10]

The French franc had suffered a sustained crisis of its own during the war years, and in May 1920 the "Type V" was listed at 35,000 francs in bare chassis form: a torpedo bodied car was priced at 40,000 francs.[18] Even the "Type V", with its 3,150 mm (124 in) wheelbase, was substantial car, but for customers wanting more, a "Type A" appeared on the same list at 39,500 francs in bare chassis form, and 44,500 francs for a torpedo bodied car.[18]

The prewar 16HP also reappeared after the war and was the manufacturer's top-selling car in Britain.[10]

S.T.D. Motors[edit]

Ownership change 4.

After the Armistice of 11 November 1918 A Darracq and Company (1905) Limited bought Heenan & Froude, constructional engineers, of Worcester and Manchester then at the end of 1919 Darracq & Co bought Clément-Talbot Limited[19] and early in 1920 Jonas Woodhead & Sons of Leeds, suppliers of springs for cars, and then later in 1920 along with W and G Du Cros Limited of Acton, taxi operators and van, lorry, bus and ambulance body builders, control of Sunbeam Motor Car Company Limited.[20]

1927 DUS torpédo

In August 1920 A Darracq and Company (1905) was renamed S T D Motors Limited to recognise the gathering together of Sunbeam Talbot and Darracq under one ownership. The Sunbeam car would continue to be made at Moorfield Works, Wolverhampton, the Talbot at Clément-Talbot in North Kensington and the Darracq car at Suresnes. There would now be central buying selling administration and advertising departments all with S T D in Britain[21] All businesses retained their separate identities.[22]

S T D Motors Limited group in 1924[edit]

c. 1930 M67 berline
1931 M75 cabriolet
1934 L67 berline
Clément-Talbot Limited of North Kensington, London W10: Talbot cars
Darracq Motor Engineering Company Limited of Fulham London SW7: motorcar bodies
Sunbeam Motor Car Company Limited of Moorfield, Wolverhampton: Sunbeam cars
Jonas Woodhead & Sons Limited of Osset, Leeds: automobile springs[22]
in France
Automobiles Talbot SA of Suresnes, Paris: Talbot cars
Darracq Proprietary Company Limited of North Kensington, London W10: held those French assets not held by Talbot SA
other investments
W & G Du Cros Limited of Warple Way Acton, London W3: W & G commercial vehicles, Yellow Taxi-cabs, charabanc and bus bodies, motorcar bodies and assembly of French-sourced Talbot components for sale in the British market as Darracq-Talbot cars.
Heenan & Froude Limited of Worcester, constructional engineers[22][23]

Automobiles Talbot[edit]

Following the inclusion of Clement Talbot in the S T D group Suresnes products were branded Talbot-Darracq but the word Darracq was dropped in 1922. Cars made by Automobiles Talbot imported from France to England were renamed Darracq to avoid confusion with the English Clément-Talbot products.[24]

In late March 1931 the entire S T D Motors board of directors resigned after the suggestion was made that some "new blood" should be introduced. An entirely new board was appointed under the chairmanship of General Sir Travers Clarke.[25] It remained in place until the end in 1935.

Rootes Group[edit]

Ownership change 5.

Financial difficulties arose in the early years of the Great Depression and just before the opening of the October 1934 Earls Court Motor Show an application was made to the Court for an appointment of a receiver and manager for the two major subsidiaries of S T D. A provisional agreement with Rootes Securities was reached in January 1935 and from that time the Rootes brothers controlled Automobiles Talbot SA.[26]


Ownership change 6.

In early 1934 S T D Motors granted the managing director of Automobiles Talbot SA an option later extended twelve months to 10 June 1935 to acquire all S T D's interest in the French business in consideration of the release of S T D from its guarantee of the French company. The value of the guarantee was put at about £98,500.[27] The managing director, Antonio Lago, duly exercised his option and went on to produce luxury cars badged Talbot-Lago from 1935 until long after the second World War.

Motor sport[edit]

1903 Paris-Madrid - Henri Béconnais Darracq 40hp
1927 Talbot-Darracq Grand Prix car
1932 Talbot Darracq

Like other automobile makers in this era, such as Napier, Bentley, and Daimler, Darracq & Co participated in motor racing, and their drastically stripped-down voitures legére garnered publicity. A 1904 effort to win the Gordon Bennett Trophy, however, was disastrous: despite entries of identical 11.3 l cars built in Germany, France, and Britain (per the Trophy rules), Darracq & Co scored no success.[2] Paul Baras drove a Darracq to a new land speed record of 104.53 mph (168.22 km/h) at Ostend, Belgium, on November 13, 1904. A 1905 racer was more promising. Fitted with a 22.5 l[28] overhead valve V8 made from two Bennett Trophy engines mated to a single crankcase, producing 200 hp (150 kW; 200 PS),[2] making it one of the first specialized land speed racers,[29] and on December 30, 1905, Victor Hémery drove this car to a speed of 109.65 mph (176.46 km/h) in the flying kilometer at Arles, France.[29] The V8 was shipped to Ormond Beach, Florida, (then host to numerous land speed record attempts), where it was timed at 122.45 mph (197.06 km/h) in 1906 to win the title "1906 King of Speed"; this was not enough to hold the land speed record, however, which went to a Stanley, the Rocket, at 127.6 mph (205.35 km/h).[29] On return to Europe the car was sold to Algernon Lee Guinness who set many records over the next few years until the car was retired in 1909 with a broken piston. This V8 Special (see full story at [1]) was rebuilt in 2005 using its original engine which had survived mostly intact. A video of the running engine was published on YouTube.[30]

Darracqs won the 1905 and 1906 Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island, New York, both credited to Louis Wagner in a 100 hp (75 kW; 100 PS) 12.7 l racer.[31] Darracq & Co also won the Cuban race at Havana.[citation needed] Darracq & Co's final racing victory was the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup. Competition efforts did not stop entirely, however. In 1908, Darracqs came second, third, and seventh at the "Four Inch" Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, and in 1912, Malcolm Campbell entered a former works Darracq at Brooklands.[32] After the Great War and as part of the STD combine Sunbeam Grand Prix re-badged as Talbot-Darracq participated in the 1921 French Grand Prix. The ‘Invincible Talbot-Darracq’ which were in effect a smaller versions of the Grand Prix cars dominated voiturette racing at the highest levels for six years, winning every race they entered.[33]

Popular culture[edit]

Emblem Darracq Genevieve.JPG

In 1953, a British film directed by Henry Cornelius, Genevieve, featured a 1904 Darracq as its centrepiece. The film sparked an increase in collecting and restoring vintage automobiles.

In the 100th episode of Wheeler Dealers, Mike Brewer and Edd China restore a 1904 Darracq, borrowed from the Haynes International Motor Museum, to working order and drove it in the veteran car run from London to Brighton.


  1. ^ Wise, David Burgess. "Darracq: A Motor Enthusiast who Hated Driving", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 5, p.484.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wise, p.493.
  3. ^ Wise, David Burgess. "Davis: The Grand Old Man of Motor Racing", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 5, p.499.
  4. ^ Wise, p.493. Wise does not mention the year or marque name. Setright, does not mention the year, either, and p.1586 says it was an 8 hp (6.0 kW; 8.1 PS) four-seater.
  5. ^ A. Darracq & Company Limited. The Times, Monday, Nov 20, 1905; pg. 13; Issue 37869
  6. ^ A Darracq and Co. Limited. The Times, Saturday, Nov 26, 1904; pg. 16; Issue 37562
  7. ^ A Darracq and Co Limited, The Times, Saturday, Nov 18, 1905; pg. 17; Issue 37868
  8. ^ A. Darracq & Company Limited. The Times, Monday, Nov 20, 1905; pg. 13; Issue 37869
  9. ^ a b c d e Ian Nickols and Kent Karslake, Motoring Entente, Cassell, London 1956
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Wise, p.494.
  11. ^ Darracq-Serpollet Omnibus Company, The Times, Tuesday, Dec 24, 1907; pg. 10; Issue 38524.
  12. ^ Public Companies, A Darracq and Company (1905) Limited. The Times, Saturday, Apr 11, 1908; pg. 3; Issue 38618
  13. ^ a b Company Meetings, The New Darracq Valveless Model. The Times, Thursday, Dec 14, 1911; pg. 18; Issue 39768
  14. ^ Darracq Meeting Adjourned. The Times, Tuesday, Dec 17, 1912; pg. 16; Issue 40084
  15. ^ Company Results. A Darracq. The Times, Tuesday, Dec 10, 1912; pg. 19; Issue 40078
  16. ^ The Darracq Inquiry. The Times, Thursday, Feb 20, 1913; pg. 15; Issue 40140
  17. ^ The Darracq Board And The Committee's Report. The Times, Friday, Feb 28, 1913; pg. 14; Issue 40147
  18. ^ a b c d e f "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1920 (salon [Oct] 1919). Paris: Histoire & collections. Nr. 31: Page 79. 2004. 
  19. ^ A. Darracq & Co. (1905) (Limited). The Times Tuesday, Dec 02, 1919; pg. 24; Issue 42272
  20. ^ Big Motor Amalgamation. The Times, Wednesday, Jun 09, 1920; pg. 21; Issue 42432
  21. ^ A. Darracq And Company (1905), Limited. The Times, Saturday, Aug 14, 1920; pg. 19; Issue 42489
  22. ^ a b c S.T.D. Motors, Limited. The Times, Monday, Mar 10, 1924; pg. 20; Issue 43596
  23. ^ S.T.D. Motors. The Times, Wednesday, Feb 13, 1929; pg. 22; Issue 45126
  24. ^ S.T.D. Motors. The Times, Wednesday, Feb 18, 1925; pg. 21; Issue 43889
  25. ^ Whole Board Resigns. Daily Mail, Wednesday, March 25, 1931; pg. 9; Issue 10893.
  26. ^ S.T.D. Subsidiaries. The Times, Tuesday, Feb 12, 1935; pg. 21; Issue 46986
  27. ^ S.T.D. Motors Report. The Times, Thursday, Feb 21, 1935; pg. 19; Issue 46994
  28. ^ Northey, Tom, "Land-speed record: The Fastest Men on Earth", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 10, p.1163.
  29. ^ a b c Northey, p.1163.
  30. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAx69e4GN44
  31. ^ Wise, p.494; Wise, "Vanderbilt Cup", p.2460.
  32. ^ Wise, "Darracq", p.494.
  33. ^ The British Competition Car, Cyril Posthumus, 1959 P.53


  1. ^ C E Henriod & Cie manufacturers of the change-speed rear axles where the change-speed box forms part of the differential casing

Other sources[edit]

  • Northey, Tom, "Land-speed record: The Fastest Men on Earth", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 10, pp. 1161–1166. London: Orbis, 1974.
  • Setright, L.J.K. "Opel: Simple Engineering and Commercial Courage", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles, Volume 14, pp. 1583–1592. London: Orbis, 1974.
  • Wise, David Burgess."Darracq: A Motor Enthusiast who Hated Driving", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles, Volume 5, pp. 493–494. London: Orbis, 1974.
  • Wise, David Burgess."Vanderbilt Cup: The American Marathon", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles, Volume 21, pp. 2458–60-4. London: Orbis, 1974.

External links[edit]