Darracq and Company London
S. T. D. Motors in 1920
||It has been suggested that Darracq Motor Engineering Company be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since August 2016.|
|Fate||sold to A.Darracq & Company Limited in 1902|
|Founded||1897 1896 (business)|
|Alexandre Darracq, founder|
|Public Listed Company|
|Founded||1902 in London, UK|
|Alexandre Darracq, managing director|
|Products||Automotive, cars and racing cars and components|
A Darracq and Company Limited owned a French manufacturer of motor vehicles and aero engines in Suresnes, near Paris. The French 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.
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 Motors Limited, previously known until 1920 as A Darracq and Company (1905) Limited, was liquidated in 1936.
History of the business
Alexandre Darracq, using part of the substantial profit he had made from selling his Gladiator bicycle factory to Adolpe Clément, 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 tricar. The voiturette proved a débâcle: the steering was problematic, the five-speed belt drive "a masterpiece of bad design", and the hot tube ignition crude, proving the £10,000 Darracq et Cie had paid for the design a mistake.
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. While not as successful as hoped, one hundred were sold. Opel sold Darracqs in Germany but decided to build their own cars. 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". Then went on to build their own vehicles.
Also in 1902 A Darracq et Cie was sold as of 30 September 1902 (the sale was not completed until the following year) to an English company, A Darracq and Company Limited. The attraction for the British venture capitalists was that French automobile technology and industry experience led the world. French law made the necessary flotation processes more difficult then English law. The perception from across the Atlantic was that French industry was "offloading" on British investors. The English financial group was headed by W B Avery of W & T Avery Limited, a Birmingham scales manufacturer, J S Smith-Winby a London lawyer and a retired army officer, Colonel A Rawlinson. They bought A Darracq et Cie and sold it again to other investors for five times their purchase price. Darracq received slightly less than 50 percent of the shares in the new company from which he paid Avery and friends. There was no public offering, eight other investors took up the rest of the shares.
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.
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-litre four, had its chassis made from a single sheet of steel. This car was Alexandre Darracq's chef d'oeuvre. There was nothing outstanding in its design but "every part was in such perfect balance and harmony" it became an outstanding model. Its exceptional quality helped the company capture a ten percent share of the French auto market. 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. Almost 75 per cent of 1904 output was exported.
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.
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. 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.[note 1] After this "reconstitution" over 80 per cent of the shares were held in England.
Alexandre Darracq had long been interested in heavy vehicles for the carriage of people and the transport of goods. On his advice the company entered into a joint venture with Léon Serpollet in 1905 to build steam-powered buses. A new factory was built at Suresnes capable of making one hundred chassis each month but the buses were not successful and in 1910 the directors had to tell their shareholders they had written off £156,000 of their investment in heavy steam vehicles.
M. Alexandre Darracq retires
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.
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. These, at the founder's insistence, would all be cursed with the Henriod[note 2] rotary valve engine, which was underpowered and prone to seizing. The new engine's failure was reported by Darracq & Co to its shareholders to be no more than the difficulty of achieving quantity production. It proved disastrous to the marque, and eventually Alexandre Darracq retired.
In late 1911 Alexandre Darracq was replaced by new managing director Paul Ribeyrolles former head of Gladiator and motor racing enthusiast. In June 1912 Darracq resigned, he had already sold all his shares. 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. At the end of 1912 the chairman reassured shareholders a return on their investment in the valveless motor would arrive in 1913.
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". 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."
The chairman of the investigating committee, Norman Craig, was appointed chairman of A Darracq and Company (1905).
New works manager Owen Clegg, designer of the proven Rover Twelve, sensibly copied the Twelve for Darracq & Co's new model. The factory at Suresnes was retooled for mass production, 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.
Automobiles Darracq S.A.
For the First World War, the Darracq & Co factory was switched to the production of various war materials. During 1916 aside from the land and buildings all the Suresnes assets were transferred to Société Anonyme Automobiles Darracq, a new company incorporated in France for the purpose, British assets were transferred to a British 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. Suresnes land and buildings were transferred to Darracq Proprietary Company Limited of London and leased back to SA Darracq.
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 and early in 1920 Jonas Woodhead & Sons of Leeds, suppliers of springs for cars. Then later in 1920 along with W and G Du Cros Limited of Acton, taxi operators and van, lorry, bus and ambulance body builders, they bought control of Sunbeam Motor Car Company Limited.
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 All businesses retained their separate identities.
S T D Motors Limited group in 1924
- 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
- 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
Automobiles Talbot S.A.
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.
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. It remained in place until the end in 1935.
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 Motors. A provisional agreement with Rootes Securities was reached in January 1935 and from that time the Rootes brothers controlled Clément-Talbot, and Darracq Motor Engineering Company.
Then in the summer of 1935 Rootes Securities announced they had bought Sunbeam Motor Cars and its subsidiary Sunbeam Commercial Vehicles. The former Talbot plant in France was committed under an option to the manager of the Suresnes plant Antonio Lago. All other group members were disposed of before S T D was liquidated in 1936.
- James M Laux, In First Gear, the French Automobile Industry until 1914, Liverpool University 1976 ISBN 9780853232131
- Wise, David Burgess. "Darracq: A Motor Enthusiast who Hated Driving", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 5, p.484.
- Wise, p.493.
- 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.
- A. Darracq & Company Limited. The Times, Monday, Nov 20, 1905; pg. 13; Issue 37869
- Ian Nickols and Kent Karslake, Motoring Entente, Cassell, London 1956
- A Darracq and Co. Limited. The Times, Saturday, Nov 26, 1904; pg. 16; Issue 37562
- A Darracq and Co Limited, The Times, Saturday, Nov 18, 1905; pg. 17; Issue 37868
- Public Companies, A Darracq and Company (1905) Limited. The Times, Saturday, Apr 11, 1908; pg. 3; Issue 38618
- Wise, p.494.
- Company Meetings, The New Darracq Valveless Model. The Times, Thursday, Dec 14, 1911; pg. 18; Issue 39768
- Darracq Meeting Adjourned. The Times, Tuesday, Dec 17, 1912; pg. 16; Issue 40084
- Company Results. A Darracq. The Times, Tuesday, Dec 10, 1912; pg. 19; Issue 40078
- The Darracq Inquiry. The Times, Thursday, Feb 20, 1913; pg. 15; Issue 40140
- The Darracq Board And The Committee's Report. The Times, Friday, Feb 28, 1913; pg. 14; Issue 40147
- The Motor Transport Year Book and Directory Electrical Press, London, 1918
- Jean-Louis Loubet, L'Industrie automobile: 1905-1971, Droz, Geneva 1999
- A. Darracq & Co. (1905) (Limited). The Times Tuesday, Dec 02, 1919; pg. 24; Issue 42272
- Big Motor Amalgamation. The Times, Wednesday, Jun 09, 1920; pg. 21; Issue 42432
- A. Darracq And Company (1905), Limited. The Times, Saturday, Aug 14, 1920; pg. 19; Issue 42489
- S.T.D. Motors, Limited. The Times, Monday, Mar 10, 1924; pg. 20; Issue 43596
- S.T.D. Motors. The Times, Wednesday, Feb 13, 1929; pg. 22; Issue 45126
- S.T.D. Motors. The Times, Wednesday, Feb 18, 1925; pg. 21; Issue 43889
- Whole Board Resigns. Daily Mail, Wednesday, March 25, 1931; pg. 9; Issue 10893.
- S.T.D. Subsidiaries. The Times, Tuesday, Feb 12, 1935; pg. 21; Issue 46986
- Sunbeam Motor-Car Deal. The Times, Friday, Jul 05, 1935; pg. 22; Issue 47108
- S.T.D. Motors. The Times, Wednesday, Apr 22, 1936; pg. 20; Issue 47355
- J Smith-Winby, director of oil, steel and insurance companies
- Sir William B Avery Baronet, deputy chairman
- Alexandre Darracq
- E Festus Kelly
- J Malesset
- W Weir
- A Rawlinson
- C E Henriod & Cie manufacturers of the change-speed rear axles where the change-speed box forms part of the differential casing
- 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.
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