• This Month's Issue

    We Take Stock of Two Record-Setting '75 Lambo LP400's

    Stephen Serio Recommends Five Under-$50k Cars

    Chasing the Testa Rossa: 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus Competizione

    $3.8m Hemi 'Cuda: Comer Rates the Sale, Cumberford Rates the Design

    Read More
  • SCM Platinum

    Over 200 cars that sold at auction covered in every issue of SCM. Our market reports include detailed information about the vehicle, including VIN, condition, options, and expert analysis from SCM's auction reporters.

    SCM Platinum is the largest database of collector cars sold at auction. Over 150,000 vehicles, including over 59,000 with detailed write-ups from our auction reporters.

    Now optimized for your mobile devices!

    Read More
  • Sports Car Market Magazine

    SCM is renowned for its unbiased coverage of the most prominent auctions around the world. Every issue of Sports Car Market is packed full of information you can't get anywhere else at any price. Find out the pro's secrets — what to look for and how much to pay for the classic of your dreams.

    Read More
  • Glovebox Notes

    SCM doesn't just cover collector cars. Every week, SCM reviews a brand new car online and in our newsletters, and there are new reviews every month in the magazine. Thinking of buying a new car? Check out our reviews!

    Read More
  • Insider’s Guide to Concours d’Elegance

    The 2014 guide includes a calendar of events and detailed descriptions of 21 featured concours.

    Read More

Recent Profiles

load more / hold SHIFT key to load all load all

1921 peugeot 3 liter racer


Before the First World War it can be argued that the French firm Peugeot was more successful in motor racing than any other manufacturer. In the Paris-Rouen trial of 1894, Peugeot shared first prize. Peugeot won the 1895 Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race, and there were numerous other successes, not least the French Grand Prix wins in 1912 and 1913, then the world's premier motor race. Peugeot's record in America is exceptional - 1st at Indianapolis in 1913 and 1916, as well as winning the 1915 Vanderbilt Cup.

Peugeot's racing achievements from 1912 onwards were largely due to the development of dual overhead camshaft engines. They were not the first to make such an engine, but they were the first to fully exploit its potential for maximum power from a given engine size. Driver/mechanics Georges Boillot, Paulo Zuccarelli and Jules Goux together with draftsman-designer Ernest Henry and factory engineer Vasselot each made a contribution. The result was a successful engine that spawned many outstanding followers including Delage, Alfa Romeo and Sunbeam, and from them Miller, Duesenberg and Aston Martin. To this day, there have been few successful racing engines that have been other than dohc units; an enormous debt is owed by all motor racing to the Peugeot company for its pioneering work.

After the Great War, motor racing spluttered back into action. André Boillot (brother of George) won the 1919 Targa Florio at the wheel of a pre-war 2½-liter Peugeot. Howard 'Howdy' Wilcox won at Indianapolis the same year in one of the old 1913 Lyon Grand Prix cars. For the Indianapolis 500 of 1920 Peugeot commissioned their designer, Maurice Grémillon, to develop a car to meet the new 3-liter formula.

Inspired by the pre-war twin-cam engines, Grémillon took what seemed to a logical step forward and designed engines with three overhead camshafts, 5 valves per cylinder and twin ignition from two separate magnetos. In most ways, these cars followed pre-war practices but with some differences. These 4-cylinder engines went into chassis that were upswept over the front axle, reducing ground clearance.

Four cars were built, three being sent to America for Indianapolis, and one kept in reserve. Drivers were André Boillot, Jules Goux and Howdy Wilcox. Unfortunately, the cars did not live up to expectations. Ralph de Palma took the Indianapolis pole at 99.15 mph in a French-built Ballot, an elaboration of the pre-war Peugeot dohc principles. None of the three Peugeots finished the race. Whatever the theoretical advantages of the triple camshaft engine, it was not a success.

The cars were returned to France and Grémillon cut his losses. Two cars were equipped with sleeve-valve engines similar to those Peugeot then had under development for production cars. The two remaining 1920 Indianapolis cars were rebuilt with dohc cylinder heads, one of 85x130mm bore and stroke (2950cc), the other of 80x148cc (2975cc). In The Autocar of April, 1921, W.F. Bradley notes that the larger of these two cars had the engine and gearbox in unit and was assigned to Jean Chassagne for Indianapolis while the smaller-engined, separate gearbox car was driven by Howdy Wilcox. The car offered here has the engine and gearbox in unit and a 148mm stroke, clearly the Chassagne Indianapolis Peugeot.

The barrel crankcase of this car is from one of the 1920 Indianapolis 3-cam cars, with platforms for a pair of magnetos as fitted to the twin ignition 1920 cars. Typical of overhead cam Peugeots of the period, the camshafts are driven by a beautifully-crafted train of gears at the front of the engine. In 1921, the Peugeots were again unsuccessful, Wilcox retiring after running as high as third. Chassagne was disqualified on lap 65 after the hood blew off.

A 2-liter formula then prevailed in Europe and the Indianapolis Peugeots were ineligible for racing. It appears that the Chassagne car offered here was given by Peugeot to Boillot for his racing school at Montlhéry, where it served with admirable longevity through the Thirties. An apocryphal story recounts the Indianapolis Peugeot being driven at high speed from Paris to Bordeaux ahead of the advancing German forces at the start of World War II. It remained in Bordeaux on display at the Bonnal Renaulac Collection until its acquisition by a French enthusiast who recommissioned it for use, appearing at a number of events over the years including the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 1998.

Close examination of the car reveals that, although restored, it is essentially original. The hood (apart from the panel below the exhaust system) is a replacement, supporting the story of Chassagne's retirement from Indianapolis in 1921. The carburetor is a Solex instead of the original Claudel-Hobson, and only one magneto is fitted whereas two were in place for racing, one being a spare. These details apart, the car is basically a 1920 Indianapolis Peugeot with the 1921 twin cam head. The engine is a masterpiece of engineering, fully in the tradition of the twin cam Peugeots. Only two other Peugeot dohc racing cars are known to survive: the 1914 Grand Prix car owned by the Bothwell family in California and the pre-Great War 3 liter in the Collier Collection.


{analysis}{auto}441{/auto} The car shown here suffered an engine failure before it got to the block at Christie's auction in Tarrytown, New York, on April 24, 1999. A connecting rod bearing seized, causing the rod to make a hole in the engine block. However, even with this handicap, the Peugeot surpassed Christie's low estimate of $500,000 to sell at $574,500 including buyer's commission. The substantial price for a car with a blown engine is an indication of the rarity and desirability of this racer. As mentioned in the description above, the principles pioneered by this vehicle would appear over and over in other high-performance cars.

The Peugeot offers a fascinating look into the theory and construction of prewar race cars. The engine damage is being repaired and once the car is functional again, it will continue to bring pleasure to onlookers who appreciate ground-breaking designs in automotive technology. Even after restoration, this car maintains much of is original patina. Considering its good condition and the importance of its history, the car may be regarded as fairly priced at half a million dollars. There aren't too many cars you could say that about after they have blown a rare and expensive engine , but this Peugeot, which may be considered the grandfather of so many racing cars, is certainly one worth preserving.
{/analysis}

Recent Blog Posts

  • 1,200-hp BMW E30 Has the Most Violent Engine Note Ever +

    Read More
  • This Week's Classic Mystery Photo +

    The monthly Mystery Photo has been an SCM tradition for 25 years. Each week, we’ll share one of our “greatest hits” photos from the past and give you a chance to provide a new witty and provocative caption. Each week’s winner will be announced in the Newsletter. Share your caption Read More
  • The 1958 Sprint and a 5,128-Foot Summit +

    It’s been a little over two years since I bought the SCM 1958 Alfa Sprint Veloce, s/n 1993E.06524. It was an accidental purchase as I was leaving Concorso Italiano, and the little Alfa appeared to need nothing. I'd been looking for an "eyebrow" Sprint Veloce for more than a decade Read More
  • This Week's Classic Mystery Photo +

    "Modified pork-and-beans cans produce a unique but familiar exhaust note..." — Bob Cleveland The monthly Mystery Photo has been an SCM tradition for 25 years. Each week, we’ll share one of our “greatest hits” photos from the past and give you a chance to provide a new witty and provocative Read More
  • The Chantilly Concours – Already a Winner +

    I am on the plane home from the inaugural Chantilly Concours d’Elegance, and I feel a little bit like a gearhead Cinderella having to leave the ball. Participants began arriving at the Chantilly Chateau, located 35 miles north of Paris, on Friday, September 5th. Cars were unloaded the morning of Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Collector Car News

  • Countdown to Ironstone Concours +

    The Ironstone Concours d'Elegance will take place Saturday, September 27, in Murphys, CA.  This classic car and automobile show also features vintage trailers, motorcycles and wooden boats. Honored marques include Stutz, Packard, Duesenberg, Pierce-Arrow, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Jaguar. Special classes spotlight early Fords, sports cars, exotics, race cars, coachbuilt luxury Read More
  • The Sam Pack Collection Comes to Market +

    Respected car collector and celebrated Texas businessman Sam Pack will share a lifelong passion for great automobiles with the collector world on November 14-15. RM Auctions, in association with Auctions America, lifts the gavel on more than 130 of his prized motor cars during a single-vendor sale in Dallas, TX. Read More
  • Bonhams' Biggest-Ever Goodwood Revival Sale Achieves $25m +

      With 106 motor cars and 172 lots of automobilia, Bonhams' September 13 Goodwood Revival Sale was the most successful yet, achieving an all time high of $25m. Racing ahead, the famous Lagonda LG45R Rapide Sports Racing Two-Seater, or 'EPE 97' as it's popularly known, set a new world record. Read More
  • "Race Through the Decades" Celebrates 60 Years of Ferrari in the U.S.A. +

      On Sunday, October 12, Ferrari will commemorate its 60th Anniversary in the U.S. with “Race Through the Decades: 1954–2014,” a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fans, collectors and owners alike to see one of the finest collections of classic and racing Ferraris ever assembled. Hosted on Rodeo Drive by Ferrari’s Chairman, Read More
  • Maranello Rosso Ferraris Complete Bonhams Goodwood Revival Run List +

      The annual Goodwood Revival will feature its largest-ever Bonhams auction, with 106 motor cars and 172 lots of automobilia. The sale takes place September 13 at Goodwood Motor Circuit, Chichester, U.K. Ten Ferraris plus 10 recently announced Abarths are included in the sale, completing Bonhams' famed Maranello Rosso Collection consignment. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4