These lightweight, small-displacement sports cars provide a true pre-war motoring experience at a fraction of the cost of their more expensive French cousin from Molsheim
Of all the small sports-racing cars that proliferated in France after World War One, the Amilcar was the most famous and most successful. Built at St. Denis from 1921 through 1937, they did extremely well in the hotly contested 1,100-cc class, in which so many fierce little French cars were racing.
The 1925 Amilcar being offered for sale here is said to be the Amilcar CGS show car introduced at the New York Salon in 1926, featuring a 1,074-cc engine with full-pressure lubrication, four-wheel brakes, four-speed transmission, and front semi-elliptic springs. Its known history is complete back to 1947, and it has been listed in the Amilcar registry since 1952.
Purchased in 1995, it was given a full restoration in Holland, by the specialists in the Automuseum Deventer. When purchased, it was missing its hood and engine. As such, a new hood has been fabricated and an engine was located. While not original, it is the correct type.
The Amilcar has been driven only 500 miles since restoration and won its class at the Concours d'Elegance Palace Loo in the Netherlands. Painted black with an Apple Green interior, this car does not disappoint.
|1925 Amilcar 4 CGS
|CGS, 1924-1926; CGSs 1926-1929
|About 4,700 total
|$200 (magneto cap)
|Chassis Number Location:
|brass plate on dashboard
|Engine Number Location:
|riveted plate on forward lower left side of engine block
|Amilcar Register, Membership Secretary Len Battyll, Culverden, Azalea Drive, Haslemere, GU27 1JR, U.K.
This 1925 Amilcar 4 CGS sold for $49,500, including buyer’s premium, at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach sale, held August 15, 2004.
This was just one of two Amilcars offered by Gooding at Pebble Beach. The second was a 1929 CGSs, which sold for a similar price of $46,200. With two of these interesting French “voiturettes” showing up at the same sale, the marque bears a closer look.
Amilcar started producing cars in 1921, and won the world’s first 24-hour race in 1922, the Bol d’Or. Amilcars competed in the 1924 Targa Florio, and the Mille Miglia in 1927 and 1928. Models evolved from the CC, C4 and CS to arrive at the CGS, or “Grand Sport,” in 1924.
The CGS was almost like a miniature Bugatti grand prix racer, and many aficionados regard it as the quintessential lightweight, small-displacement French sports car. It is a lovely piece of mobile art deco, with its long blade-type fenders and wire wheels.
Making all of 30 hp at 3,600 rpm (that’s $1,650 per horse, for those who care about such things), the CGS scoots along surprisingly well because it only weighs about 1,250 pounds. In contrast to many cars of its era, the CGS has four-wheel brakes, with an ingenious sliding rod inside the kingpin to allow braking action to remain constant as the front wheels are turned.
According to Desmond Peacock, the English Amilcar Register authority, the Amilcar 4 CGS pictured here was at one time owned by Charles Little Jr. of Pennsylvania, who did claim it to be the New York show car. In its early life a Cozette supercharger was fitted, which probably led to the demise of the original motor. The correct CGS-type motors are quite rare, so a later G-, L- or M-series motor from an Amilcar touring car is typically used as a replacement. That the current owner has installed a correct engine is definitely a plus.
On the other hand, it is stated that the car has a four-speed transmission, but Amilcar did not offer them on the CGS. My understanding is that a frame crossmember needs to be moved to convert a CGS from its three-speed. Certainly the four-speed unit does no real harm and will improve the car’s performance, but it does require some explaining.
In 1926 a lowered “Surbaisse” version of the CGS was introduced. This was the CGSs, and its improved cam profile made 35 hp at 4,500 rpm. Other improvements included a larger sump, bigger brakes, and a cast aluminum firewall. The body had more of an early 1930s look, and cycle fenders were often fitted, as on the second Gooding Amilcar.
The attraction of these cars is easy to understand once you’ve spent some time behind the wheel. In proper tune they have good brakes and precise steering, and are easy and comfortable to drive up to about 60 mph-though in good fettle an Amilcar will do 70-plus mph, on par with an MG TC. Amilcars provide a true pre-war motoring experience at a fraction of the cost of their more expensive French cousin from Molsheim.
My own CGS successfully completed the 2004 Mille Miglia, and makes about 42 hp, similar to an in-period works-prepared racer.
There are many events catering to voiturettes throughout Continental Europe, England, and Australia. These are a gas, as you sport around on narrow country roads at full-tilt. The big events can easily get over 100 applications, and organizers are starting to get picky. Preference is usually given to Amilcars, Salmsons, and other cool voiturettes, while more mundane marques like Bugatti, Lancia, and Alfa play second fiddle.
The pre-auction estimates at the Gooding sale were in the $50k-$80k range, which is hopeful for a U.S.-based auction. There are virtually no events that cater to voiturettes here in the States, so the real money for these cars is in Europe. Plus, to get a premium price for an Amilcar, all the hard-to-get original bits really need to be present.
This is easier said than done, as examples having the correct starter, gauges, generator, voltage regulator, cylinder head, etc., are scarce and most of the barns in rural France have been emptied of such items. It is worth consulting an expert if you’re looking for an authentic Amilcar, as the French Amilcar club offers enough reproduction parts to practically build an entire car, minus frame and body.
Neither of these cars was
perfect, though they were both better than most of the Amilcars I usually see offered for sale. The sale prices in the high $40k range are relatively strong for a U.S. sale, but considering that both cars are indeed authentic I am not surprised.
The number of surviving CGS and CGSs cars with genuine chassis and correct series motors is on the order of only 80 and 100 examples respectively, so the supply of authentic cars is a bit thin. With so many enjoyable events for Amilcars overseas, it does not seem unreasonable to expect correct CGS and CGSs Amilcars subjected to quality restorations to be trading in the $60k-$80k range in five years. Even today you can easily spend this amount to restore one correctly, as I am painfully aware.
There are very few 1920s sports cars that can deliver this level of driving enjoyment in this price range, so I’ll call these two well bought. I hope to see the new owners on tour in France soon.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)