A crazy Art Deco machine by the greatest carmaker you've never heard of
There is a lot of incredibly special machinery going through the auctions held during Monterey Car Week in August. But this Avion Voisin C28 Aerosport, which goes under RM Sotheby’s hammer, might very well be the coolest of the lot.
Gabriel Voisin was one of the great polymaths of the early 20th Century: a mechanic, engineer, architect, aerodynamicist, inventor, industrialist, artist, musician, poet, and philosopher. But his great passion was aviation. Indeed, he claimed to have built his first flying machine in 1902, a year before the Wright Brothers.
In 1904, he opened an aircraft factory with his brother, Charles. The advent of World War I brought huge contracts and Avions Voisin built 10,000 planes during the conflict. Post-war, though, business dried up, so Voisin switched his efforts to building automobiles.
Voisin’s cars soon gained a reputation for being technically advanced, with sleeve-valve engines that ran notably quietly and smoothly. But they were only modestly commercially successful. The C28 was really the company’s last hurrah. With a 3.3-litre, six-cylinder engine making 102 horsepower, a Cotal pre-selector gearbox, and Lockheed hydraulic brakes, it was one of the fastest cross-country cars of the day, and hugely luxurious. But Avions Voisin was struggling in the wake of the Great Depression and folded in 1939, four years after the C28 was launched.
Styling was Voisin’s main contribution to his cars, applying aerodynamic principles as they were understood at the time. The C28 Aerosport was his magnum opus, an expression of everything he knew. And it looks astonishing, like a gothic comic book version of Art Deco. Paint it black and it could be a 1930's Batmobile. It’s full of really cool details too, like the huge opening sunroof and the triple windshield wipers. It’s undoubtedly an acquired taste, but one I think is absolutely exquisite.
Eight to 10 Aerosports are thought to have been built, and this example is one of only two that are known to still exist. Further, it’s one of the two prototypes built and is thought to be the car shown at the 1935 Paris Motor Show. Its had an eventful life, with the body being damaged in an air raid during World War Two. It was then rebuilt with a sedan body and went through a number of owners, growing ever more decrepit. But the vendor had it painstakingly rebuilt to its original glory.
It will no doubt go for a huge sum. RM Sotheby’s is giving the estimate “upon request.”