For something a little different, today I want to share with you the remarkable story of my great-grandfather Maurice Audibert. He was born and lived in France from 1867 to 1931. He and his childhood friend, Emile Lavirotte (1870-1944), were among the first car builders in their factory in Lyon in France.
In 1894, they built their first automobile in the outbuildings of the Audibert family home in Lyon. In 1896, they created their own Audibert-Lavirotte plant, one of the first factories to reach an industrial size
They began building buses with 16 seats
as well as tricycles.
Their 1899 Catalogue (kept in the BERLIET foundation in Lyon) offers carriages with numerous body styles, including a two-seat buggy,
and single or double phaetons
. It is estimated from the records that they built approximately 250 vehicles.
The building of the factory plant was spread out from 1896 to 1901. However, sadly at that date their factory was forced to close after financiers did not pay and it was bought later by Marius Berliet.
While in production their cars had a good reputation, they were known for their solidity and elegance. From the beginning Audibert & Lavirotte entered them in several motor shows. For example in 1896, they presented 6 cars in the 4th ever auto show. And in 1900 during the World Expo they received a silver medal for their entire production line.
Their cars also participated in 15 races between 1898 and 1901. At first, they didn’t do well but later they were ranked in the top 3. By 1900 they had a racing model called “Torpille” ( which means Torpedo), it had phenomenal power for the time with 32 hp and four vertical cylinders.
For a long time it was their inventions of the gearbox under sealed oilpanand fully-enclosed rigid frame made of steel tubes that were used throughout the auto industry. Both were the inventions of Audibert & Lavirotte and were invented in 1898.
Today, there are still three perfectly restored Audibert & Lavirotte cars. One is in the Henri Malartre Museum near Lyon France,
another belongs to the Automobile Museum of Sarthe in Le Mans, France and the third belongs to a private collector in Holland.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of time travel and a tiny peak into my personal family history.
Below are links to pages with more information if you are interested in learning more about Audibert & Lavirotte or the history of the automobile.