Amelia Island

10 March 2012

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Lot 135

1928 Avions-Voisin KE Sport Roadster

  • Chassis no. KE 27188
  • Engine no. KE 27204

$400,000 - $500,000


65 bhp, 2,327 cc inline six-cylinder Knight-type sleeve valve engine, three-speed manual gearbox, front and rear semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel drum brakes.



• Ex-Walter Grell Collection

• A one-off custom based on the model C11



Once in awhile automotive treasures which have been forgotten or thought to have been lost are examined in a new light and rediscovered. Based on the highly successful C11 chassis with a 65 horsepower sleeve-valve inline six, this Special Type KE Sport Roadster may well be one of those cars. Of approximately 10,000 Avions-Voisins built, the C11 was the best selling of the 34 models offered with 2,180 units built. Although Gabriel Voisin’s racing program is not as prominently known as those of other manufacturers, Voisin applied his advanced knowledge of aerodynamic principles gleaned from his experience as an airplane manufacturer to his grand prix cars. One notable result of these efforts were the Laboratoire racers, which adhered to every aerodynamic principle Voisin knew with a resulting unique appearance. He intended to produce road-going versions of these light chassis with elegant touring bodies and even produced promotional literature, but the project never materialized. The 1920s were considered golden years for the firm, and it churned out multiple varieties of the racing Laboratoire as well as other customs aimed at taking world records.



The example offered here is chassis number KE 27188, which can be seen on the chassis plate and stamped in the usual location on the left front chassis horn. According to Jan Bruijn of Automuseum Deventer in the Netherlands, “the car resided for many years, maybe decades with the Grell collection from Basel, Switzerland.” The collection referred to is that of the late Walter Grell, who is better described as a connoisseur. Among the cars in his stable were a 1955 OSCA Vignale Berlinetta, a 1962/3 BRM P578 Formula 1 racer, a 1967 Cooper-Maserati V12 T86 and a 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Castagna Drophead Coupe. In this context it is natural to infer that the history behind KE 27188 is substantial; unfortunately whatever knowledge Mr. Grell had of the Voisin’s provenance was taken to the grave when he passed in the late 1990s. What has survived is an anecdote that it was built to special order for the manager of the Orion radiator factory in Zurich, which would give credence to the custom radiator which emulates the classic Avions-Voisin shape but is flat instead of vee’d.



Most luxury car manufacturers continued to service or modify their products for clients after production had shut down, and given Gabriel Voisin’s penchant for customs, it is conceivable that he played a role in the creation or modification of this car for a special client or friend. Creation of a factory-built custom such as this would have been realized through rebuilding an original chassis and engine or perhaps utilizing new old stock spares. Interestingly, chassis KE 27188 lacks the heavy chrome and extravagant lines found on its relatives but rather espouses simplistic, sports car-like styling. Also lacking is the notable radiator mascot which had given way to more simplistic radiator caps. Despite this restraint the fender lights and taillights are reminiscent of the glory days of the early Art Deco period in which these cars were produced. Highly important is a thoughtful analysis of the chassis plate; pre-restoration photos show the plate affixed to the firewall and showing obvious age, yet the quality of its manufacture lends itself to the assertion of a later factory build.



In its early days, the Knight engine was licensed by a number of the leading automobile manufacturers in both Europe and the United States. The engine was superior in design and had better wear characteristics, not to mention supporting higher compression. As the other luxury marques gave way to the poppet-valve engine, also known as a mushroom valve, Voisin continued to refine the sleeve-valve design. Along these lines the chassis could have been designated with the KE prefix as a nod to the Knight engine, which would have completely disappeared from automobile production by this later time.



Photographs taken after the Voisin was sold out of the Grell estate show the aged but solid KE 27188 painted dark red and appearing to have been stored for many decades after years of use. In its restored condition this Avions-Voisin custom roadster is finished in a beautiful blue after having been stripped to the bare aluminum. The C11 engine is correctly restored, and the odometer now reads only 11 kilometers. Just as lovely are the red leather seats, tan carpet and black Rudge-Whitworth wire spoke wheels wearing Goodrich Silvertown Cord tires. It retains a spare tire in the trunk, has a raked, vee’d windshield with arched eyebrows and lights the road with period Scintilla headlights. Also retained are the distinctive pedals which bear initials of their brilliant creator. This unique Voisin custom roadster is guaranteed to turn heads wherever it is shown or driven; there is certainly none other like it, and it is presented with the unique opportunity to rediscover its history, as well as an immense potential value held by such one-off creations.

Addendum

Please note the title for this vehicle is in transit.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more