The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum

15-16 February 2013

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Lot 271

1951 Atlas Babycar

  • ID No. FH297

Sold for $60,375


An exceptionally rare and elegant roadster discovered in France.



SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Société Industrielle de Livry

Origin: Paris, France

Production: very limited

Motor: AMC 1-cyl., 4-stroke

Displacement: 175 cc

Power: 8.5 hp

Length: 9 ft.

Identification No. FH297



The Societe Industrielle de Livry (S.I.L.) was a specialist in the limited production of ultra-economical vehicles, but their products were rarely seen outside of France. There appears to be a curious relationship between the Sofravel “Coccinelle” (Ladybird) shown at the 1948 and 1949 Paris Salons by the Société Annonay Sofravel and the Atlas first shown by S.I.L. in 1949, also at first called “Coccinelle,” and they bore a striking resemblance to each other in terms of their roadster shape with rounded bulbous fenders. Interestingly, the neighbouring stand to Sofravel was that of Duriez, a firm involved in converting war surplus American trucks and designing four-speed gearboxes for the 2CV Citroën, who were then contracted to build the Atlas for S.I.L.



The design of the Atlas changed in detail over the first year or so. The windshield shape, grille casting, seat cushion type, and headlamp height were adjusted, and the addition of doors was a wise addition to suit its largely female demographic. Early in its development, the name had been changed to “Babycar.” Surprisingly, the attractive compound-curved shapes were rendered entirely in steel by the skilled craftsmen at Duriez.



The S.I.L. chassis was a very well-engineered design, being of strong tubular construction with A-arm and coil spring front suspension, triangular trailing arms at the rear, rack-and-pinion steering, and cable brakes to all wheels. Several motors in different sizes were offered, including a 125, a 150, a 175, and even a 250-cubic centimeter electric start ILO, but the familiar 175-cubic centimeter AMC unit was eventually settled upon. To circumvent the need for an expensive differential, the motor drove only the left rear wheel via a cardan shaft to a cable-operated separate gear case incorporating a reverse gear (which was not necessarily available on many of the small scooter-type motors used by other voiturettes). Starting was via a floor-mounted pull-lever in the cabin. Wheels were attractive two-piece aluminum castings.



In fact, the makers were so pleased with their chassis that they decided the basic design could be used as the platform for three different small cars placed at different price points. This was an idea that had previously been put forth by the keen cyclecar advocates in the press. The Atlas would be the most expensive at 245,000 francs. The Kover, introduced in 1950, was at an intermediate level at 215,000 francs, and the bare-bones Le Piaf, introduced in 1951 at 200,000 francs, would be the most economical. The Kover eschewed the Atlas’ doors, folding windshield, inbuilt headlamps, and baroque grille and headlamp alloy castings for a substantial price reduction. The Le Piaf (Sparrow) was an ultra-minimal runabout very much along the lines of the Voisin Biscooter. These striking vehicles, with their flat alloy panelwork with completely open sides, their steeply raked windshields, and their canvas hammock-type seats provided plein air motoring for those with the thinnest of purses, but they also conversely suited the glittering beach resorts of the Côte d’Azur. Despite the three-pronged approach, sales did not materialize to any great extent, and S.I.L. was not heard from at the 1953 Salon.



This car was found in original condition in France, but its exceptional rarity and elegant roadster lines made a thorough and accurate restoration imperative. Reference material from the post-war French press was in scarce supply, and much use was made of the jeweler’s loupe in studying the period photographs. Fabrication of the ornate alloy grille castings was particularly trying. A poignant statement about the scarcity of materials of the time was the discovery of one franc coins being used in place of steel flat washers on the Atlas’ steering arms. A remarkable microcar indicative of the times in which it was born!

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

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
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

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+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

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+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

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+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

drose@rmsothebys.com

+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

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
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

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+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

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+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

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+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

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+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

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+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

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+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