Tag Archive: de dion


Benjamin B Hotchkiss (1826 – 1885) was born in the USA and moved to France after the American Civil war.

In 1867 , he founded the company Hotchkiss et Cie specializing in the manufacture of military equipment especially cannons and guns. One of the famous unit was the Hotchkiss revolving gun

A Hotchkiss Revolving Gun


 Around 1900 , Hotchkiss entered automotive business by manufacturing and supplying engine components to car companies like Panhard-Levassor and De Dion-Bouton.

Prodded by a few car dealers , Hotchkiss started manufacturing their own cars in 1903. The first car was a Hotchkiss 17 CV.

An early version of the Hotchkiss car  –


Hotchkiss followed the “one model” policy till 1929 when they introduced multiple models.

In 1948, Hotchkiss bough the license of a front wheel drive technology from Gregoire and the luxury car Hotchkiss-Gregoire was introduced.


In 1955 , another Luxury model Hotchkiss Anjou was introduced.

Dwindling volumes and teething problem led to the downfall of the Hotchkiss cars.

In 1954 , Hotchkiss merged with Delahaye to form Societe Hotchliss-Delahaye. By 1995,, Hotchkiss was taken over by Brandt and was making Jeeps under license.

In 1966 , the Hotchkiss brand was taken over by Thomson – Houston.

However , Hotchkiss is known for major invention – the Hotchkiss drive.

The driveline construction of a Rear Wheel Drive vehicle design with 2 Universal joint fitted propeller shaft and the rear axle mounted on semi-elliptic leaf springs is credited to Hotchkiss and even now known as Hotchkiss drive.  The Hotchkiss drive was simpler and less costly than the torque tube (De Dion Axle) of that time.


The Hotchkiss Logo – crossed cannons from the early years when they were making guns and cannons.



In 1883,  Count Jules-Albert De Dion (1856 – 1946) of a leading French noble family tied up with Engineer Georges Bouton ( 1847 – 1938) and Charles Trepardoux to produce steam vehicles capable of transporting people – the company named De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux.

In 1883 , they produced the first steam car with the layout of engine mounted in the front , driving the front wheels and steering in the rear wheels. This car burned down during the trial run.

1883 – De Dion Bouton et Trapradoux steam car

In the next year , they produced a more refined steam automobile, with the engine driving the rear wheels and steering through the front wheels. This vehicle was operated successfully and was named ‘La Marquise” after the mother of Count De Dion.


1884 – La Marquise steam car

incidentally , this 127 year old steam car is still in roadworthy and operable condition . See the video of its operation on roads here  – http://youtu.be/riO3UUC9qo0 . This car was auctioned in October 2011 for a record $4.2 million at the Hershey. See the auction video here – http://youtu.be/j9myS-6Kg4s .

During the mid 1890s , De Dion Bouton  shifted focus from steam engines to IC Engines. De Dion Bouton  IC engines became famous for its reliability & variety and was used by many automobile companies in Europe and America. In the period where IC engines were running around 900 RPM speeds , De Dion Bouton  engines could be run at a sustained  2000 RPM and  some engine could be taken up to  3500 RPM for short bursts  – limited by the carburetor and ignition technology of those times.

By 1900 , De Dion Bouton was the largest producer of cars and engines. De Dion Bouton was known for many innovations including shiftable gearboxes. However, the most famous innovation was the De Dion rear axle which combines the simplicity of a rigid axle and the comfort of an independent suspension. The De Dion rear axle is used even now in some models.

The De Dion Bouton Logo –


De Dion Bouton continued to manufacture cars till 1932, when the brand was retired, unable to compete with cheaper cars.