Cars from 1878 to 1920 - The forerunners
Bollée « Tricar »
Body style: tricycle
Some late 19th century automobiles are rather strange-looking to modern eyes. But even then, the Léon Bollée three-wheeler made waves when it first appeared on the roads of Le Mans.
The Bollée family certainly deserves a place among the forgotten heroes in the automobile hall of fame. Léon Bollée came from a long line of industrialists, and followed in the footsteps of his father Amédée, a bell-founder in Le Mans, who had been one of the earliest engineers to tackle the issue of “horseless carriages”. From 1875 onwards, he built a series of steam vehicles that have become legendary names in the history of motoring: “Obéissante”, “Mancelle”, “Rapide” and “Nouvelle“. “Obéissante” drove from Le Mans to Paris and picked up more than 75 tickets for breaking the rules of the highway.
Léon Bollée had a more conventional approach to car-building, but he made his name early on with this curious model, the “Tricar”. It was a strange creature with a 650 cc air-cooled combustion engine that boasted a mighty 3 horsepower! A large leather belt was used for the transmission, driving the “Tricar” at speeds of nearly 40 kph (25 mph).
Passengers in the Bollée “Tricar” were somewhat vulnerable, seated facing the road, in what became known as the “mother-in-law’s chair”.
The three-wheeler also made it from Le Mans to Paris in only 7 hours, at an average speed of 30 kph (19 mph). It later set a speed record of 60 kph (27 mph).