Gabriel Voisin, the famous pioneer aviator and WWI aircraft manufacturer, started building automobiles in 1919 and continued till 1939 in a factory in the suburbs of Paris. His cars all displayed a high standard of craftsmanship and many showed considerable originality in design which critics have often dismissed as eccentric. The superbly proportioned V radiators are quite distinctive, but the engines behind those radiators are even more so.
All had double cast iron sleeve valve engines to the basic knight design, but Voisin was able to keep the reciprocating weight to a minimum and his engines became famous for their relatively high rpm and power output characteristics.
The first model was a 4 cylinder of 4 litres capacity
with bore and stroke of 95 x 140 mm. The transmission gave 4 forward
speeds which coupled with a rear axle with ratio of 3.5 to 1 gave a maximum
speed of between 70 and 80 mph, depending on the year of manufacture as
the engines were refined over time. Wheelbase was 138 inches.
Rudolph Valentino was so impressed by these vehicles, he bought two in
1923, an open car for himself and a closed model for his wife, actress
In 1922, a much smaller 4 cylinder vehicle on a wheelbase of 117 inches was introduced. Engine size was 1.2 litres with a bore and stroke of 60 x 110 mm. Final drive ratio was still 3.5 to 1.
In 1926, Voisin introduced his first 6 cylinder, a 2.4 litre with 67 x 110 mm bore and stroke, 66 bhp at 3200 rpm and capable of running at 4000 rpm. Wheelbase was 126 1/2 inches with just 3 forward speeds and a final drive ratio of 5 to 1.
This was enlarged in 1928 to 4.9 litres, 86 x 140 mm bore and stroke, 4 forward speeds and a 141 inch wheelbase. This production model was probably heavily influenced by an 8 litre special that had achieved the world's 24 hour record in 1927 at an average speed of 113.4 mph and the world's hour record at 128 mph.
In 1929 the fabulous V12 engine was announced with 64 x 100 mm bore and stroke. Capacity was just 3.9 litres, but giving 100 bhp. Wheelbase remained at 141 inches and used a 4 speed transmission and 3.5 to 1 rear axle. Another V12 was also produced with 5.8 litre capacity.
In 1934 Voisin came out with a straight 12 cylinder car, constructed using 2 blocks of six, in order to bring the centre of gravity closer to the geometric centre of the car.
Interested readers should also refer to W.O.K.R. STARTER number 131, Apr - Jun, 1995.
See also the W.O.K.R. LIBRARY