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1913 Theophile Schneider 10 Litre Aero

  • 1913 Theophile Schneider fitted with 10 litre Hall Scott A7a aeroplane engine
  • Built up by renowned VSCC member David Baker and campaigned with much success. Numerous hill climb and sprint records and race wins
  • Winner of SF Edge trophy race at Goodwood in recent years and invited to this years 80th Goodwood Members Meeting
  • Substantial history folder and documentation, specialist tools for maintenance and a useful selection of spares
  • Effortless performance on the road, tractable and useable with enormous torque
  • One of the most proven and useable aero engine creations, has to be seen and heard to be appreciated

This remarkable machine was built during the 1990s by renowned VSCC member David Baker, using a 1913 Théophile Schneider as its basis. Chassis number 16 features a wheelbase of 8ft 10in, and Baker’s initial plan was to retain the Théophile Schneider engine. It was therefore rebuilt, but subsequently sold when he instead decided to go with something a little larger.

 

In 1994, he acquired a 9934cc, four-cylinder Hall-Scott unit. The California-based company was founded by Elbert J Hall and Bert C Scott, and in the years either side of the First World War it made engines for everything from trains and commercial vehicles to boats. It even made its own car, but its real success came with its aircraft engines.

The Hall-Scott engine that Baker fitted to his Théophile Schneider was number 4155 and the rebuild started in August 1995. The huge ‘four’ features a bore of 5.25in and a stroke of 7in, and notes in the car’s file suggest that it produces 110bhp at 1400rpm – and a thumping 400 lb/ft of torque.

‘Just consider how advanced this engine was for its time,’ Baker was quoted as saying during the 1990s. ‘It has two plugs per cylinder, a five-bearing crank, an overhead camshaft and inclined valves.’

When the car was completed in 1996, Baker had it registered DS 6782 and regularly competed all over the UK at VSCC driving tests, hillclimbs, sprints and circuit races. Ever since then – and even after its sale to Nicholas Hildyard in 2004 – this Théophile Schneider has been not only a fan favourite wherever it competes, but also an extremely successful racer.

In recent years, it has played a starring role at Goodwood in the hands of Hughie Walker – son of Mark Walker, a renowned enthusiast of veteran and Edwardian cars. Videos of Hughie sliding the Théophile Schneider around Goodwood have racked up countless online views.

At the 2020 SpeedWeek, Walker finished third in the opening race of the popular SF Edge Trophy, then won race two. At the following year’s Members’ Meeting, he won the first race, and in the second he led a closely matched quartet of cars out of the final corner, only for the Blitzen Benz of Ben Collings to out-drag him on the way to the chequered flag. Walker and the Théophile Schneider were nonetheless awarded overall victory on aggregate.

Proudly being offered for sale by The Classic Motor Hub, this charismatic car comes with a substantial history folder and documentation covering everything from how to start the engine to adjusting the valve timing, plus specialist tools for maintenance and a useful selection of spares. There are manuals for the Hall-Scott engine and the Zenith carburettor, and the car has also been invited to the 80th Goodwood Members’ Meeting in April 2023.

It is fitted with rear brakes only, but once you’re ensconced in the lightweight two-seater body, you’re treated to an evocative view down the long bonnet to the exposed front wheels. On the road, the Hall-Scott engine provides effortless performance. The immense torque is such that it doesn’t really matter which of the four gears you happen to be in, while Hughie Walker has been quoted as saying that the car’s solid back axle makes it ‘good for drifting’.

One of the most proven and useable aero-engine creations, this Théophile Schneider really has to be seen and heard to be appreciated. It has benefitted from a gearbox rebuild carried out in March 2022, and is now ready to be enjoyed by its next custodian as an invigorating road car and a competitive racer.

Model HIstory

Frenchman Théophile Schneider started building cars in 1894 in partnership with Edouard Rochet, but 16 years later he decided to go it alone and set up premises in Besancon.

The first car to be displayed by Automobiles Th Schneider was a four-cylinder 10-12hp model at the 1910 Paris Salon de l’Auto. That was soon followed by 14hp and 18hp models, plus a six-cylinder 15hp, all of which featured a four-speed gearbox, semi-elliptic springs and pressure-fed lubrication.

Schneider himself had done some motor racing, so it was little wonder that his fledgling marque soon became involved in competition. A 3-litre model acquitted itself well by finished seventh in the 1912 Grand Prix de l’ACF, and later that year Théophile Schneider won the Circuit des Ardennes and claimed the Regularity Cup in the Grand Prix de France.

By the time the First World War broke out, Théophile Schneider was offering a range of seven models. In 1919, it returned to the Paris Salon with four cars fitted with a selection of engines, from 2292cc up to 5500cc. One major change from pre-war days was the relocation of the radiator from behind the engine – á la Renault – to in front of it.

The company survived bankruptcy in 1921 and continued to offer smaller, more affordable cars, but it could no longer compete with cheaper, mass-produced models from the likes of Renault and Citroën. Automobiles Th Schneider was declared bankrupt again in 1929 and the factory closed the following year.

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