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Lot 608: 1904 Aster 16/20hp Four-cylinder, Five Seat Rear-entrance Tonneau

Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles, Bonhams (3 December 2007)

Ateliers de Construction Mécanique l’Aster operated from the industrial area of St. Denis on the Seine, commencing motor car manufacture in 1900. They were of course best known for engine manufacture, supplying their engines to many smaller manufacturers who were dipping their toe in the infant motor manufacturing industry. France of course lead the world in motor car development at this time and Aster were right there at the forefront. Their stand at the 1900 Paris Salon displayed a 3 1/2hp quadricycle. Engine sizes were progressively developed and multi-cylinder engines were soon to follow. In England the West-Aster and Whitlock-Aster were built in small numbers while quality French manufacturers such as Ariès and Gladiator were major Aster customers.

There are few London to Brighton-eligible cars which tick as many of the right boxes as this magnificent 1904 Aster. Four cylinders, mechanically operated valves, four-speed gearbox, five seat coachwork, 3 litres or so engine capacity and on top of that windscreen, canopy and roll-down side screens. What more magnificent way for ‘Mr Toad’ to drive to Brighton, come hail – come shine, and all this backed up by the cacophony of sound that comes from a powerful engine with final drive by side-chains.

The coachwork carries the builder’s plate of Carrosserie Automobile Renaudin Fils Besson of 50 Rue Jenner of Paris and, although not original to this car, was acquired by the present owners as a perfect match for an exceedingly good veteran chassis. This period coachwork remarkably retains much original upholstery to the rear and the varnished wooden panelwork has survived 100 or so years in remarkably intact condition.

The car is handsomely presented in maroon livery with much varnished woodwork, including the wheels, and the car is generously equipped with brass fittings throughout. The headlamps are BRC – Generateur Alpha, self-contained acetylene and the oil side lamps are Lucas King of the Road-type. Additional equipment includes bulb horn, four dashboard oilers and a Shaffer & Budenberg pressure gauge. Side-mounted wicker picnic hampers provide for the longer journey and the roll-down side curtains hang from the canopy to provide full weather protection in inclement weather. The car is powered by a four-cylinder engine, each cylinder separately cast with T-head configuration. Fuel is supplied via a Zenith carburettor, a later distributor has been fitted for reliability and the car enjoys the benefit of a more recently fitted self-starter. This car comes from a private collection and is only released to the market with the refinement of that collection. The practical nature of this London to Brighton-eligible car and its absolute suitability for long distance motoring is evidenced by its participation in the Paris-Vienna Rally in 2002, an epic drive from Brisbane to Sydney in Australia in 2005 and successful completion of the 1,000 Miles Trial Re-enactment in 2000 – AK 268 proving eminently suitable family transport on that occasion. In addition it has participated successfully in many London to Brighton Runs and the vendor describes the car as easy to drive and always starting well.

AK 268 comes with a Swansea V5C registration document and a copy of 1904 Yorkshire registration records showing Aster car registration number AK 268. This car has been known to the Veteran Car Club for many years and was officially dated in September 1961 (Certificate no.904). That certificate comes with the car which is also offered with a nice history file and various photographs, past MoT certificates and correspondence with previous owners.

AK 268, surely one of the most practical Brighton cars with a proven ability to carve its way through the field and achieve an early finish on the sea front at Madeira Drive, will be offered with a current road fund licence and MoT certificate.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles
Bonhams, Olympia, London,
Lot Number608
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£200000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£221500
Condition rating
Registration numberAK 268
Chassis number9589
Engine numberType 43JS 9589
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors