We are very interested in receiving any information on Emile Claveau; photos, documents, and testimonies of people who knew him. If you have any content that you would like to share, please contact us at

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1926 Prototype

The collection of the Tampa Bay Automotive Museum is focused on inventive engineering from the twenties and the thirties.


One man is highly symbolic of this period: Emile Claveau, who was first exhibiting in 1926 at the Paris Automobile Show.


He was not a trained Automobile Engineer, but instead learned painting at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Tours. His ideas were always right, but definitely ahead of their time. He designed very advanced cars, but never sold a single one.


His first prototype at the Paris Show was a mid-engine car with an aerodynamic body. The design was very rational and he avoided using a rear engine, with too much imbalance in the repartition of weights between the front and the rear axle. In fact, in 1926 it was a much better design than the Volkswagen, born in 1934, or the Mercedes 130 or 170 H from 1934 and 1936. It was closer to the Rumpler from the early twenties.


For three years he came back to the Paris Show with the same basic principle but with constant ameliorations.

In 1930 when other Engineers were jumping on the bandwagon with rear engines, he declared than the front wheel drive was a better solution.  To improve the handling with a rear engine, it was necessary to move the engine forward, which was detrimental to the space for passengers and luggage. Today the mid-engine solution is found in racecars or sport cars, generally seating two people.

It was a difficult decision when we consider his past position for the mid-engine car, but Emile Claveau was a very honest man who followed his best judgment.

1926 - 9cv

This is a model that was made for Emile Claveau in 1924 or 1925.

1936 - 6cv

Bodies were of the pontoon type, always aerodynamic. The name of the new front wheel car was Auto-Bloc.

When few Companies were struggling with independent suspension for the front wheels he was already a champion of the independent suspension for all four wheels.

The body of his front wheel drive design was retaining the same characteristics as the mid- engine cars for the aero dynamism and also for the construction, modular and without a chassis.

Besides designing advanced prototypes he was giving conferences and writing in automobile magazines without any concession to the old guard. Public relations were not his forte.

In 1948, he was back in the Salon de I' Automobile in Paris Show with another front wheel drive automobile. It was a Sedan for six passengers. Body was in aluminum, the engine was a V 8 placed forward of the front wheels. The name of the car was "Descartes" in reference to the Cartesian Logic.

1948 "Descartes"

He had no better chance of selling the world on his conepts than in the pre-war shows. Everybody admired the car but no one was interested by his manufacturing and marketing methods.

Today Emile Claveau is forgotten. All of his prototypes are gone with the exception of the very last one from the 1956 Paris Show. A great French Collector and Automobile Historian, Docteur Jeanson, saved it. The Docteur Jeanson is no longer with us and the Claveau is now part of our collection.

The car is front wheel drive with a DKW 3 cylinder, two-stroke engine. The body is very aerodynamic, but is made of steel. Aluminum may have been too expensive for Emile Claveau, who for thirty years was financing all of his prototypes out of his own pocket.

The independent suspension on the four wheels is by "Anneaux Neiman," using a set of 8 rubber rings nested in each other. This system was used on scooters, bikes and few light cars in the forties and fifties.

The Claveau 56 is now restored.

It was never driven and in fact the gas tank was not installed. The engine is brand new with shiny pistons, and 50 years after the Paris Show the Claveau, it is finally on the road.

The Claveau 56 handles very well and the styling looks very modern.

In studying the life of Emile Claveau, we can follow the evolution and the progress in automobile engineering during the twenties and the forties. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an Engineer to create revolutionary concepts out of the main stream.

We are very interested in receiving any information on Emile Claveau; photos, documents, and testimonies of people who knew him. If you have any content that you would like to share with us, please contact us at info@tbauto.org



- Alain Cerf February 2006