1899 SOCIÉTÉ PARISIENNE
Production Years: 1899-1901
Number Produced: 400-500
Société Parisienne, the oldest French bicycle manufacturer, was founded in 1876. They were based in Paris, next to the Arc de Triomphe. In 1899 they introduced a lightweight, inexpensive automobile: the Victoria Combination. It was a horse-drawn carriage (a Victoria), except with an engine to replace the horse.
A single cylinder De Dion Bouton engine is positioned on the front axle. A clutch pedal, a two speed gearbox and brakes on the rear axle were completing the automobile. The front axle pivots with the engine. Of the 400 or 500 cars that were made, very few remain.
It was not the first commercial front wheel drive automobile. Another French company, Latil, was selling an avant train, an engine driving the front wheels of horse carts. They made a small FWD car, but with a rigid axle and union joints at each end, in 1898 or 1899.
Frank Jay Gould, a millionaire at the turn of the century, built the casinos of Bagnoles de l’Orne and of Coutances, one hotel at Juan les Pins and the Race track of Longchamp.