1923 Lorraine-Dietrich Type B3 6 Sports Tourer
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a 1923 Lorraine Dietrich B3-6 Tourer.
It is understood this Lorraine Dietrich B3-6 Tourer was sold new to its first owner in Australia. There is a plaque on the dash from Bevan Bros. & Tucker Pty Ltd 493 Elizabeth St. Melbourne.
Back in this era cars were registered against their engine number and a search of The Association Record of Motoring Clubs (AOMC) engine number registration records confirms this car was first registered in Victoria as ‘49920’, or possibly as ‘49820’ as the microfilm is of poor quality and hard to decipher. The registration ‘49920’ dates to circa 1924/25, so this would be consistent with the car’s understood build date of 1923. The car was subsequently registered in Victoria with the registrations 103767 and KK711 (12/12/1967).
Nothing further is known about the subsequent history of the car until 1986. At that time the previous to current owner acquired the car from Don Onley in Swan Hill, Victoria. It is unknown how long Onley had owned the car, however, our research is ongoing. When he acquired the car, it was basically a rolling chassis with an engine, gearbox, wheels and the front including the headlights. Essentially, the only thing missing was the body.
He then went on a journey to rebuilt the car with the help of a group of enthusiasts from the local vintage car club. The engine and gearbox had been rebuilt by a company in Violet Town, Victoria, just prior to him acquiring the car.
A new body was built by Ray Southorn of the Gunnedah Vintage Car Club. The roof bows were made by the Australian Hood Irons Company and the hood was made and fitted by Ben Ryman. The seats were upholstered with New Zealand leather by Peter Wilkinson from Scone. The car was then painted by Terry Woods from Bundaburg, QLD. The dashboard and the back cupboards were crafted by Barry Scofield and the previous owner in Tasmanian Oak.
The car is equipped with upgraded drum brakes on all four wheels. It is understood these drum brakes most likely are from a Minerva.
The current owner acquired the car in October 2022. It was essentially finished but required some fettling. In his ownership the car was displayed at Motorclassica 2022, Australia’s premier festival of motoring where it was very well received.
Lorraine-Dietrich was one of the motoring history’s pioneering brands and it built some ground breaking cars in the early 20th century. In the 1920’s a Lorraine-Dietrich was considered to be the French equivalent of a Bentley, winning the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1925 (Lorraine-Dietrich B3-6 Sport) and 1926 (Lorraine-Dietrich B3-6 Le Mans). Not surprisingly these cars have a presence about them and the 1923 Lorraine Dietrich B3-6 Tourer we have on offer is a very sophisticated automobile.
Today this car presents exceptionally well. The blue exterior paint, which is close to the original French racing colour, suits the car perfectly and gives it a very elegant appearance. It also contrasts perfectly with the darker blue chassis. Overall the paint is in very good condition. You have to look closely to find any imperfections. We only found a small mark on the top of the scuttle most likely caused when the engine cover was resting on it. The paint on the chassis is also in very good condition, consistent with a car that has hardly been used since its restoration. All the bright work on the car is in excellent condition. In fact, the simple, yet stylish radiator grill and badges are a real feature. The running boards are also in excellent condition, another sign the car has been sparingly used since its restoration. They are both unmarked. The balance of the external trim, including the glass, lights and lenses present consistently with the rest of the car.
The 21” wheels are painted in the same colour as the chassis and are in very good condition. They are shod with Olympic Balloon 5.25 21 cross ply tyres. The tyres are old and cracked, so therefore need to be replaced if any serious driving is to be done with the car.
The soft top and frame are in excellent condition with no sign of any wear.
Open the door and you are welcomed by a spacious interior which presents really well. The dark blue leather is in excellent condition with no rips or tears. The seats are comfortable and provide ample support. You can’t help but notice the thick wooden steering wheel which appears to be original. The dashboard is elegant, but simple and has a few instruments which provide you with all the information you need to drive the car. There is an O.S speedometer (Otto Schulze), an oil meter branded Lorraine Dietrich and an amp meter. On the far-right side of the dashboard there is an O.S branded clock.
In the back there is plenty of space for 2 passengers. There is also a small liquor cabinet for those longer trips. The bench seat is comfortable and looks to have been hardly sat in, if at all. Throughout, all the carpets are in very good condition.
Under the bonnet, the engine is really a work of art. Everything is neat, clean and tidy.
As with all cars from this period there is a procedure to follow to start the car. This involves turning on the fuel tap under the dash, turning on the ignition, moving the starting carburettor to ‘Depart’, setting the advance/retard & throttle controls and then depressing the starter button. When you follow the steps, the car starts easily and then soon settles into a smooth idle once it is running on all six cylinders. The engine requires some time to warm up, but once up to temperature you are good to go. This car has a left hand change, three-speed gearbox in a reverse ‘H pattern’. First gear is to the right and back to the driver, second is to the left across the gate then forward and third gear is opposite second gear and back to the driver. Reverse gear is opposite first gear. This shift pattern is reasonably common for cars of this era. Interestingly, first gear is very low, so you really only need it for steep hills. In all other situations you can take off in second gear and from around 25 mph you can shift in to top gear. The car will comfortably cruise at 80-85 km/h.
Out on the open road the car drives well and is typical of a high end 1920’s motor car. Its acceleration is quite surprising and overall the car performed well on our test drive. It is important to mention that this car has four wheel brakes that pull the car up quite well.
Whilst the car runs and drives well, it may require some post restoration fettling to be used for rallies and longer distance drives.
- Rare and unique Australian delivered Lorraine-Deitrich.
- Well restored in a lovely period colour scheme.
- Exhibited at Motorclassica 2022.
- A lovely vintage car, ready for its next owner to show, use and enjoy.
The Societe Lorraine des Anciens Etablissements de Dietrich & Cie can be traced back all the way to 1684 when it was founded by Jean de Dietrich. Over the years the company was involved in all sorts of manufacturing but in the late 1800’s it was mainly focussing on the production of railway rolling stock. At that time the company was still under family control but interestingly, as a result of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, their two manufacturing plants, at Luneville (Lorraine) and Niederbronn (Alsace) were now in different countries.
Around the 1890’s the company started showing interest in the manufacturing of motor vehicles. In 1896, Baron Adrien deTurckheim, who oversaw the Luneville operation, acquired manufacturing rights to a design by Amedee Bollee Jr.
The result was the Bollee-Dietrich. Their cars quickly became known for their unique transmission design.
Initially Bollee built the engines and De Dietrich manufactured the rest of the car. That changed quickly and soon De Deitrich built the entire car at their Luneville location. The next major development was the Bollee Torpilleur, a race car which was first entered in the 1898 Paris to Amsterdam race and finished in 3rd position despite a crash along the way.
The performance of the cars created a massive boost and during the weeks following the event the company received orders totalling more than a million gold francs.
However, not all was well for the company. Their next model, produced in 1899 and specifically designed to compete in the Tour de France wasn’t nearly as successful as its predecessor. None of the cars entered in the race managed to finish.
The next two cars to be produced were a little voiturette built under licence from Vivinus of Belgium in the Niederbronn factory and a car based on a Turcat-Mery in the Luneville factory.
Looking around for a car to replace the voiturette from Niederbronn, Eugene de Dietrich saw a neat four cylinder, four-speed car which had been designed by the 19-year-old Ettore Bugatti. By 1902, Bugatti was on the pay roll at Niederbronn and had designed a 24 hp, four speed, four cylinder model. Bugatti produced a second model towards the end of 1903, a 30/35 hp De Dietrich. Bugatti left the company in 1904 and by the end of that year car production was centralised at the Luneville location.
Soon after that, a decision was made to name all cars produced at that location Lorraine-Dietrich. Going forward they would all carry the cross of Lorraine on their radiator as an indication of their French nationality.
Lorraine-Dietrich’s were good looking cars with a very good reputation. They were regarded as one of the world’s best car manufacturers and like all other marques at the time, their reputation was built on their achievements in motor racing.
The company gradually expanded and in 1907 it signed an agreement with Isotta-Fraschini in which they acquired control of the Milanese company.
The Lorraine-Dietrich line-up in the immediate pre-war period consisted of three quality touring cars, a 12/16, an 18/20 and a new 20/30, plus a 40/75 four-cylinder, semi-racing model.
By now, production was concentrated at the company’s new factory at Argenteuil, Seine-et-Oise, which became their headquarters after World War 1. In 1919, the company’s new technical director, Marius Barbarou, produced the first post-war model, the 15 hp. The new car was originally made in two wheelbase types, the A1-6 and the B2-6.
In 1922, a further development, the B3-6, appeared with a choice of short or long wheelbase chassis. The 15 hp had a swept volume of 3.4 litres. Barbarou’s original intention was to produce a moderately priced touring car of quality, but it soon became apparent that the performance of this model was worthy of a sporting variant. This fact was underlined in 1923, when a team of three touring Lorraine-Dietrich’s put up a respectable showing in the first Le Mans 24 hour race.
For the 1924 event, he designed the 15 Sport. The cars took second and third places and established themselves as the French equivalent of the Bentley 3.0 Litre. In 1925, the 15 Sport of Courcelle and Rossignol took first place at Le Mans, with a sister car in third position. The next year was even better with Lorraine-Dietrich’s finishing 1-2-3. Bloch and Rossignol came first at an average speed of 66 mph, a record speed for the event. In the reflected glory of these sporting achievements, the touring 15 hp – known in Britain as ‘The Silken Six’ – acquired a new glamour.
After 1930, the company formed part of the Societe Generale Aeronautique, a consortium of aircraft manufacturers and Argenteuil went over to the manufacture of aero engines and military six-wheelers built under licence from the Czech firm of Tatra. By 1935 the name of Lorraine-Dietrich had vanished from the motor industry. As for Luneville, once it had ceased to be a centre of car production, it reverted to its former ways and was in business up to the 1970’s as a manufacturer of railway ironmongery.
- Lorraine Dietrich Type B3 6 Sports Tourer
- 34,399 miles