Teak bodied 1903 Clement Talbot sells for £606,300 at Bonhams

Clement Talbot 1903 07

French built 1903 Clement Talbot Type CT4K 18hp Four-cylinder, ‘Roi-d’Italie’ Tonneau, Coachwork by J.Rothschild et Fils, Paris Registration no. AP 107 with the same family since 1936. Bought “for a song” in 1936 a veteran entrant of the London to Brighton Rally – a 1903 Clement Talbot with a wooden body – sold for £606,300 at Bonhams in London recently, the first sale to take place in the company’s new headquarters building in New Bond St.

As the car is registered for the 2013 London-Brighton Veteran Car Run, the successful buyer will be able to drive it to Brighton on Sunday, November 3,  continuing its remarkable history as part of the ‘Brighton establishment. ‘This motor car had been in the Sears family ownership since 1936 and carried a pre-sale estimate of £350,000-450,000.

The car’s history began in 1903 when entrepreneur Julius Drew, sixth child of a Bedfordshire clergyman, took delivery of it at his Sussex mansion, Wadhurst Hall. Drew had made his fortune from his ‘Home and Colonial Stores’ in London, established by him in 1883 to supply ‘basic food to the urban working class’. When built in 1903 this French motor car was state-of-the-art with four cylinders (cast in pairs) of 85x120mm bore and stroke, displacing a useful 2714cc.

This veteran is one of a very small number of cars which have formed the very lifeblood of The London to Brighton Commemoration Veteran Car Run almost since its inception and have, in their own right, earned their place as part of ‘the Brighton establishment’ – there are fewer still, if indeed any, which have remained in the same family ownership since 1936 and have transported four generations of the same family to Brighton in such style on practically every run since then.

The late Stanley Sears may justifiably be described as one of the father’s of the old car movement worldwide, setting new standards in restoration and conservation of early motor cars in the 1930s. The Clement Talbot was the second car to join The Sears Collection, the first car, an 8hp Darracq having proved rather too slow for Sears’s driving preferences. Sears, writing many years ago, records the Clement Talbot’s arrival at his Bolney home as follows:

“I put enquiries out in various directions for something better and was informed that there was a 1903 Clement Talbot near Shalford in Surrey, so an appointment was made to inspect it. This was a fine car with a Four-cylinder. 18hp engine and body made from teak by the famous Paris Coachbuilder of Rothschild et Fils. The mudguards were also of wood, and although the car looked very shabby, close inspection showed that the woodwork had been perfectly preserved by many coats of varnish which had assumed a cracked finish with age. Again this car was bought for what would have been a song today, and as it was in running order I drove it back to Bolney.”


Second highest price at the sale was for an historic 1902 Panhard Levassor 16HP four cylinder rear-entrance Tonneau with coachwork by Labourdette of Paris which sold for £583,900.

The car was owned by Lord Llangattock of Hendre in Monmouthshire, the father of C.S. Rolls, who founded what is arguably the greatest car marque in the world – Rolls-Royce. Chances are that C.S. Rolls would have learned some of his love of motor cars as a passenger in this Panhard owned by his father.

Malcolm Barber, Bonhams  Group CEO, who sourced this car, says: “Once in a while you find a car that really excites you, even after a lifetime of finding and selling automotive gems. This car has it all, history, looks, provenance. I have driven alongside it many times while on the London to Brighton Run. It still wears its C.S. Rolls brass supplier plates and has an entry for this years Run which takes place two days after our sale. Whoever buys it automatically becomes part of motoring history.”

Text & image courtesy of Bonhams.


About Bonhams

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to