18 July 2013

Rare 1938 French roadster still sporty

Georges Irat vehicles excelled in design

 

CHICAGO. Ill.: My favourite Georges Irat automobile is the one-off 1927 Model A with a Pourtout body.

I first spotted this car at Pebble Beach where it placed third in its class. One year later it was offered for sale with an estimated selling price of $300,000, but it did not sell and was offered the following year by a different auction house with an estimated sale price closer to $180,000. The seller lowered his reserve and the hammer fell at $148,500.

The French-based Irat company — not a household name — dates back to 1914, and built its first automobile in 1921, continuing until 1953,

Last Sunday, while judging at the Barrington Concours d’Elegance just north of Chicago, one of the cars in my class was a 1938 Georges Irat Roadster. It’s not quite as rare as the 1927 car but still considered rare because the total production run, from 1935-1939 amounted to a mere 1,500 examples.

Fitted with a small 1.1-litre Ruby engine, it was not exactly a blisteringly fast sports car, (top speed: 113 km/h), but its sporting look made up for its lack of performance.

Look closely at the photo and you’ll notice that the car does not have a door on the driver’s side, only one located on the passenger side. The gearbox is mounted ahead of the engine, and the driveshafts that power the front wheels are driven directly off the end of the gearbox. The car has a combination starter motor which is also the generator.

The shift mechanism is very similar to early Citroens. The gear lever comes out of the gearbox and is then connected via a ball joint to a lever that protrudes out of the dashboard. Once you are familiar with this type of shift mechanism it is a breeze to use.

The car was brought to the event by Jeff Lane who owns the Lane Museum in Nashville (lanemotormuseum.org).

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