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1931 Voisin C20 Mylord Demi-Berline

1931 Voisin C20 Mylord Demi-Berline

1931 Voisin C20 Mylord Demi-Berline

Of all the cars that Gabriel Voisin produced, this striking Demi-Berline (half-truck) is one of the best. It was manufactured by his company Avions Voisin which had built several pioneering airplanes before 1912 under the name Les Frères Voisin. This focus on aircraft was extended to all of Voisin’s cars including four streamlined and aluminum-bodied Laboratoires for the 1923 Grand Prix de Tours.

Years after the race at Tours, Voisin became interested in the Art Deco movement, abandoning his streamlined efforts for more eye-catching design. No other car captures this transition better than the Mylord which was built among several ‘top hat’ cars produced by Avions Voisin from 1927 to 1932. These designs included many perpendicular angles and even featured hardware designed by architect Le Corbusier.

Not all of Voisin’s aircraft roots were gone. Atop of the Mylord’s radiator sits a distinctive emblem design by Noël-Noël and Voisin that depicts a bird in flight. Inside the cabin are enough gauges to rival an aircraft cockpit. The Mylord also features an exposed transmission with three chrome levers and rudder pedals for the driver.

Like all Voisins, the Mylord is the synthesis of eclectic design and unconventional solutions. One look under hood reveals one of the most complex engines from the pre-war era, a sleeve-valve V12. First patented by pioneer Charles Knight in 1908, sleeve valves replaced standard poppet valves with moving sleeves that surrounded the piston to uncover intake and exhaust ports. This complex system worked without return springs and enabled very high engine speeds with less stress than a conventional pushrod design. The resulting quieter ride would offset the slight haze left by the exhaust as oil slipped between the sleeves. Only one other car would use this technical engine, that being the 1932 Bucciali TAV8-32 with a Saoutchik body.

1931 Voisin C20 Mylord Demi-Berline

1931 Voisin C20 Mylord Demi-Berline 1931 Voisin C20 Mylord Demi-Berline

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1931 Voisin C20 Mylord Demi-Berline Gallery

At the time, Voisin was competing with the best from Rolls-Royce, Hispano Suiza and Daimler who also adopted sleeve valves. The first Voisin V12 probably appeared at the 1929 Paris Motors Show in the Type C18 chassis for the King of Thailand. It would take another year before the Mylord would match the engine’s complexity with design flamboyance. Other cars were made with a similar bodystyle including a C20 Myrte Cabriolet and C20 Prototype. Of the ten or so different cars made on the C20 chassis, this Mylord on chassis 47505 is one the few surviving.

The Mylord show car spent most if its postwar life in America and came over to Europe once to visit Retromobile and the Musée National de l’Automobile in Mulhouse, France.

In recent times the Mylord was part of the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, CA and was frequently displayed in their museum. It was brought out for the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours in honor of the Avions Voisin marque. A year later in 2007 it was offered for sale as the centerpiece of Blackhawk’s Pebble Beach sale. It was picked up by the Munder Collection, and subsequently restored with an engine rebuild by Brian Joseph. During this time the chassis was separated from the body, and repainted black from its previous hue of red. Aluminum wheel covers were also fabricated and fitted over the wire wheels. The work was completed just one day before the 2009 Amelia Island Concours where it took Best of Show.

At their 2010 Amelia Island sale, Gooding & Company sold the Mylord Coupe for $2,750,000 USD. They described it as “One of the most enigmatic, thought-provoking and awe-inspiring automobiles ever created, the C20 Mylord is a mechanical object of a singular nature, a truly remarkable motorcar that generations of knowledgeable collectors have understood and resolved to preserve.”

In Detail

type Series Production Car
body stylist Andre Noël-Noël Telmont
coachbuilder Avions Voison
engineers Gabriel Voisin
production 1
engine 60º V 12
position Front, Longitudinal
aspiration Natural
valvetrain Knight-Licensed Sleeve Valves
fuel feed Twin Cozette Carburetors
displacement 4885 cc / 298.10 in³
bore 72 mm / 2.8 in
stroke 100 mm / 3.9 in
power 84.3 kw / 113 bhp
specific output 23.13 bhp per litre
bhp/weight 51.36 bhp per tonne
body / frame Aluminum Body over Steel Frame
front brakes Drums
rear brakes Drums
f suspension Solid Axle w/Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs
r suspension Live Axle w/Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs
curb weight 2200 kg / 4851 lbs
wheelbase 3595 mm / 141.5 in
front track 1520 mm / 59.8 in
rear track 1490 mm / 58.7 in
length 5270 mm / 207.5 in
height 1500 mm / 59.1 in
transmission 4-Speed Manual
tran clutch Bi-disc clutch
top speed ~150 kph / 93.15 mph


Sources and Further Reading

1.Courteault, Pascal et. al. Automobiles Voisin: 1919-1958, Pei Intl: August 1995.
2.Borgeson, Griffith . ‘Gabriel Voisin, Archetype of Constructors’ Automobile Quarterly V13 N4 : 1975.
Story by Richard Owen, Research by Thierry Auffret