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The French Relative

The French Relative

MY FIRST CAR IN 1956 WAS A 1931 Austin 7 and I have kept an interest in the model and its derivatives ever since; amongst the latter was the Rosengart built in France.

After Lucien Rosengart left Peugeot in 1927, he went into car production on his own having obtained the licence to build the Austin 7 in France. The first 100 cars in 1928 were assembled from Longbridge built parts, but from then on he made all the parts in his own factory gradually modifying the design. He also made his own bodies, which were really nothing like the Austin 7, some were part metal panelled but others had fabric bodies.

A few years ago Derek Sheldon from Basingstoke, a keen member of the Austin 7 Owners Club, wrote in the club’s magazine about a 1930 Rosengart 2-seater tourer with the fabric body which he had imported from France. When purchased, he was told that it had been in the farm barn for over 40 years and before that had been used as the “farm hack”.

The chassis plate on the car proclaims that it was a LR 2 model, though the body is almost certainly that from the LR 5 version which was built alongside the LR 2, it was a cheaper model with the fabric body covering. Rosengart factory records show the car as being delivered new to a dealer in Charente Inferieure (just 7 miles from the barn where it was eventually found) in August 1930. By December it was back at the factory and stayed there till delivered again to the same dealer in June 1932. One can only surmise that the original body was damaged in an accident and the factory fitted a spare LR5 example. The bulkhead with the chassis plate on it is almost certainly the original.

Derek’s description of the find is interesting: “…the farm house was typical with massive oak beams everywhere, the barn could be accessed from the house, in fact the fridge, freezer and larder were in the barn…and there the car sat waiting not having moved for a very long time, forlorn dusty and on flat bald tyres…
“We thought that she was on white wall tyres, only to find later that it was the remains of the local soil on them as well as being caked up around the wheel arches and back axle.

“There was also a 1924 Citroen 2cv which was also in a very bad state, it was the first car ever owned by the farmer”.

Derek has recently completed the cars restoration and is now working on a 1922 Royal Enfield motorcycle, however he has been side-tracked by an advertisement he saw on the Leboncoin website (A French auction site) where an early 1930’s Rosengart van was listed.

Such a van is we believe unique in this country. Arrangements to go and see the car were made with difficulty as Derek did not speak French, neither did the owner speak English. They eventually arrived in the vendors village and I will let Chris Surtell who was travelling with Derek take up the story: “The vendor indicated we should follow him for about a kilometre along a narrow track and suddenly the barn was in front of us. Inside was the Rosengart surrounded by other aged vehicles in various stages of getting ‘very old’.

“The van looked very sorry for itself with four flat tyres, covered in dirt and had obviously been the home of insects and small mammals for many years. It was in surprisingly good nick with little obvious rust or woodworm.”.

The purchase was completed, and 30 hours later they were back home. “Now the challenge is to resist the temptation to start serious work until other current projects are completed”.


from p. 11 of issue May 2016
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