Market Finds: This Avions Voisin Aérosport Could Be Your Roadway Zeppelin

This Avions Voisin Aérosport Could Be Your Roadway Zeppelin

Andrew Golseth By Andrew Golseth
July 21, 2016
4 comments

Photography courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Never before have I wanted a pre-war car so badly. For me, of all the aviation-inspired automobiles, this 1935 Avions Voisin C28 Aérosport takes the cake—even the model’s name evokes images of altitude conquering machines. Just look at it. It’s like the Hindenburg on wheels. Avions Voisin is known for its stunning aesthetics, but the Aérosport makes a compelling argument for its very best work, especially in the precious metal over warm natural leather combination presented here.

To claim industrialist Gabriel Voisin was obsessed with aviation would be an understatement. The man pioneered Europe’s first manned aircraft in the earliest days of fixed wing flight. Gabriel and his brother established an aircraft manufacturing company in 1906 and began incorporating aluminum into airframes. Their company took off with a 10,000 unit aircraft contract in support of World War One—namely, the Voisin III. After the war, Gabriel decided to, quite literally, bring his talents from the stratosphere to the streets.

Like his lightweight planes, Voisin mastered aluminum coachwork for his automobiles. Although early models were forward thinking, Gabriel perfected his aviation art deco autos in the mid 1930s with the C28 Aérosport. Penned by Gabriel himself, the all-new Gran Turismo was a groundbreaking blend of function and form that rightfully left the 1935 Paris Salon crowd in awe.

In typical Voisin fashion, the streamline two-plus-two berline is minimalistic in design but monumental in technological achievement. The pontoon body features an unbroken fender to quarter panel shoulder line, an extremely raked three-piece windscreen, a short tapered roofline, and rear aero wheel spats—notice the massive hydraulic-powered sliding roof. Under the smooth hood lies a 102 horsepower sleeve valve straight six mated to a four-speed epicycle preselector semi-manual transmission with overdrive—good for a 90 mph cruising speed.

Unlike most artwork, the Aérosport wasn’t just a showpiece for viewing pleasure. Drivability ease and long distance comfort were paramount requirements for the C28. A solid-axle front and semi-elliptical leaf spring rear suspension setup offered a plush ride and hydraulically-assisted Lockheed Martin drum brakes were the obvious choice for slowing the roadway dirigible with confidence.

So, now that you want one, I have to break you the bad news: Avions Voisin went bankrupt shortly after the C28 was released. It’s believed no more than ten of these incredibly beautiful road cars were built before the company went under—of which only two are believed to exist today. Even more special, chassis 53034 seen here is the prototype that dropped jaws at the 1935 Paris Salon debut—a bragging right you could use to one-up the only other C28 Aérosport owner.

Its history didn’t end on the show stand, either; the lucky original owner drove this car regularly until it was damaged in a World War Two bombing raid! Nearly a total loss, the owner hired a coachbuilder to build a custom four-door sedan shell to replace the battered original GT coupe metalwork. Chassis 53034 remained improperly bodied until an eight-year re-construction began in 2006.

Using original factory schematics and drawings for reference, the car was painstakingly rebuilt to its former tin-blimp glory with authentic parts sourced from a fellow Voisin collector. Once the aluminum coachwork was recreated, the shell was painted in brilliant metallic silver. To recreate the original cabin’s bespoke upholstery, the needlesmiths at Hermès of Paris stitched the interior in untreated cuir vache hide—where did such inviting and warm interiors go?

Renewed and fully restored to original specs, the car made its second world unveiling at the 2015 Chantilly Concours d’Elegance. A thoroughly documented photo album archiving the rebuilding process is included in the sale. With rich provenance, an impeccable restoration, and unrivaled pre-war beauty, care to make this C28 Aérosport prototype your road going airship?

History
– One of two remaining C28 Aérosports
– Prototype model displayed at the 1935 Paris Salon
– Meticulously restored to factory specifications using authentic parts

Specifications
~102 horsepower, 3,318 cc inline sleeve valve six-cylinder engine, four-speed Cotal epicyclic preselector transmission with overdrive, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 129.1 in.

Vehicle information
Chassis no.: 53034

Valuation
Auction house: RM Sotheby’s
Estimate: Upon Request
Price realized: Auction on August 19/20

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Derelict
Derelict

While not my favorite AV (Mylord Demi Coupe is), it is still stunning.

Sir Mouse
Sir Mouse

How on earth can something that odd, clunky,disproportionate and weird, look so utterly amazing?

Dennis Cavallino
Dennis Cavallino

I can see myself driving it. All day long. Where does this road go?

Amir Kakhsaz
Amir Kakhsaz

Wow! I’m speechless.