The most important Belgian make of car, Minerva, was set up by a Dutchman. Sylvain de Jong, from Amsterdam, was just twenty when he established himself in Antwerp as a bicycle repairer. De Jong not only repaired but also constructed bicycles. The two-wheelers were sold under the name Minerva, the goddess of craftsmen and artists. In 1900, Sylvain and his brother Jacques built their first motorcar.
After 1904, the factory started to produce more and more cars. Two or four-cylinder engines were fitted into the wooden chassis. The bodies were huge, but a small voiturette was also produced, named the Minervette. The cars were of such good quality that they could easily compete with a Rolls-Royce or an expensive Mercedes. Similarly to all other manufacturers, the Minerva factory also produced sports cars. The cars took part in races such as the one from Paris to Bordeaux in 1905.
In 1928, Sylvain de Jong died after a lengthy illness. His brother Jacques assumed control of the factory. At that time, the factory employed some seven thousand people. At around the same time, Europe was flooded with cheap American cars. The consequence for Minerva was not only a decline in exports but also in sales in Belgium. The company went bankrupt. The director at the time of the Belgian Imperia factory, Mathieu van Roggen, took over the bankrupt's assets. He limited activities, with some success, to the production of lorries. After the Second World War, a few more prototypes were developed, but shortly after that the make disappeared definitively from the market.
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