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Lot 201: 1900 3 1/2-hp Phebus-Aster 'Automobilette'

Veteran Motor Cars, Bonhams (4 November 2005)

Taking its name from Phoebus, the Greek god who drove the sun across the heavens each day, the Phebus was built between 1899-1903 in the Parisian suburb of Suresnes by Noe Boyer & Cie, who also marketed the Boyer car.

Phebus was initially known for its “very powerful and fast” Aster-engined tricycles, one of which achieved the then breakneck speed of almost 39mph on the Crystal Palace velodrome ridden by Charles Jarrott. His racing companion on that occasion was F.F.Wellington, who imported Phebus machines into England. The tricycles were soon joined by a two-speed voiturette powered by a rear-mounted single-cylinder 397cc Aster engine, of which this is the only example known to the Veteran Car Club. Its history has been traced back to March 1904, when a Leicester cycle manufacturer bought the three-year-old car for the sum of ‘eighty golden sovereigns’ on a visit to London and had it transported home by rail from St Pancras Station.

He drove the car regularly until 1912, when it was replaced by a larger car. The car was then stored on a raised platform in his engineering shop and remained there for many years.
In 1956 the Phebus-Aster was discovered on its lofty perch in a very poor state and acquired by Mr E.R.Harrison, who spent the next year restoring it and it made its first appearance at the Veteran Car Club’s Luton Hoo Rally on 26 April 1958, when it was hailed as ‘an interesting and unique newcomer’. That summer it was awarded VCC dating certificate No 725 confirming its date of manufacture as 1900.

The Phebus-Aster became a regular participant in the Brighton Run, and is said to have covered some 2,000 miles in the next decade; in 1963 it was exhibited at the Paris Salon de l’Automobile as part of a cavalcade of veteran and Edwardian cars from Britain that were guests of honour at the show. It was featured in the book Sixty Miles of Pencil, an ‘intimate impression of the Brighton Run’ illustrated with pencil sketches of selected veterans.

It has been in store since Mr Harrison’s death in 1976, and though the vendor describes the car’s current condition as ‘very good, considering the time of inactivity’, recommissioning will be needed to put this charming little veteran into running order. Some engine spares and tyres are included in the sale. Cine film of the car’s discovery and early Brighton Runs survives, and the vendor is willing to make a video copy available to the purchaser.

Lot Details
Auction Veteran Motor Cars
Bonhams, London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, 101 New Bond Street
Lot Number201
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£25000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£28750
Condition rating0
Registration number
Chassis number606
Engine number2130
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors