Amilcar CGSS Roadster 1928
Amilcar was born amid the of the Cyclecar and Vouiturette movements in early 20th century France. Prior to the outbreak of World War I, French motoring enthusiasts created a market for light, affordable performance cars with smallbore engines. Fitting somewhere between a motorcycle and a standard automobile, the Cyclecar was adopted by a multitude of manufacturers. In the years after The Great War, France was eager to regain its standing as a world leader in automobile production, and as the economy struggled to fully recover, the inexpensive cyclecars again proved popular among buyers. Another driving factor for the perpetuation of the tiny cyclecars was the French tax code that greatly favored small cars. The French government even went so far as to provide a specific definition of a Cyclecar: It specified any three or four wheeled vehicle, with one or two seats, weighing no more than 350 kilograms and with an engine that must not exceed 1100c.c. If any of those factors were exceeded, the car was moved into the official Voiturette class. Manufacturers were able to get ever more power out of small engines, and as a result, the 1100c.c. cyclecar and voiturette class became a hotbed for performance motoring, with customers often buying these small cars for weekend competition use.
Amilcar’s jewel-like CGS and the sporting CGSS variant gained a reputation as quite the weekend warrior, chocking up hundreds of wins in local and regional smallbore racing around France. Their robust nature and exceptional performance earned the nickname “Poor Man’s Bugatti”. The CGS and CGSS were technically very similar, the second “s” of the later denoting “Surbaisse”, which literally translates as “low profile”. The lowered chassis was the primary difference, though an additional few horsepower were massaged out of the 1074 c.c. sidevalve power plant. The CGS and CGSS formed the basis for much of Amilcar’s success through the late 1920s, in both the showroom and on the racetrack; with perhaps the most famous victory coming in the 1927 Monte Carlo Rally. It proved to be one of the best-selling models in Amilcar’s relatively short history, with approximately 4,700 examples built of both the CGS and CGSS and it remains one of the most recognized and collectible of the road going models.
This lovely little 1928 Amilcar CGSS has been very well restored and fitted with a beautiful Grand Sport style body. It is finished in ivory over a green leather interior, with distinct green accents applied to the undersides of the cycle-style wings. The Grand Sport-style two-seat body is beautifully proportioned with an offset cockpit and tapered tail, sitting atop a petite 90” wheelbase. It does possess a certain quality of a miniature Bugatti, thanks to the pure and purposeful style and minimal adornment. The body is built a high quality standard and the off-white paint very well presented. Amilcar’s signature nickle radiator shell is in excellent condition, flanked by headlights mounted on delicate fender braces. The door-less body is features a single side-mounted spare wheel, Weather equipment is limited to a delicate cut-down windscreen and the quality of clothing worn by the occupants.
The simple, functional cockpit is trimmed in green leather and the dash is finished in a very cool diamond-patter engine-turned alloy. It is well equipped with an array of period French instrumentation including a fabulous LE NIVEX tachometer and Sifam minor instruments. A wood wheel is delightfully worn in and a tactile joy for the driver. Beyond controls and instruments, the cockpit is relatively unadorned, yet pleasingly detailed. Without doors or windows, it is a case study of pure functional simplicity.
Amilcar’s wonderful 1,074 c.c. side-valve engine features an alloy head and was rated at 35hp in the slightly uprated CGSS tune. Our example is pleasingly detailed and very nicely presented, and the engine is mated to the very rare and desirable four-speed transmission. Given the featherweight body and chassis, performance is surprisingly brisk, combined with nimble, deft handling. This lovely little Voiturette is simply a delight to behold and to steer. Subtle modifications have been made for drivability, such as an enlarged foot box to accommodate taller drivers. It can be readily enjoyed as presented, having been recently shown at Amelia Island and Lime Rock Park’s diverse and prestigious Sunday in the Park Concours, where it won the 2016 prize for best French car. No mere trailer-queen, it has even made an appearance at the VSCCA’s legendary Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. While it’s early history has been lost to time, this beautiful, delightful Amilcar is an outstanding example from this storied and highly desirable marque. A fabulous pre-war sporting car, its beautiful style, quality restoration and joyful road manners make it suitable for a wide variety of events.
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