1934 Minerva Type AL 40CV Sports Coupe
Coachwork by Jacques Dens of Antwerp
Chassis No. 80187
Engine No. 80184
•Unique example of Belgium's finest automobile
•Never offered publicly for sale
•In the present collection ownership for two decades
•Potential concours exhibit
Acclaimed as 'one of the most prestigious vehicles ever produced', Minerva's AL model would be the grandest production of the marque to date. It featured the companies first straight 8 cylinder engine, a ubiquitous standard for luxury cars of the day, and retained the sleeve valve system of Minerva's prior motors. With 6.6 liters, 120 hp, dual ignition, and a crankshaft carried in nine main bearings, this would be a most advanced and formidable powertrain for a vehicle of this status. Backing up the impressive grunt, road-holding was impeccable, aided by an Adex Stabilisator, one of the earliest anti-roll devices. Its 152-inch wheelbase was one of the longest on the market, enabling the fitting of supremely elegant coachwork.
Offering similar elegance and refinement to the mildly more expensive Rolls-Royces of the era, Minerva's found themselves frequently under the ownership of the elite. Particularly in North America, the AL gained popularity among films stars and politicians alike, and even the archetypal provider of motors for the masses, Henry Ford. Unfortunately, the vehicle was introduced just in time for the Stock Market Crash and subsequent Great Depression that would drastically reduce demand for these types of extravagant luxury motors. Just 50 of these ALs left Minerva's production line and today only 8 are believed to be surviving today. With only the 2 Liter M4 following in 1934, the AL stands as the marque's final and most impressive effort at producing a large luxury vehicle.
Dating from towards the end of the run of these incredibly impressive automobiles, car 80187 is clothed with what is believed to be unique coachwork by one of its country's more obscure coachbuilders, Jacques Dens of Antwerp. In its execution, the lesser known Dens concern were cleverly able to scale a relatively compact style of body on the gargantuan AL frame. Its faux convertible top is replete with pram irons to break the side of the car, and for the relief of the driver and passengers there is a sliding sunroof.
The Minerva's earlier days are not charted, but it may probably safely be assumed that the car resided in its home country, where as attested by an old log book it was the property of Jan Verswijver by 1962. In his ownership, it would have also shared stable with the D'Ieteren car in Mr. Vander Stappen's collection according to an article in this period in Automobile Quarterly, by the owner of the Rollston Sweptback Convertible, Dr. Gerald Rolph.
By the mid-1980s, the Dens Sports Coupe was owned by noted collector Philip Devos in Gent, where it was located by dealer Bruno Vendiesse who negotiated its sale to another Belgian enthusiast, Willy Hopchet, from Antwerp, in who's custody the car remained at the time of the publication of Phillippe Boval and Albert Valcke's 'Minerva Vandaag'. In Hopchet's ownership, the car is understood to have received the restoration that it retains to this day, the car being repainted in a regal red hue, offset with black wings and a black leather faux convertible roof. At that same time it is assumed that the interior was also retrimmed in the plush patterned soft fabric that it still wears, arguably in an Art Deco style. That restoration shows only limited age, particularly in the cabin of the car, suggesting only modest use in the last two or three decades.
Mr. Vander Stappen was able to prize it from W. Hopchet some 20 years ago in October 1998, where it would join his growing stable of luxury Belgian Automobiles. In his custody it was occasionally shown and used, but in latter years remained safely secluded in this collection.
Today the car's clever proportions stand the test of time well, and are akin to any of the styling by better known carrossiers. Its quality bodywork is appointed with fine chromework including Willocq-Bottin headlamps with Minerva Goddess appliques to their tops one of which still retains its patented Supralux lens. Naturally, the mark of quality is rubber stamped by the stylised Goddess mascot atop its shapely chrome radiator.
With its unique design and handsome sporting looks, coupled to the much-coveted luxury underpinnings by Minerva, the Jacques Dens AL must have considerable potential at International Concours level.
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