King Edward VII ascended the British throne on the death of his mother Queen Victoria in 1901.
Edward’s reign marked the zenith of the British power. “Bertie” as he was affectionately known to the royal family and his circle of friends was closely related to most of the crowned heads of Europe. The Edwardian era was a period of rising nationalism and empire building. Edward died in 1910 and a few years later the world plunged into The Great War which upended everything…
Edward led a hard partying high society life of extreme privilege. Motor cars were play things for those fortunate enough to be in similar circumstances to Edward; not yet something for the general population. With the Model T only introduced toward the end of his period, automobiles were generally very expensive, hand built, quickly evolving mechanical engineering marvels of often dubious functionality and reliability. The old moneyed elite did ridiculous and often socially insensitive things with their machines like racing on public roads. Cup races, nation versus nation contests, record attempts, were staged to sell newspapers, entertain the masses and to provide a jolly good day out. Some of these gentlemen planned truly absurd adventures. the quintessential example, the 1907 race from exotic Peking to urbane Paris across the uncivilized “wastes” in between. The winner of this challenge was Italian prince Scipione Borghese in his 7 ½ litre Itala. (Most of the driving was in fact done by the prince’s chauffeur.)
You can easily imagine the inspirations for all sorts of high-jinx these cars, this period and the characters associated with them provide.
Gittreville’s first Edwardian was the 1903 DeDion-Bouton. The inspiration car was built for the infamous Paris-Madrid race. This kicked off the ticking of boxes for the various Edwardian type events. The DeDion was built in response to the arms race toward speed that possessed early Gittreville. It was an attempt to slow things down, return emphasis to the build and broaden the appeal of our events.
The Paris-Madrid race was the peak of Edwardian insanity. Several similar races had been held in previous years; Paris-Rouen, -Bordeaux, -Marseilles, -Dieppe, -Amsterdam, -Berlin and -Vienna. Paris-Madrid was bigger. Over three hundred cars and motorcycles registered with 224 starting. What could go wrong with rapidly developing technology, greater public interest, faster cars, public roads and no crowd control? Everything!
The Gittreville DeDion was envisioned as a genteel driver for two. It was chosen because of DeDion’s critical role in early motoring and because as a relatively small car for the period, it scaled well with 17″ wire wheels. Oh and because of the company’s fantastic logo. It was planned for life in Concours society from the beginning. A champagne and canopés kind of car.
Five years passed and our second Edwardian emerged inspired by the Peking-Paris race. This was the Itala mentioned above. The builder is very much into off-road motorcycling and four-wheeling and he envisioned his Itala as the cyclekart version of that. Loads of room to strap on overnight gear and generous clearance for imperfect trails.
The Itala was staged at Tieton in an exhibit of the Peking-Paris adventure; beginning at a bar in Peking and finishing at bar in Paris. High society indeed!
The Itala eventually earned a genuine state off road vehicle permit and registration.
The Itala inspired the third and greatest Gittreville Edwardian, the Vanderbilt Cup Renault.
The builder was intrigued by the trekking nature of the Itala and had the good fortune to live in New Zealand. The Renault went out for long drives on the country’s sheep trails and public rights of way. The concept of the Antipodean Adventure developed. A second Kiwi builder eagerly joined in with a DeDion of his own and the two cars journeyed down the Forgotten Highway, along Ninety Mile beach, etc.. Although still patiently waiting for overseas visitors to make it to the event, the fleet down under has swollen to half a dozen Edwardians.
Back in America, inspired by the Antipodean Adventures, a crop of elderly brutes are currently in work to tackle the backwoods of the north west and mountain west.
This story will continue…