‘Blue Butterfly’ comes with London-to-Brighton entry

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Blue Butterfly
Known as the 'Blue Butterfly,' this 1901 Panhard-Levassor Type A2 7hp rear-entrance tonneau is going to auction, and a few days later on the London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run | Bonhams photos

Considered to be among the first “modern” motorcars with its engine in front, a “gearbox” transmission, “piano-style” pedals and a steering wheel rather than a tiller, a 1901 Panhard-Levassor Type A2 7hp rear-entrance tonneau known as “Le Papillon Bleu” will be offered up for bidding at Bonhams London to Brighton Sale scheduled for November 1 in England.

As an added incentive to bid, the car is guaranteed a starting spot two days later in the Veteran Car Run, an event in which the car first competed in 1927. 

Bonhams said that since that first London-to-Brighton run, the 1901 Type A2 has participated more than 60 times in what originally was known as the “Old Crocks Race,” held to commemorate the 1896 Emancipation Run staged to celebrate a law that allowed motorcars to travel as fast as 14 mph in England, where they originally were limited to walking speed and had to be preceded by a man waving a red flag of warning.

Bonhams expects the car to sell at auction for £200,000 to £250,000 ($255,000 to $320,000).

Driver’s vantage
‘Le Papillon Bleu’ is French for ‘Blue Butterfly’

Le Papillon Bleu” was built for Rene de Knyff of Belgium a pioneer racing driver, a Panhard director and president of the Commission Sportive International, later known as the FIA. 

“Made to the Chevalier’s exacting specification, the light tourer featured coachwork by Rothschild et Fils, one of Paris’ finest coachbuilders, with an enameled tonneau body, finished in a striking Cambridge Blue with contrasting scarlet wheels and scarlet (hunting coat) cloth upholstery and highly polished brass fittings,” Bonhams notes.

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But not long after the car was completed, Leslie Bucknall, an early British motorcar enthusiast, convinced de Knyff to sell him the car, which Bucknall’s daughter, Vivienne, called the “Blue Butterfly.”

Bonhams said Bucknall didn’t keep the car very long, but it remained in England with subsequent owners, including former Veteran Car Club president tom Lightfoot, who drove in in the London-to-Brighton event.

Bonhams added that the consignor has owned the car for 27 years and entered it in the London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run in 25 of those years. In 2016, the car won the Regent Street Motor Show Concours d’Elegance award as “the car which most embodies the spirit of the veteran era.”

The car was recently serviced by NP Veteran Engineering to make sure it is ready to carry its new owner on the London-to-Brighton event.

1900 M.M.C. Tourer

Bonhams also announced that a 1900 M.M.C. Tourer consigned to the auction also carries an automatic entry into the 2019 Veteran Car Run and has participated in that event numerous times. 

M.M.C. is short for Motor Manufacturing Company, successor to The Great Horseless Carriage Company, which was founded in 1897. M.M.C. produced its last car in 1908.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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