Don’t read Georges Irat and think it’s a misprint for George is irate.
Automobiles Georges Irat was a French engine builder and automaker founded in 1921 by Georges Irat, and if you’ve not previously heard about the company or its products, we think you’re in good company, because neither had we.
In fact, it wasn’t until the arrival of an updated news release concerning Bonhams upcoming collector car auction at Monaco that we’d even heard of Georges Irat.
The big news in Bonhams news release was about a one-off Rolls-Royce Silver Spectre shooting brake being added to the auction docket, and if you have half a million dollars or more and like that sort of thing, you can view the vehicle on Bonhams website.
But as I scrolled further down the news release, there appeared a photograph of a stunning roadster quite unlike any I’d previously seen. It was the 1949 Georges Irat Sports two-seater, a one-off prototype that also has been added to the Monaco docket.
I like discovering automakers of which I had no knowledge, especially when they are responsible for such dramatic and appealing vehicles.
As it turns out, Georges Irat started producing engines around 1914 and began turning out complete vehicles in 1921 after acquiring the Majola auto company and its facilities. Georges Irat’s first car was a tourer with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine designed for the company by Maurice Gaultier, who previously worked at Delage.
Georges Irat was producing around 200 cars a year. After Gaultier went back to Delage, Georges Irat primarily powered its vehicles with American-produced Lycoming straight-8 engines. Irat’s son, Michel, designed a vehicle with a 4-cylinder engine but it didn’t sell well, and then things got worse as the Great Depression arrived.
The company was rescued in 1935 by engine maker Godefroy et Levecque, which needed vehicles to carry the Ruby engines it was producing. The result was a 2-seat, front-wheel-drive Georges Irat roadster, with some 1,500 produced in the second half of the 1930s. (One of them is part of the collection at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, and another is at the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum in Florida.)
Georges Irat experimented with electric-powered vehicles after petroleum supplies shrank during World War II, though after the war the company unveiled several small petrol-powered prototypes before moving to Casablanca, where it built — until the company closed in 1953 — its Voiture du Bled, the Jeep-like VDB, a 3-seater powered by a rear-mounted Dyna Panhard engine and sold with a matching 2-wheel trailer.
Among the company’s post-war parade of prototypes was the 1949 Sports.
“The model was never put into production and the prototype was mothballed,” Bonhams notes. “Fortunately, when it was discovered at the Georges Irat factory some years later, its distinctive bodywork, crafted by the famous Parisian coachbuilder Labourdette, had survived with its characteristic cyclops headlamp and Vutotal frame-less windscreen.
“The surviving bodyshell was mated with a Simca chassis and was fitted with a 1,100cc Simca engine, enabling the car to be driven and exhibited at historic motoring events. As the last representative of this historical French manufacturer, the Georges Irat is the perfect candidate for the world’s leading Concours d’Elegance.”
Bonhams expects the car to sell at the auction for $84,000 to $120,000.