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Back To The Future

Electric cars go under the hammer

Forget your Teslas and your Nissan Leafs, electric cars have been around for more than 100 years. Much-trumpeted as the future of cars, most people probably don’t know that folk were experimenting with battery powered propulsion more than a century ago.

In fact, it was only the advent of the internal combustion engine that put paid to electric power, in the mainstream, at least, for decades. And that’s sure to be proved in an auction due to take place on June 11, which will see a duo of electric cars from 1906 and 1907 go under the hammer.

Historics at Brooklands will sell the USA-built pair - an elegantly-named 1906 Pope Waverley Victoria Phaeton and 1907 Victor High Wheel Electric Runabout – at its major summer auction at Brooklands Museum in Surrey.


The fact that Brooklands - the birthplace of UK motorsport and aviation - was opened in 1907 only adds to the resonance of these electric time-warp masterpieces as they come under the hammer.

Immensely rare and sought-after today, they were no flashes in the pan at the time they were built.

Indeed, emphasising the clamour for electric cars as personal mobility became the mantra, there were more than 100 manufacturers of cars powered by a battery in the early 20th century.

But it was not to last, as internal combustion and the mass production of cheaper petrol cars took off and electric power was largely shelved until the eco-driven movement of recent years.

The 1906 Pope Waverley Victoria Phaeton, offered by Historics at an estimate of £30,000-£40,000, sold at the time of its build in Nebraska for $1,600 and is in superb condition.

Fully-restored and elegant in the extreme, the convertible features a leather-lined hood, with the additional sumptuous comfort of complimentary leg covers.

Seating two on the floral print, button-back fabric ‘bench’ seat plus a rear-facing occasional seat, the car is steered by tiller and rudimentary controls to go and stop.

With electric coach lamps, it is fully capable of night-time expeditions, but it is in its element with the roof down on a summer’s day.

Brought to the UK by the vendor some years ago, the Pope Waverley is now equipped with modern technology batteries and charging system giving it a useable range.

The very compact 1907 Victor High Wheel Runabout, built one year later in Indianapolis, spent many years on display in an American museum before being imported to the UK, when it was the subject of a complete sympathetic overhaul.

This included the fitment of contemporary batteries and charging system and a recent repaint of both the chassis and bodywork, together with black leather upholstery and far from rudimentary patent leather mudguards to protect its inhabitants.

As is the case of the Pope Waverley, vision is superb from the high driving position.

In common with today’s ‘new age’ electric vehicles the Victor is practically silent when running – all the more so thanks to minimal solid tyre contact.

Perhaps today’s EV manufacturers could take a cue from the Victor, which is equipped with a large bell on the driver’s side so pedestrians are aware of its stately approach.

In common with the 1906 Pope Waverley, Historics says that much interest in this equally rare and sought-after Victor is anticipated at its estimate of £30,000-£40,000.

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