Minerva was named after the Roman goddess of commerce, craftsmanship, poetry, medicine, magic and the inventor of music. The Belgian car company was founded by a Dutchman, Sylvain de Jong. Like so many early automobile companies, it began as a machine shop manufacturing bicycles. It was the manufacture of bicycles that led him to small one- and two-cylinder engines, which could be adapted to existing bicycles or purchased together. Bicycles led to automobiles and the company expanded quickly. From 200 employees in 1899, the first year, by 1912 the company employed 1,600. The advent of the First World War changed everything, and those who could get to London were housed in the company's London dealership. Those who could not refused to work for the Germans, and as a result they seized the factory and turned it into a vehicle repair operation.
After the war, de Jong began working on new designs. Unfortunately, protectionism, which was rampant throughout Europe, was not implemented in Belgium, with the predictable result that the big international companies quickly established plants there, and volumes grew quickly. Companies like Minerva were relegated to niche markets. Sylvain de Jong passed away in 1928, leaving his brother in charge of the factory. It was under his control that the company's greatest product was introduced - the magnificent eight-cylinder AL. A sleeve valve masterpiece, it was smooth and quiet but frighteningly expensive, and it is thought that no more than 50 were produced before the plant closed. They were, however, the greatest cars Minerva had ever made.
The Minerva in this gallery (chassis 80105) was purchased by Henry Walker Bagley of New York and his wife Nancy, the youngest daughter of the late R.J. Reynolds, founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, in 1931. Mr. Bagley ordered the top-of-the-line eight-cylinder Minerva chassis from the factory in Belgium and commissioned Rollston to design the body.
In later years, the car was acquired by D. Cameron Peck, one of the most prolific collectors of his era, for his Long Island Motor Museum. Subsequent owners included Fred H. Bultman, Dr. James Dees and Gerald A. Rolph. RM Classic Cars Inc. purchased three cars from Gerald Rolph, including this Minerva, which was then sold to noted collector Charles Morse of Seattle, Washington in the late 1990s.
Morse subsequently commissioned the car to a full restoration by Steve Babinsky in 1998, following which the car was invited to Pebble Beach - where the beauty of the car and the quality of the restoration was recognised by a first in class award.
It was an award winner in 1999 at many shows, including the Meadow Brook and Amelia Island concours events and Louis Vuitton in New York. The same year it was awarded its First Junior at Hershey in 1999 followed by "Best of Show" at the Grand Classic National Meet in Cleveland shortly afterwards.
In 2011 the car was put up for auction by RM Auctions with an estimate of 630.000 to 840.000 Euros.
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