Here at the CineCars editorial office we aren’t afraid of some far fetched literary linkage, although the racing lorries by American La France have no connection to Paris, or Hollywood for that matter, whatsoever
With their enormous wheels and easily as imposing engine capacity, the 17 examples of the pre war make American La France are very much here at the thirteenth annual Classic Days Schloss Dyck in Germany this August. From all over Europe and, as to be expected, the United States, where the brand found its origin in the International Fire Engine Company – a factory specializing in fire- and rescue trucks. That’s why most of the vehicles here started life as a fire truck on yonder side of the big blue, before being transformed into race cars later on in their careers. The single example of an original American La France built racing car is displayed in a museum near Cleveland.
All the vehicles on display here are fitted with a chain drie, which is quite archaic even to pre war standards. The big pro of such systems is of course the ease in which the cars can be transformed from road to track vehicles by simply changing the chain cogs. These are cars from an era where few conventions were laid down for building motorcars. Besides the rather elaborate starting procedure the American La France knows another quirk that will raise some eyebrows from twenty first century motorists, only the rear wheels are fitted with brakes. Some of the cars are fitted with a reflective safety triangle situated just above the tail lights, just to be sure. Oncoming traffic beware!
Still an American La France is no weakling when it comes to performance. The large four barrel engine has enormous amounts of torque and easily delivers 100 HP at only 2000 rpm. Driving of in second or third gear is a doddle in one of these. Nevertheless most of the American La France owners transport their possessions by trailer to the numerous events they visit. One Swiss American La France equipe was brave enough to conquer the trip from Zürich to Schloss Dyck vice versa under its own steam. That is a big deal, but hey why not? It must be a great sight to stumble upon one of these big beasts somewhere on the Autobahn.
Jan van Hylckama Vlieg