Lombards were made in a short production run from 1927 to 1929 and it is thought that less than a dozen now remain. The brainchild of French racing driver André Lombard, the Bugatti lookalikes were built for the popular French pastime of club level voiturette racing, although a Lombard is recorded as qualifying at Le Mans in 1928 and another won the 24-Hour Bol d’Or Race in 1929.
The early Type AL3 cars featured a very low, light and nimble chassis with generous 13-inch Perrot four-wheel brakes and Rudge-type knock-off wire wheels. All were powered by a four cylinder, twin overhead camshaft engine of 1,100cc, designed by Edmond Vareilles, that produced 60bhp and could reach 85mph. In supercharged form the AL3 could hit 100mph.
Despite considerable racing success all over Europe, Lombard soon got into financial difficulties and sold out to BNC in 1929. However, the Lombard had proved to be quick and reliable and raced on for many more years in the hands of amateur drivers, often with modified bodies, engines and chassis.
One such Lombard special was built by Pierre Felix who, in 1932, commissioned BNC to enlarge engine No.12 in his AL3 model to 1,500cc. The aim was to achieve 100bhp and 120mph. The finished car was entered into that year’s German Grand Prix but Felix was forced to retire when the block failed.
In 1943 Serge Pozzoli acquired the Felix car and commissioned Edmond Vareilles to redesign and rebuild the 1,500cc engine. Vareilles designed a new block in Alpax, in aluminium alloy, with a detachable bronze cylinder head and steel liners with their top ends spigotted into the head. This complex engineering took place under the noses of the occupying German forces at the printing machine plant owned by Pozzoli. The finished engine was fitted with a supercharger and entered into the very first post-war race meeting, the Coupe de la Liberation, in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris.
However, Pozzoli was young and unknown and the organisers would not permit him to race against the Maseratis and Alfa Romeos with his supercharged engine, so the blower had to be hastily dismantled and replaced with a normally aspirated twin Solex carb set up. Starting out in 11th place in the Robert Benoist Trophy race, Pozzoli amazed everyone by charging up to third within the first two laps before his inlet pipe parted company with the engine and ended his race in a cloud of smoke.
It may have been a short-lived triumph, but the 1,500cc Lombard had shown that it could more than hold its own against the best machines of the day. Buoyed up by the experience, Pozzoli then bought a more streamlined single seater Lombard, built for French racing driver Girod in 1930, that had lapped Montlhery at 110mph with a supercharged 1,100cc engine. He fitted engine No.12 into it and entered it into the St Cloud meeting in June 1946.
Starting from 15th on the grid, he again flew through the field in the pouring rain, only to skid off the track half way through the opening lap when he was in fifth place. The next month he qualified the car for the Nantes GP but broke the crankshaft on the start line.
In the short 3 years of the company’s existence there were only about 94 Lombards made. Still they were amongst the finest small sports cars of their day, proven by the fact that Lombard-based racing cars competed until the end of the 1940s. A small dozen Lombards are extant today and those are considered quite valuable.
Closer look at the car video here.
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