Radical Racer: 1948 de Coucy Prototype

Garr LarsonBy Garr Larson

It may look like an attempt at an Oscar Meyer racer – but this 1948 de Coucy prototype was the result of prolonged wind tunnel testing, a radical new design discipline at the time. This rare, one of a kind racing prototype will be auctioned soon here on invaluable.com, with thanks to reader Ron B.

This project was one of a handful of small engine, one seaters funded by engineer, racing patron, and brilliant mathematician – the Count Enguerrand de Coucy – who lived from 1887 to 1974. De Coucy graduated with Physics and Chemistry degrees in 1912, fought in WWI, and became a sought-after and successful engineer. With a strong industrial clientele, de Coucy soon attracted rich customers with dreams of developing avant-garde racing cars.

In the 1920’s, de Coucy began working within the 1100 cc racing classification – with the goal of getting engines to 9,000 rpm and 100 HP output. Several of his racers very well neared the goal, with his 1926 attempt consistently delivering 8,500 rpm in an elegant aerodynamic single seater with an almost comically narrow chassis with half-moon springs on the outside of the side members.

This body style looks to have started in 1946, as de Coucy applied modern design techniques for lowering drag, with increasing reliability in materials and engine output. You can easily make the assumption that this prototype led to the Count’s most glorious racer – 1953 the Longchamp of Coucy Type 350CM3, shown above. Only expecting to fetch under $10k – this would be an amazing piece of French racing history to have! Bonne chance!

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  1. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Nice write-up, Garr! I’d love to have that thing, if nothing else just to have it spinning around on the velvet turntable in the living room..

    Under $10k seems much too cheap, I have to think that it will go for 2-3 times that amount. And, sure enough, it’ll drive up the prices of other de Coucys out there.. (kidding)

    • Mr Firth

      what ya got on the velvet turntable now ? what colors the velvet ? purple ?

    • James HGF

      Invaluable.com is not an auction house. Knew something didn’t add up. They’re just listing Artcurial’s Retromobile auction catalog. The circa 1948 De Coucy Prototype Record is item #335 for the 9 Feb auction. Go to artcuriel.com then then open the Retromobile auction page.

      They even have the 1947 Dolo Type JB 10 with no reserve – estimate € 6,000 – € 12,000. Now that’s an amazing car…or…con. Hate missing a chance to examine it. Have corresponded with a man in Belgium whose father placed a deposit (never to be refunded) for one at the ’47 Paris auto salon. Letter and brochure are a small, but unique slice of auto history.

      • Whippeteer

        No reserve, but both this and the Dolo have bidding starting at the low end of the estimate. So essentially, that is the reserve.

      • James HGF


        The low estimate is not necessarily the auction starting point. As an example lot 126, the 1963 Deep Sanderson 301, had an estimate of € 50,000 – € 80,000. It sold for €40,000 which seems a bargain in that it has factory and Le Mans 24 hour history. However the ’51 Porsche 356 Pre-A 1300, lot 105 did have a reserve with an estimate of € 440,000 – € 520,000, it sold for € 750,000.

        Auction of the Guélon collection (motor cycles lot 201- 276) is currently (2:00 pm Paris) underway without live streaming. The Borual collection lots 301 – 347 (including the de Coucy and the rare early cars) is scheduled to begin at 5:00 pm Paris. No indication that it will be live streamed.

        I’ve attached the Artcurial Retromobile on line catalog (495 pages) and recommend that one bookmark it for future reference on the unique cars and bikes:


        It may not be available on line forever though I hope it will be.

      • James HGF

        Correction – I was not in the room when the ’55 Imperial Hardtop and Deep Sanderson 301 were auctioned. Was told Deep Sanderson was hammered at € 40,000. No! It was not sold! The ’55 Imperial Hardtop coupe was sold for € 34,800 whereas the estimate was € 40,000 – € 60,000 on no reserve basis. Thus Imperial did sell for less than the low end estimate.

        The De Coucy Prototype at no reserve and an unrealistic estimate of € 5,000 – € 8,000 sold for € 45,296 ($ 55,488 almost 7 times high estimate). Sorry Scotty I don’t think it’s velvet turntable ready.

      • Alan (Michigan)

        @ James HGF

        Thanks for the link to that catalogue. So many extraordinary machines, hours of soaking it all in, reading, smiling…..

    • James HGF

      Scotty, You can watch Artcurial’s Retromobile auction live streaming beginning at 6:00 pm Paris time Friday. For the west coast that’s 6:00 am. Not too bad, but for the east that’s Oh-dark-thirty…well 3:00 am, but the auction will run for several hours so an early espresso, two, or three and all’s good.

      • ccrvtt

        It’s noon EST when it’s 6:00pm in Paris.

      • James HGF

        CCRVTT – CORRECT! Dumb, dumb mistake I made!

  2. Steve R

    Thank you for posting this car. I hope it brings more than $10,000, that would be more than a bargain.

    Steve R

  3. James HGF

    Take a look at the De Coucy of 1935 with its 500 cc DOHC engine. Scroll about 1/4 page down for the L’actuaiitie Automobile magazine cutaway drawing from the May 1935 issue:


    M. Google can translate most of page in so-so English.

    Look at all the wonderful cars offered from this collection with and without reserves. Fascinating cars that may be new to some. Estimates in euros (X 1.24 for $) appear in the ball park for cars “as seen” per Invaluable’s note of museum car’s static display for years.

  4. Karguy James

    I have a car with a very similar shape. It is a 1931 Pierce Arrow streamliner supposedly built by Preston Tucker during his employment with the Pierce Arrow motor company. I have never seen this shape on another car until I saw these photos of the blue French car.

    • Andy

      From this angle it looks like a Chrysler Crossfire.

    • Whippeteer

      I love your bodywork! 🙂

    • Rodney

      …oddly, I have a baked potato that looks like this.

  5. txchief

    I’d consider spending $10k to rid the world of this abomination to automobile history.

    • Mister319

      Automobile history is not limited to cars you like.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

        This 10 times over! And, surprisingly, your tastes may change over time as well. Cars that I laughed at in the past I now lust over…

    • Karguy James

      I remember when people laughed at Superbirds too. Nobody wanted to be seen in them. Nobody bought them. Now $100,000 plus

    • 68custom

      you do realize the cars of the past seventy plus years owe a lot to cars like this and the people who built them. much like Duesenberg, Miller and Offenhauser?

  6. Karguy James

    This Pierce Arrow was the first plastic bodied car ever built and the plastic crumbled away leaving the ribs like a canvass covered plane. I covered the body in aluminum foil so the shape could be more easily seen.

    I am offering a $1,000 reward to anyone that can prove who built this car.

    • Bryan W Cohn

      Karguy James, when does the restoration begin?

      I recall seeing the car on the AP show and laughing at what the guy thought it was worth without certified history.

      By plastic do you mean fiberglass or actually some form of plastic?

  7. Karguy James

    Here is how it looked when I discovered it.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Sitting in a field, out in the desert, or in a barn somewhere?

      Cool find, along with the mystery….

      • Karguy James

        It was actually on American Pickers in 2012 when Mike and Frank found it in a yard in Florida. I stumbled upon it and bought it a year later. Straight 8, 4 carb, high over drive, all aircraft gauges, an altimeter and a 300mph speedo.

  8. Myron Vernis

    I was at the Artcurial stand at Retromobile this week. Some truly amazing and impossibly rare cars. We were all commenting that the pre-sale estimates were extremely low.

  9. grant

    We need a feature on Karguy James’ find, stat!

  10. Metoo

    All the women will swoon when you drive by in your manhood shaped car.

  11. Shooker

    No Reserve vehicles always have a low estimate. Everybody starts thinking I can be a “playah”.

  12. exartist

    Love to see some details on that engine.

  13. Jack Quantrill

    Looks like something from a Woody Allen movie!


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