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  Minerva AL Rollston Convertible Sedan

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Country of origin:Belgium
Produced from:1929 - 1935
Numbers built:around fifty
Designed by:Rollston
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 05, 2007
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Click here to download printer friendly versionNamed after the classic Roman goddess of crafts, poetry and wisdom, Minerva was founded at the end of the nineteenth century in Antwerp, Belgium. Headed by Dutchman Sylvain de Jong, the company spent its early years repairing and building bicycles. In 1904 the focus shifted towards motor car production and shortly not much later it was the largest automobile manufacturer in the country. Within a few years the Belgian manufacturer had made quite a name for itself with the small and lightweight 'Minervettes' racing cars.

Like most of its contemporaries, Minerva specialized in luxury machines, spending much attention on a smooth and quiet ride. The crude and noisy engines of the time made that next to impossible, so when the Knight patented sleeve-valve engine was introduced, De Jong quickly adapted the technology. From 1912 all Minervas were equipped with this type of engine that lacked the conventional and noisy valve system. The draw back of this setup was the high oil consumption, making the sleeve-valve powered machines easily recognisable.

In the teens and twenties, Minerva steadily grew in size and the cars became more powerful and advanced. De Jong even tried to modify the sleeve-valve system with rotating instead of sliding valves. By the late 1920s, the company had an impressive range of four and six cylinder engined models and employed around 7000 people. After being ill for a long period, Sylvain de Jong passed away and his position at the helm of the company was taken by his brother Jacques. It marked the beginning of a difficult period for Minerva as the economy was on its way to complete collapse and the market was flooded with cheaper American cars.

Despite the deteriorating conditions, Jacques de Jong persevered and in 1929 launched Minerva's most luxurious model yet. Dubbed the AL, it was the manufacturer's first eight cylinder engined machine. Needless to say, the new engine featured the Knight patented valve train. Like many of the other Minerva engines, it also featured a twin-spark ignition. Unusual for its time, the eight cylinder engine was cast in one block rather than being made up of two separate blocks of four cylinders. Breathing through a single Zenith Carburetor, and displacing just over 6.6 litres, the eight cylinder engine produced around 130 bhp.

Mated to a four speed gearbox, the advanced eight cylinder engine was installed in a rather more conventional pressed steel ladder frame. Suspension was by live axles and semi-elliptic leaf springs on both ends and in 1932 Houdaille friction dampers were added to further increase comfort. The rolling chassis weighed in at a staggering 1780 kg and had a wheelbase of almost four metres, with the overall length creeping towards six metre. As was the norm, Minerva provided rolling chassis for coachbuilders like the local Van Den Plas to body.

Production of the Minerva AL commenced in 1930, but due to its exceptionally high price no more than fifty examples were produced. Despite adding considerably less expensive models to their line-up to help turn the tide, Minerva was one of the many manufacturers that fell victim to the great depression. In 1936 Jacques de Jong was forced to sell the company to Imperia and after that using the existing inventory only a handful of cars were constructed. Although little known today, the cars proudly bearing the head of the goddess Minerva on the radiator were as highly regarded and could match the build quality and comfort levels of the likes of Rolls Royce.

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  Article Image gallery (4) 80116 Specifications