Gabriel Voisin's records

Although Marchand's terrible accident temporarily diminished the company's appetite for record-breaking, the hiatus allowed time for the next attempts to be planned. After more than a year had passed, the 12-cylinder Voisin was ready.


Largely subsidised by the Yacco oil company, it was a particularly impressive machine: a V12 based on two C16 six-cylinder blocks on a common crankcase, giving a total displacement of 11,660 cc. The monster was fuelled via two carburettors mounted in the 'V'. Starting was accomplished by Dynastart, and in the absence of a gearbox as before, the phenomenal torque of the 250bhp unit was fed through a multi-plate clutch. The loyal fuel sponsor of previous attempts, Gaz de Paris once again provided its notorious blend of petrol and benzol.

On this picture we can see the unbalanced engine...
...and on this one, we can see an example of the tested rear design.
The car was very low, the chassis rails being underslung beneath the axles. Different bodies were tested before the definitive shape emerged, and the car was fitted with twin headlights to improve visibility.

With such potentially rich returns in terms of publicity, Gabriel Voisin decided with the sponsors' agreement to run at relatively low speeds in order to prolong the life of the tyres, vulnerable as they were carrying a car of this weight at high speed.

The attempt began on September 16th, with Marchand (by now recovered from his accident) accompanied by André Morel, Serge Kiriloff and Leroy de Presale (the factory test driver). It differed from previous attempts in that Voisin installed several movable lighting units to illuminate the track, both around and within the great oval. A proper workshop was built, complete with a sleeping area for the drivers, and in view of the previous year's experience, a fully equipped medical post.

The big Voisin took to the track early in the afternoon and had covered over 1100 miles by the end of the day; the drivers took their successive turns at the wheel for ten days with nothing but fuel and tyre stops.

Object assumed of this attempt : 40 000 kilometres, the "Earth tour "!

And came the records :

1929 world records
From 16 to 25 september
Average speed
4000 miles
148,817 kp/h
43h 32mn 45s 99/100
5000 miles
146,723 kp/h
54h 50mn 27s 78/100
10 000 kms

147,117 kp/h

67h 58mn 23s 5/100
10 000 miles
139,196 kp/h
116h 28mn 51s 27/100
15 000 kms
141,677 kp/h
105h 52mn 27s 24/100
15 000 miles
137,598 kp/h
175h 26mn 9s 00/100
20 000 kms
136,937 kp/h
146h 3mn 8s 92/100
20 000 miles
133,141 kp/h
241h 43mn 40s 90/100
25 000 kms
137,912 kp/h
181h 16mn 29s 75/100
30 000 kms
133,531 kp/h
224h 39mn 58s 78/100

At those ten world records, a new rule gives to the firm 9 nine other records, on the duration :

Average speed
2 days
7038 kms
146,604 kp/h
3 days
10 258 kms
142,485 kp/h
4 days
13 804 kms
143,790 kp/h
5 days
16 575 kms
138,125 kp/h
6 days
19 698 kms
136,796 kp/h
7 days
23 234 kms
138,302 kp/h
8 days
25 846 kms
134,616 kp/h
9 days
28 794 kms
133,305 kp/h
10 days
31 965 kms
133,186 kp/h

The records duly fell, adding nine new world records to the ten the marque already held. When the car had covered nearly 35,000 kilometres, one of the wire wheels gave way and the car crashed, fortunately without injuring Kiriloff, who was driving at the time. Further attempts with the car were therefore abandoned before taking the 40,000 kilometre record - but with a total of 36 out of 53 homologated world records, Gabriel Voisin had no cause to complain...

To disprove malicious rumours then circulating about the car's condition by the end of the attempt, Gabriel Voisin arranged for it to be dismantled and publicly examined by independent assessors, who duly confirmed the cause of the accident (spoke failure) and the excellent condition of the mighty engine. The 12-cylinder record car rebuilt to take pride of place on the Voisin stand at the Salon de Paris.

Only one question remained: would Gabriel Voisin leave his competitors to snatch the prestigious 40,000 kilometre record?

NB : the record statistics reproduced here are based on the pages on this subject published in 'Toutes les Voisin' by René Bellu and a three-part article by Serge Pozzoli in 'Le Fanatique de l'automobile' N°23, 24 and 26.

To 1930  records back to 1928 records