Léon Bollée

Léon Bollée (1 April 1870 – 16 December 1913) was a French automobile manufacturer and inventor.

Léon Bollée
Leon Bollee.jpg
Born(1870-04-01)1 April 1870
Le Mans, France
Died16 December 1913(1913-12-16) (aged 43)
OccupationAutomobile manufacturer and inventor


Bollée's family were well known bellfounders and his father, Amédée Bollée (1844–1917), was the major pioneer in the automobile industry who produced several steam cars. Both Léon Bollée and his older brother Amédée-Ernest-Marie (1867–1926) became automobile manufacturers. The third brother was Camille.

Early inventionEdit

In 1885, at the age of 14, an early inventor, Léon Bollée made himself known by the construction of a kind of pedalo.

Calculating machinesEdit

Léon Bollée's Multiplier

In 1887, in order to help his father, a founder of bells, and to avoid errors in many calculations required for their manufacture, Bollée began work on three calculating machines: the Direct Multiplier, the Calculating Board and the Arithmographe. Bollée's Multiplier was the second successful direct-multiplying calculator (the first was Ramón Verea's) and it won a gold medal at the 1889 Paris Exposition. Three versions of the large multiplier and several smaller machines were developed by Bollée and the devices were patented in France, Belgium, Germany, the USA and Hungary.[1]


Léon Bollées Tricar, Schlumpf Collection, Mulhouse, France
Car of 1904, 7 Seats

Steam locomotiveEdit

In 1892, his father, Amédée Bollée produced a steam locomotive for the Chemin de fer du Finistère.


Bollée and his father entered a steam car, La Nouvelle, in the 1895 Paris–Bordeaux–Paris race and Bollée went on to develop a gasoline-powered vehicle in 1895 which was entered in the 1896 Paris–Marseille–Paris.[2]

Car manufacturingEdit

Bollée founded the company Léon Bollée Automobiles in 1895 in Le Mans. In 1896 he patented and began manufacturing the three-wheeled vehicles he had invented in 1895 which he called the Voiturette.

The position of the passenger, at the front, earned the Voiturette the nickname "Mother-in-law killer" ("Tue Belle-mère", in French). These had a horizontal motor and were equipped with rubber tires. A new model with many modifications was brought to the 1897 Paris-Dieppe race, driven by Paul Jamin,[3] and the Paris-Trouville race and won both events with respective speeds of 24 mph (39 km/h) and 28 mph (45 km/h).[2]

In April 1898, in France, Bollée won the "Critérium des Motocycle".

In 1903, Bollée produced his first big car. The company built two 4-cylinder models, one 28 hp 4.6-liter, and one 45 hp 8-litre engine. Both won the "Blackport Southport Speed Trials", in September 1904, in front of Dorothy Levitt's Gladiator.

In 1908, when Wilbur Wright visited France to demonstrate the Wright Brothers aircraft, Bollée let Wilbur use his Le Mans automobile factory.[4]

Bollée was injured in a flying accident in 1911 and never really recovered as he also had a pre-existing heart problem. He died in 1913. His widow continued to run the company but in 1924 it was bought by Morris Motors and the company was renamed Morris-Léon Bollée, the intention being to use the new company to sell Morris designs in France and circumvent the then current French import restrictions. Morris sold the company in 1931 to a group of investors who renamed it Societé Nouvelle Léon Bollée and production continued until 1933.


Bollée's daughter Élisabeth, a poet, married the Count Jean Maurice Gilbert de Vautibault in 1927, and later divorced de Vautibault to marry the artist Julien Binford. She died 11 July 1984.


  1. ^ "Léon Bollée's Arithmographe". IBM. Retrieved 5 October 2006.
  2. ^ a b "1898 Leon Bollee Tri-Car". Owls Head Transportation Museum. Archived from the original on 30 September 2006. Retrieved 5 October 2006.
  3. ^ Official Program, 24 Heures du Mans, 13–14 June 2009, Page 97.
  4. ^ Combs, Harry (1979). Kill Devil Hill: Discovering the Secret of the Wright Brothers. Englewood: TernStyle Press, Ltd. pp. 266–282. ISBN 0940053020.

External linksEdit