Description: 1923 Chenard-Walcker Type U Tourer
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Like most things of French automotive origin, this unusual and rare gem oozes of that French penchant to be anything but ordinary. It bristles with all kinds of unexpected features, maybe some would be called foibles with the benefit of 80 years of motoring hindsight, but ordinary this car certainly is not. The restoration has in itself been somewhat the same; anything but ordinary.
But first we need to go back to the car's earliest days to capture its history as best is know.
Its Australian life started in 1923 when on arrival from France in chassis form as the biggest model made by the French company (3 litre motor and on the longest wheelbase). It was then fitted with a splendid navy blue body made in Sydney by Properts. The cost is not known but one article on a 1924 model, written in 1958, quotes the chassis cost before body at 1200 pounds. To put that in perspective a Chev 4, ready to drive away, no more to pay, cost around 230 pounds. So even with a hefty discount or allowance for inaccuracy in that article, the biggest Chenard et Walcker was indeed a pricey proposition.
The original owner is not known but somehow the car ended up in central Victoria for sale in St Arnaud in about 1934. From then on its history is well known. A Mr Davidson bought the car for his daughter who had married Archie McMaster and was living with no car some 20 miles from Hillston in NSW. Their young sons Archie Jnr and Lindsay drove the car back to Hillston and battled tyre problems the whole way. This was the middle of the Great Depression and whether tyres were not available, were too expensive, or the car proved unsatisfactory is unsure, but the car saw little service at its new home and ended up being shedded at another McMaster farm nearby.
Now next door there dwelled a young precocious child who was not even 10 years old, but would ride his bicycle to this farm for a regular play in the old blue car. The year was c 1940 and that boy on the bike was a young Maurie McKenzie. There the car stayed for quite a time, but now under a wilga tree where decay took hold. The radiator was removed for a welder but had no big cast brass badge as that had disappeared ages ago into young Maurice's collection of boyhood valuables.
Now into the 1950s, a prospective purchaser took a wheel off to see if he could get tyres to fit. He couldn't for they were metric and it never was returned. So rot away the Chenard et Walcker did, all through those wet years of the time.
In 1960: The old blue Chenard et Walcker was still there looking rather forlorn so Maurie did the McMasters a favour and relieved them of the car for the princely sum of nothing. After all it was incomplete! The C et W was left mostly alone. However a radiator did turn up from interstate minus its badge but of course we all know where Maurie found one don't we?
A rather astute local friend had been taking interest in the project and turned up one day with the missing wheel. He had spotted a big wire wheel lying in a paddock near the local tip, and remembering that Maurie needed one, took it home to see if it would fit. Low and behold it was the one that had been removed years earlier!
Now restoration moved on apace as the 1970s approached. Scriders in Leeton were doing the mechanical overhauling and a chap from Sydney was staying with Maurie and doing the body work. Of course these tasks take time and progress was slow between all the commitments of a family, running the farm, rallying (a 1913) Renault and (if like the rest of us) probable shortages of dosh.
By the 80s new guards had been made by a chap in ACT and a swish boat tail rear by experts in Castlemaine in Vic. At last there was light at the end of the restoration tunnel.
Eventually the extra body work and detailing was done and the car returned for upholstery to commence. There new hood bows were fabricated on site (another story for later) seat bases and springs made, dash assembly fitted and wiring completed over many pleasant evenings., weekends and cups of tea. That brings us to the end of our story and the car's progress to its finality.
Engine: 4 cyl 3L capacity. Non detachable head. Side valve. Updraught carburettor. Twin spark plug magneto ignition. Pressure fed crankshaft, Thermo*syphon cooling.
4 speed gate change gearbox mid mounted separately and coupled to the engine by a short prop shaft through the exposed cone type clutch. Final drive is by an enclosed torque tube driving to final reduction gears located in the brake assembly on the rear wheels.
Power (servo) brakes are operated to the front wheels through the foot brake, the rear wheel brakes being operated only by the hand brake and pushing the clutch firmly down operates another system on the transmission.
12V being directed by several switches on a large dash mounted assembly block that also contains fuses.