Ernest Ballot

Ernest Ballot

11/1/1870 - 0/0/1937

Gabriel Ernest Maurice Ballot made his name supplying engines to other manufacturers which included Delage, La Licorne and Mass. After the First World War he went into manufacturing complete vehicles. His cars were expensive and very well made, but as the market for shrank, the company was taken over by Hispano-Suiza and eventually closed.

Gabriel Ernest Maurice Ballot founded a manufacturing company in 1906 building engines for marine and automotive use. His reputation led to a demand for automobile and commercial vehicle engines from the rapidly expanding French motor industry. His customers included the established prestige companies Delage, La Licorne and Mass. As the automotive side of the business became dominant the company was reformed in 1910 with two prominent members of the automobile manufacturing establishment on the Board, Adolphe Clement-Bayard and Fernand Charron.
During the first world war the company manufactured Hispano-Suiza V8 aero-engines under licence and gained considerable experience at the same time.

Ballot also raced and won his class in the 1908 Gaillon Hill Climb, driving a Pierron powered by one of his own engines. Later in 1908 he took overall honours and two class wins at the Château Thierry Hillclimb on the edge of the Champagne region driving a Barré.

Ballot's first cars were built in 1919 with engines designed by Ernest Henry the legendary inventor of the twin overhead camshaft and 4 valves per cylinder layout whilst he was working for Peugeot in 1912. These straight-8 Ballot racing cars were entered for Indianapolis in 1919 with 4.9 litre engines and the French Grand Prix.

In 1919 Rene Thomas, driving a Ballot was serenely in the lead of the Targa Florio, or at least he was until his frantic crew was finally able to warn him of a fast approaching André Boillot. But for Thomas it was not enough as the Peugeot of Boillot flashed past. Only a mistake by Boillot could save Rene Thomas now, but still he could not give up and thus increased his speed. For Boillot all that was left was a mad dash down the finishing straight. Racing to the point of exhaustion he braked for the final corner - but he had braked two late for the treacherous conditions and the back of the car spun and hit the grandstand just thirty feet from the finish line. Dazed and bloodied they Boillot and his mechanic were pushed free from the structure and crossed the line in reverse! Shouts of protest greeted the crew but out from the crowd walked Ernest Ballot, the owner of the rival and second place car convinced a dejected André Boillot to return to his car, drive back to the point of their crash and re-cross the line in the right direction. Sacrificing a possible victory for his own car, Ernest Ballot's decision met with the approval of the crowd and André Boillot was declared the winner where upon he fainted straight away.

The regulations for 1921 limited the engine size to 3 litres and so the capacity was reduced to comply and the car was also fitted with Hallot brakes on the front. For the same meeting they also produced a 2 litre 4 cylinder racing car and this formed the basis of the first production Ballot which was designated the 2LS with 2 seat or cloverleaf bodies. With it's advanced engine, giving 75bhp, and racing pedigree it was a sensational car, but it was also very expensive at £1350 in the UK and only about 100 were sold.

The concurrent 2LT model was designed by Fernand Vadier with a single overhead camshaft engine, 2 valves per cylinder and was considerably cheaper at £795, but it could still exceed 90 mph. In 1925 it acquired Dewandre vacuum servo brakes and in all about 1,500 of the 2LT model were produced up to 1926. The 2LTS announced in 1924 was a sporting version with about 60bhp from a high performance engine with hemi-head and inclined valves and about 500 left the factory.

By 1926 the customers for this class of car expected 6 cylinder engines and so Ballot showed the 2LT6 at the Paris Show that year. It never went into production as they had decided to anticipate the fashion for multi-cylinders and launched the 2,618cc straight 8 RH in 1928. The designer of this gear driven single overhead camshaft engine was Marzloff at Unic. He never met Vadier who designed the chassis and it was not a great success as it was underpowered. The performance was improved by increasing it's capacity to 2,874cc and finally to 3,050 when it delivered 105bhp. Now designated the RH3 it was made in two wheelbase lengths, 130 or 142 inches which made it suitable for the fashionable coachbuilders such as Vanvooren and Figoni. The demand for expensive multi-cylinder cars evaporated almost as soon as it started

As the Depression spread from America to Europe and sales never rose beyond about 580 and the company was in decline.

In 1930 Ballot was taken over by Hispano-Suiza following Ernest Ballot dismissal by the chairman Pierre Forgeot. The RH3 had it's capacity increased to 4,580cc with a Hispano-Suiza 6 cylinder engine and was sold as the Ballot HS26 (for 26CV) until it was renamed the Hispano-Suiza Junior in late 1931. It survived until 1933, when the factory in Paris ceased car production.

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