Darracq poster ad, London, England
Automobiles Darracq S.A. was a French motor vehicle manufacturing company founded in 1896 by Alexandre Darracq.
Using part of the substantial profit he had made from selling his Gladiator bicycle factory, Alexandre Darracq began operating from a plant in the Parisian suburb of Suresnes. The company started by building electric motor carriages until 1900 when they produced their first vehicle with an internal combustion engine. The Darracq automobile company prospered and the 1904 "Flying Fifteen" was a production model of exceptional quality that helped the company capture a ten percent share of the French auto market.
In 1902, Alexandre Darracq signed a contract with Adam Opel to jointly produce vehicles in Germany under the brand name "Opel Darracq." Three years later, the company expanded to England, incorporating the A. Darracq Company (1905) Limited with a capitalization of £650,000. In 1906 the company expanded to Portello, a Milan suburb in Italy. They established Societa Italinana Automobili Darracq (SIAD) through a licensing with Cavaliere Ugo Stella, an aristocrat from Milan. The business did not do well and Darracq shut it down in 1909 but a new partnership called Anonima Lombardo Fabbrica Automobili (ALFA) acquired the business which a few years later Alfa-Romeo. In 1907, Darracq formed Sociedad Anonima Espanola de Automoviles Darracq in Vitoria, Spain with a capitalization of of 1,000,000 pesetas.
The company began competing in auto racing as a way of gaining publicity for its products. Paul Baras drove a Darracq to a new Land speed record of 104.53 mph at Ostend, Belgium, on November 13, 1904. Another new world record was set by a Darraq vehicle on December 30, 1905 when Victor Héméry drove his V8 Special to a speed of 109.65 mph at Arles, France. As seen here in the British poster, a Darracq was timed at 122.45mph (197.06 km) in 1906. Darracq vehicles won the 1905 and 1906 Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island, New York in the United States and the Cuban race at Havana. Notable drivers who raced Darracqs were Vincenzo Florio, who two years later founded the Targa Florio, Louis Chevrolet, Victor Hémery and Louis Wagner.
In 1913 Alexandre Darracq sold out to British financial interests led by Owen Clegg who relocated to the Paris headquarters to take over as the Managing Director of the company. During World War I, the Darracq factory were converted to the production of various war materials. At war's end, in 1919, Darracq took over English Talbot and Talbot models were then marketed as Talbot-Darracqs. In 1920, the operation was reorganised as part of the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq (STD) conglomerate and in 1935, the company was purchased by the Rootes Group.
In 1953, a British film directed by Henry Cornelius and titled Genevieve, featured a 1904 Darracq as its centerpiece. The highly successful film sparked a huge increase in vintage automobile collecting and restoration.