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A Colonial Oryx

A Colonial Oryx

Many European countries have a colonial history, sometimes going back many centuries. And although today we are not always proud of this history, the memories remain in many forms. To one of these forms belong the numerous photographs showing our ancestors in surroundings which have disappeared forever. Like these two photos, with a scene of a couple in a ca 1909 Oryx (the woman in charge of this cute little car!), a relative or friend and some servants. Obviously the setting is colonial, and in this case, probably situated in the Dutch East Indies. I'll tell you why I have that opinion.

One of the oldest motor car agents in The Netherlands was the firm Verwey & Lugard in The Hague, who represented Peugeot from 1899, and in later years makes like Spyker and Fiat. The firm prospered and around 1907 they decided to build a small car of their own. They called it V.L.A.M., the syllables standing for Verwey & Lugard Automobiel Maatschappij (= Company). If this was of completely own design is doubtful, but it is still not clear from where the design originated. Another firm in the same city, Auto-Palace, sold in 1908 also a voiturette under its name, the Auto-Palace, but this was clearly a rebadged Oryx (on the third photo; compare with the 1907 ad). Apparently, neither of these voiturettes was a success, as they disappeared very quickly from the market. Verwey & Lugard thought otherwise about the Oryx and from 1909 they sold them under their original name. Many of these were shipped to the Dutch East Indies and promoted there. On the last photo, you can see B.E. Lugard, one of the firm's associates, travelling in a 1910 Oryx through the Indies.

In a 1998 newspaper article the Dutch writer Rudy Kousbroek, who was born on Sumatra, tells about his father who had owned an Oryx at the time. He mentions the car used friction drive, which was definitely true for the Oryx in 1907 when many Oryx taxis drove around Berlin using this simple transmission type. From 1908, however, the Oryx was equipped by choice of the client with either a planetary transmission (yes, the same used by many American cars including the Model T Ford) or a conventional 3-speed gear with reverse. So Kousbroek (who was a Voisin-connoisseur by the way and who had corresponded with Gabriel Voisin for a long time!) was not correct in this, as all cars which were exported to the Dutch East Indies as Oryx already had these new transmission types.

Although Oryx was part of Dürkopp from 1909, the firm continued to produce their cars independently. From 1922 private car production was discontinued, and also the firm Verwey & Lugard disappeared shortly after WW1. The memories however remain and looking at these photos it is difficult not to become nostalgic...

Words and photographs by Ariejan Bos.



#2 Anders Svenfelt 2018-01-12 07:53
Regarding Oryx Motorwerke AG of Berlin and the colonial Past:Lord Kitchener, the british Commander-in chief in India, was perhaps the most prominent owner of a Oryx!
#1 Michael Schlenger 2018-01-12 00:58
Provided that the car in question really is an Oryx, one might add that it was manufactured by a company which was established in the German capital of Berlin in 1907.

The car in the picture was definitively built before 1910 which means it's an Type X 6/10 h.p. - if it's an Oryx.

To be honest, I am still a bit sceptical, as regards the identity of this car.

A high resolution scan of the badge on the radiator would be very much appreciated.

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