Vintage racing enthusiast Dale Powers has had a long and varied automotive career, having owned many different sports and racing cars the like of; Jaguars, Porsches, half a dozen Ferraris including a Daytona and a 2-litre Testa Rossa, a Kurtis, an HRG, and a SS100. It would be hard to find a marque that he did not at one time own and drive.
Now that he is over 80 his enthusiasm for the labour of restoration is waning. He just sold a 1961 Deutsch Bonnet Le Mans that he recently purchased and put back on the road.
The DB, had been originally purchased by a serviceman and used to tour Europe. He shipped it back to the states where it sat garaged in Chicago until recently. Dale sold the DB to Alain Cerf and it will now become part of his extensive collection of French cars at the Cerf Collection in Pinellas Park, Florida.
DB (until 1947 known as Deutsch-Bonnet) was a French automobile maker between 1938 and 1961, based in Champigny-sur-Marne near Paris. The firm was founded by Charles Deutsch and René Bonnet, an offshoot of the Deutsch family’s existing coachbuilding shop which had been taken over by Bonnet in 1932. Immediately before the war the partners concentrated on making light-weight racing cars, but a few years after the war, starting with the presentation of a Panhard based cabriolet at the 1950 Paris Motor Show, the company also began to produce small road-going sports cars.
The steel-bodied, Frua-designed 1952 “Mille Miles” (celebrating class victories at the Mille Miglia) was a mini-GT with a 65 hp Panhard two-cylinder. It was somewhat expensive. By 1952 the company no longer had its own stand at the Paris motorshow, but one of their cars appeared as a star attraction on the large Panhard stand, reflecting the level of cooperation between the two businesses.
At the 1953 Paris Salon a Chausson-designed DB Coach in fibreglass, although it did not enter production until 1954. The HBR 4/5 model (1954–1959) was the partners’ most successful project to date, with several hundred of the little cars produced between 1954 and 1959. This was followed by the Le Mans convertible and hardtop, which was shown in 1959 and built by DB until 1962, and continued until 1964 by René Bonnet.
The Deutsch Bonnet company was defunct by 1961, as Deutsch and Bonnet’s differing design philosophies hamstrung further cooperation. They disagreed whether they should build cars of front-wheel drive or mid-engined design. There was also disagreement on which engines to use. Charles Deutsch, wanting to stick to Panhard engines, left DB in 1961 to found his own firm (CD). Bonnet founded Automobiles René Bonnet, producing cars powered by Renault engines. This business was later to become part of Matra Automobiles. Deutsch ended up an engineering consultant.
The number of DB’s built is not certain; estimates of up to 2,000 cars are mentioned but more conservative numbers are closer to one thousand.
About 660 of the Mille Miles/Coach/HBR were built, and 232 DB Le Mans (not including the Bonnet-built cars). Later versions could be equipped with engines of 1 and 1.3 litres, and superchargers were also available. No two cars may have been alike, as they were built according to customer specifications from a wide range of options.