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Although barely remembered today, Gobron-Brillie was among the French pioneers of the motor industry. Gustav Gobron and Eugene Brillie formed Societe des Moteurs Gobron-Brillie at Paris in 1898. Gobron had achieved fame by escaping by balloon from Paris during the Prussian War. Brillie, an engineer, had developed a novel engine using opposed pistons. Although Brillie left the company in 1903, his engines continued to be used until after World War I.
The concept is hard to imagine. Cylinders were cast in pairs, with two pistons in each cylinder. The lower pistons connected by normal connecting rods to the crankshaft. Rather than using a second crankshaft, as is done with modern opposed-piston diesels, the upper pistons connected to a crosshead, the ends of which were connected by rods to crankshaft throws 180 degrees out of phase with those for the lower pistons. Valves were set in opposing side pockets at the point where the two pistons reached their closest approach. The opposing motion of the pistons provides a balance such that all components may be very light. The first car used a vertical twin and performed well on a variety of fuels. The 1901 catalog claimed it would "perform with equal felicity on whisky, brandy or gin."
By 1900, Gobron-Brillie was building 150 cars per year. Nancienne in France and Nagant in Belgium took out licenses, and Botwoods of Ipswich sold them in England as Teras. Four-cylinder models were built in 1903, when one could choose coil, magneto or even hot tube ignition. A racing Gobron-Brillie broke the 100 mile per hour barrier in 1904. By 1907, engines ranged from 4,523 to 7,598 cc, and cars had twin transmission brakes and double chain drive. The next year saw both smaller and larger engines: a 2,650 cc four and a massive 11,398 cc six. The six cost £1,600 for chassis alone, when a Rolls was but £985.
A new company was organized after the war, Automobiles Gobron, in new premises at Levallois-Perret. Opposed-piston cars were continued, but eventually succeeded by a smaller, lighter vehicle with Chapuis-Dornier power. By 1925 it had been reduced to 8CV rating, and about 250 were built through 1927. The last Gobron automobile was a small sports car akin to Amilcar, with a new 1,496 cc sidevalve four which was Anzani-like but built by Gobron. Only two were built, and the company expired in 1930.