Over the years, car manufacturers have come and gone, either because they couldn’t keep up with the market or they ran out of resources. One of the most interesting and obscure marques was Minerva. Named after the Roman goddess of wisdom, the company produced luxury cars during the early part of the 20th century. Minerva was founded by a Dutchman named Sylvain de Jong and we’re looking into the history of the company to see why it went defunct.
Named for wisdom
Minerva first started out in Belgium as a bicycle production company. They produced bicycles with lightweight clip-on engines that came in kit form as well. This was the case until 1904 when Minerva focused more on car production. The first motor that the company developed was a 6 hp four-cylinder model that expanded into a range of other vehicles like the Minervette cyclecar and 8-litre Kaiserpreis.
Minerva cars caught on in other places, with Charles S Rolls dealing them in England. The UK was the most important market and the Minervette became the cheapest car in the world at the time, selling for £105. In 1908, the company gained a license for the Knight Engine, which used double sleeve valves and ran smoothly. All future Minerva cars made use of the engine.
By 1911, Minerva had become the largest manufacturer in Belgium. The vehicles were sold as ‘The Car Of Kings and Queens’, with famous people from all over the world buying them. Customers included Henry Ford, King Albert and Impressionist Artist Anna Boch. The Minervas came with powerful 5.9 and 6.9-litre engines, putting them in the same class as Rolls-Royces and Mercedes.
During WW1, Minerva manufactured cars for the army, specialising in armoured motors that were mounted with machine guns. The cars were also used in hit and run attacks against the Germans.
Rise and fall
In the 1920s, Minerva continued to produce luxury cars that became even more popular around the world. The company produced over 2000 motors per year, with the majority being sold in England. What made a Minerva so appealing was that it could be seen as a less expensive version of a Rolls-Royce. Large cars remained a speciality, though smaller versions were introduced, such as the 2-litre four-cylinder 15CV and 3.4-litre six-cylinder 20CV.
Remembering The Importance Of Minerva Motors The 1930s saw the decline of Minerva, due to the financial crisis of the decade. The company merged with Imperia and they continued to produce Minervas until 1937. After WW2, Minerva were contracted to produce a version of the Land Rover 80 under licence for the Belgian army. Known as the Tout Terrain, the car eventually became the centre of a dispute between Land Rover and Minerva. The company won the case, though it could never bounce back and went out of business in 1956.