de Dion backed the mechanics Bouton and Trépardoux in
the production of steam carriages during the 1880s and
early 1890s. Trépardoux devised the `De Dion axle' for
power transmission on their heavy steam brakes, but
resigned in 1894 because De Dion and Bouton were dabbling
with petrol engines, which he regarded as heresy.
Bouton's single-cylinder petrol engine of 1895 ran at speeds of up to 3500 rpm on test, and powered sporting tricycles, built until 1901. A quadricycle appeared in 1899, and was quickly supplanted by the rear-engined 3.5 hp model D voiturette of 402cc. De Dion also produced engines in vast numbers for other manufacturers-by 1904, over 40,000 power units had been completed at their Puteaux factory.
By 1902, the rear-engined model had a 6 hp engine; it was then supplanted by the 8 hp Model K, with a front-mounted engine under a crocodile bonnet. This retained the neat two-speed expanding clutch transmission of its predecessor. Up to the war, all De Dions had decelerator pedals. The firm's first twin-cylinder car, the 12 hp S, came in 1903, and fours of 15 and 24 hp appeared two years later.
By the end of 1906, all models had conventional gearboxes, and the last 8 hp single was made in 1908. In 1910, De Dion introduced the first production V8 of any real merit, a 6.1 liter model, subsequently available with swept volumes of 7 liters, 7.8 liters and 14.7 liters, the latter aimed at the US market.
The De Dion axle was dropped in 1911, and the last single-cylinder engined model, the DE 1, was built in 1913. The V8 was built up to 1923, alongside dated fours; then in 1923 came the ohv 12/28, with aluminium pistons and fwb available as an extra.
In decline, the factory struggled on until 1927, and was temporarily closed down. It reopened with a new 2.5 liter straight-eight, offered alongside a 2 liter four, but few of either were sold, despite an uprating of the eight to 3 liters in 1930.
The last car, an 11 hp, was delivered in 1932, but the company built trucks until the late 1940s, then became a service garage. The name was last seen on motorcycles in the 1950s.
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