1904 De Dion Bouton by Chris Sorenson – Bundaberg now
Seeing an old vintage car every day as a schoolboy sparked Chris Sorenson’s passion for vintage vehicles.
This passion has taken him and his prized vehicles on overseas trips for the London-Brighton race which celebrates the repeal of the Red Flag Act.
Q. Tell us about your De Dion Bouton and how you got involved with vintage vehicles?
A. My first car I had was a 1948 Morris, and from there it kind of progressed.
It’s a French car, it’s a De Dion Bouton and I’m not French so I’m probably still not saying it correctly.
It has a small eight horsepower single cylinder engine and it always starts.
It had a coat of paint and its upholstery redone somewhere in its lifetime.
Everything else, all the wood, all the floors, everything is the old car. The engine, everything.
It’s just one of those things that survives time.
The biggest job is really to keep the brass, all the headlights and taillights in order, because brass deteriorates really really quickly.
Because they don’t spin much, they don’t wear out, and if they wear out, I make parts out of them.
Q. What made you want to buy De Dion Bouton?
A. He used to sit in a showroom down town near the Kennedy Bridge in his later years, and I’m talking about the 80s.
I used to drive past it on the school bus every morning, go to Bundaberg High School and watch this, and I thought I would love to own this car.
We saved and saved, and saved some more, and finally we bought it.
Q. Can you tell us the history of the car?
A. It was sold through a London distributor ship in London… and it wears all these plates.
It was purchased by the manager of the Bundaberg foundry, a man named Mr. Parry in 1903, and he sent his foreman to arrange the purchase and shipment of the car.
I always thought it would be nice to bring it back to London, so we brought it back to London and it’s actually being visited where it came from.
We took it to London in 1989 with our two boys who all dressed up and we started in Hyde Park and laughed all the way to Brighton.
We won the Concours d’Elegance, which is very British so there’s a big trophy upstairs, it was a wonderful experience and to come home with that.
Q. Do you have any other vintage cars?
A. It’s a 1901 locomotive, so believe it or not, it’s three years older than our favorite lady here.
He was burned in a fire. And there was a lot of damage.
It’s a steam car and the first thing in the morning when you wake up you just can’t get out and run it.
It’s like a kettle on the stove. You need to light the fire in the bottom of the boiler and wait 15-20 minutes and check that the steam pressure will rise.
And once you’ve increased the steam pressure, you just open the valves and push the levers and it’s a tiller, so there’s no wheel.
Why do I have steam cars? Because I worked in a sugar factory that ran on steam and I went to sea on boats that at the time ran on steam.
Until it starts whistling like an old steam engine that was at the station, then all of a sudden you hear that chuff chuff and off you go.
Back when your wife was about to have a baby and you had to go to the hospital, how you did that and arrived at the right time in a steam car still baffles me!
More vehicle stories: Trevor Cooper’s 1988 Chevrolet Corvette