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Ernest (?) Ballot

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#1 1920sracing

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 00:22

Has there been in the past a thread on the particulars surrounding Ernest (?) Ballot that would reveal any personal details, background, education, family, funding, passenger car activity etc. Anything but the racing. Does anyone have accurate information on, interpretation of him if it has not been in a thread. I have read Borgeson's article in AQ and all the rest of the standard accounts and would like some additional information as the artcile is not very specific and in fact is not very good.

I am at that point in the Ralph De Palma story and don't have much information about him.

If anyone can direct me to a source or a previous thred I would appreciate it.

Thanks for any help.

Gary Doyle, 1920sracing :|


#2 fines

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 16:16

Well, this is really Robert's métier but I'll give it a try. Judging from his somewhat lofty appearance, I'd say he must've come from a moneyed background - or perhaps he was just excessively proud of his business success? Anyway, he started building industrial engines in Paris in either 1905 or 1908, which soon began to appear in cars as well (customers included Delage, Mass, Barré etc.). WW1 saw the business flourish, and I reckon it was surplus money from war activities that led to his car manufacturing plans.

The racing cars were intended to stir up interest, and the first three car types produced by Établissements Ballot were the well known racing cars 5L (1919), 3L (1920) and 2L (1921). The first production car, the 2LS was based upon the 2L and also introduced in 1921. Only about 50 or 100 (depending on source) were made. Soon after the somewhat detuned (SOHC) 2LT appeared, then in 1924 a sports version of that, the 2LTS. In 1927 a 6-cylinder car followed, the 2LT6, although one source insists this never went into production. In 1928 the RH, an 8-cylinder 2.6-litre car followed, then two years later the RH3 (8 cyl., 3000 cc).

Ballots were always expensive, well made cars, but in the thirties the market for such cars shrunk dramatically, and Ballot experienced financial difficulties, so that the company was taken over by Hispano-Suiza in 1931. For a couple of years the Hisso Junior was built in the Paris works as Ballot HS26 (it had a Ballot chassis), then Ballot closed for good.

About M. Ballot: most sources refer to Ernest Ballot, but I've seen Édouard Ballot as well, and a brother named Maurice appears as a co-founder and -owner in one source.

#3 1920sracing

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 18:08

Michael, Thank you as always.

Gary Doyle

#4 ReWind

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 19:17

His full name was Gabriel Ernest Maurice Ballot.

There seems to be a lot of informations on this website
but unfortunately it is unwilling to open. The HTML version http://www.google.co...lot" 1870&hl=de
opens but the text is so tiny that it is in fact unreadable.

I was only able to extract the following:

Page 1
20 March 2002
Gabriel Ernest Maurice Ballot once told some friends: ‘My engines never stop – at least, they would never stop if somebody didn’t switch them off!’ It was no vain boast. Gabriel Ernest was the Ballot behind the famous eight-cylinder racing cars and the well known 2LS, 2LT and 2LTS production models of the post-WWI era. But at that time he was speaking about the thousand or so bread-and-butter four-cylinder engines he had sold to a large number of car manufacturers soon after the turn of the century. Ernest Ballot, as he was usually called, was born on 11th January, 1870, in Angoulême, in the Cognac region of southwestern France. His father, Emmanuel, was a tailor; the family were of modest means. Young Ernest seems to have had no academic inclinations; at 17 he enlisted in the French Navy as an apprentice sailor. Two years later he transferred to the Navy’s engineering school and was promoted to Second Master Mechanic in 1894. Shortly afterwards he resigned from the Navy and returned to Angoulême. This explains why all Ballot engines and cars
featured a finely worked anchor on their radiator or, in the case of the Indianapolis cars, on the fuel
tank. Ernest had learned mechanical engineering through the Navy and he would never forget it. He had also acquired a taste for things done well there, for clean premises and perfection in workmanship.. We don’t know exactly what Ballot did during the decade after leaving the Navy. He may have gone back to sea as a ship’s engineer, or he may have set up a small factory in his home town. We next hear of him in 1904 when he and his partner, Julien Faivre, rented a factory at 105
Boulevard Brune, in the southern inner suburbs of Paris, not far from the exhibition ground where
Rétromobile is held today. They had decided, like so many others, to manufacture petrol engines, not only for the automobile industry, but also for all sorts of other applications including ships,
electricity generators and stationary engines. Although they had to equip the factory with a
full set of machine tools and other equipment for this endeavour, engine production began fairly
quickly. It was certainly under way well before the two associates founded their limited partnership, Ballot et Cie, on 1st April, 1907. Until the autumn of that year, Ballot engines
were virtually unknown in the motor industry. The factory did not begin advertising until the end of
October. By then, Ernest and his friend had had Above: Strength in Diversity
Before entering car production in 1921with the advanced two-litre, twin cam engines designed
by Ernest Henry, Ernest Ballot made his name supplying simple side valve power units to other manufacturers. Marc Douëzy and Nicolas Boissier recall Ballot’s days as a producer of proprietory engines their first competition success. At the Château Thierry Hillclimb, a Prunel et Dumas car, powered by one of the new Ballot engines, had won its class in the touring category. These first Ballot engines were shown at the Paris Automobile Exhibition at the end of 1907. Their 4AN engine of 16/20hp, with dimensions of 95 by 120mm, was displayed on the stand. It had four separate cylinders with two camshafts and lateral ball thrust bearings. The pistons were made of steel, but were very light and had three rings. The con rods were steel forgings with four big end bolts. All the gears were helical. At the Ballot stand one engine was displayed upside down to show the integral crankcase, which enabled the mechanic to remove the engine from the chassis easily.
Ernest Ballot did not limit his interest to the automobile market. From the start he sold engines to other industries. Boats powered by Ballot marine engines won prizes as early as 1907: a Mr Holmes won two gold medals in the Scottish Reliability Trial, and a first in both the Irish
Reliability Trial and the Brooke Trophy at Lowestoft with his Ballot powered motor boat, Ravissant.
Ballot engines were delivered complete with carburettor, inlet and exhaust manifolds, oil pump
and supplementary oil tank. They could be bolted directly to the chassis and fired up. That’s probably what Louis Pierron did when he built the two racing cars he entered into the
1908 Gaillon Hill Climb, which took place on 4th October. This was the first year that the winners
were ranked on the basis of an elaborate formula that took engine efficiency into account. One
Pierron car, driven by Ernest Ballot himself, came first in class. He was pictured on the
cover of the weekly, Les Locomotions Mécaniques. The other Pierron won the B category (engine
bore from 76 to 85mm). This probably had a Ballot 4DM (85 by 105mm) engine. A Mass car
was the winner of class D (bore 101 to 110mm) with a 4BN Ballot engine (110 by 130mm).
It was a pretty satisfying day for Ballot. One competitor told the assembled journalists: ‘The
Ballot engine is a spoil-sport in hillclimbing — no-one can beat it.’ In fact the organisers of the event set up so many classes that almost everyone was sure of winning something. Still, for a first try it was a good result and showed that Ballot engines could climb the mile-long, one in ten gradient of Sainte Barbe hill. But it proved to be more than a flash in the pan. Later in 1908 Ernest was overall winner and winner of two classes at the Château Thierry Hillclimb on the edge of the Champagne region. He was driving a 12/14 hp phaeton made by Barré, one of France’s largest provincial car makers, with an output of around 300 chassis per year. They were one of the first makes to put their trust in Ballot engines. Foreign competitors were also very successful. The Maharajah of Cooch Behar won the Bombay Reliability Trials in a Mass powered by a 16/20 hp Ballot after driving 590 miles non-stop. In the same year, Barré cars won in the Irish Reliability
Trials and at the Saltburn Speed Trials. Ballot engines had now become well known throughout Europe. They were even fitted to the road rollers in Paris for the benefit of pedestrians who had been bothered by the fumes of the old heavy-oil engines. In 1909 the Delage factory asked Ballot for a small capacity four-cylinder engine. Up to this time Delage had been faithful to the de Dion single-cylinder unit. But these sturdy, high revving little engines were becoming less fashionable and the workmanship and silence of the Ballot engines appealed to Louis Delage. A condition of the deal was that up to 50per cent of the engines would be manufactured by the Delage factory from Ballot’s drawings. By 1913 all Ballot-Delage engines were manufactured by the Delage plant. They had become more Delage than Ballot, thanks to the skill of Louis Delage’s new engineer, Arthur Michelat, better known for his racing cars at the ACF Grand Prix. At the end of the year two new engines were displayed on the Ballot stand at the Paris Salon: the type 1E 8/9hp single-cylinder (100 by 120mm) and a type 4F 10/12hp four-cylinder monobloc (75 by 120mm). Separate cylinders were going quite out of fashion at that time. All the good reasons given a year earlier to justify their use — such as easier casting and cheaper repair

#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 21:07

Reinhard/Gary. That website is the former one of The Automobile magazine. They are now at www.oldcar-discoveries.com but you should be able to access the article, which was published in March 2002, with this link:


The site search also throws up another five articles which mention Ballot.

#6 Tim Murray

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Posted 19 June 2016 - 17:45

I've recently come across several references, including Wikipedia and Paul Frère, quoting Monsieur Ballot's name as Édouard, not Ernest. I was therefore beginning to have my doubts, until I found this old thread confirming that he was Gabriel Ernest Maurice Ballot, as Reinhard posted above. So who was Édouard? In his book Auto Racing Comes of Age Robert Dick names the Ballot frères as Ernest and Albert:


So can we fix the mystery of Édouard? Was he another Ballot frère, or was he just a mistake made by someone a long time ago which is still being perpetuated?

#7 Tim Murray

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 07:11

The link below gives the names of the brothers as Édouard and Ernest, and refers several times in the text to 'Ernest-Maurice'. If Ernest was really Ernest-Maurice, this could possibly explain the confusion over the brothers' names that appears in so many online links.


#8 robert dick

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 11:36

The origin of "Gabriel Ernest Maurice Ballot" is the birth certificate.
"Ernest-Maurice Ballot" is based on Borgeson's Ballot story in Automobile Quarterly. It was Fernand Vadier, former engineer in the Ballot factory, who found the names "Ernest-Maurice Ballot" and "Albert Ballot" (his brother) mentioned as directors of the Ballot company in 1910. For Vadier, and also for René Thomas (Ballot driver in 1919), the first name normally used was Ernest - and not Ernest-Maurice or Maurice.
On the other hand, we can find "Maurice Ballot" as director of the "Fonderies Modernes de l'Automobile" in 1925.
In the contemporary press we can find "E. Ballot", "M. Ballot" - and "Maurice Ballot" especially after 1925. "E. Ballot" could also mean "Établissements Ballot" = the company; and "M. Ballot" could mean "Monsieur Ballot".
In October 1937, the magazine Motor Sport/London wrote: "We regret to record the death, in Paris, of M. Maurice Ballot, designer and manufacturer of Ballot cars".
In the 1950s and -60s, "Édouard Ballot" suddenly appeared, most probably an interprestation of "E. Ballot".

After the Ballot company was taken over by Hispano, Albert Ballot, the brother, opened his "Garage Florida" in the Rue de Courcelles, Paris. It was closed in December 1933.

#9 Tim Murray

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 11:58

Many thanks Robert. So 'Édouard' Ballot never existed.

#10 MarkBisset

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Posted 29 January 2022 - 08:47




Article on the Ballot 2LS factory racers of 1920-1922. Photo above, of Joe Boyer, Duesenberg 183 alongside Jules Goux #18, Ballot 2LS during the 1921 French GP at Le Mans (MotorSport)



Edited by MarkBisset, 29 January 2022 - 08:49.

#11 Roger Clark

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Posted 29 January 2022 - 12:21

This is the start of the race.  Cars were despatched in pairs at 30 second intervals.  Boyer and Goux were the last pair, we can see Dubonnet's Duesenberg, the last to leave in the distance.  It's interesting that the 2-litre Ballot has stayed with the Duesenberg on acceleration, but Boyer has two wheels in the rough, which may have hindered him.  Other photos show the terrible state of the road surface; one member of the Duesenberg team described it as a "goddam rock throwing contest".  Barely a driver or mechanic survived without being injured by flying stones.

#12 Michael Ferner

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Posted 29 January 2022 - 14:22

If you think racing cars over the Le Mans track in 1921 was dangerous, just spare a thought for the motorcycle racers who ran for three to four hours on the same track the day before!!