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Minerva: Belgium’s rolls-Royce

Belgium’s finest building the best of best for kings, Henry Ford and the military… Yes, TANKS!

Weirdly, Belgian’s biggest car brand began with a Dutchman called Sylvain De Jong, who started to build bicycles in his factory in Antwerp. The company achieved great success and soon had enough capital to build motorcycles and dream about producing cars one day.

Minerva’s first motorcycle (1902) – Minerva-Tyres

Two years after the launch of their very first motorcycle, Minerva could make the jump to producing cars. Model names back then weren’t very creative. At first, there was the Type A, then AA, then AB and so on.

Minerva was known worldwide for its excellent quality and luxury. No wonder everyone referred to them as “The Belgian Rolls-Royce”.

This great status and prestige caught the attention of Albert I, king of Belgium, Swedish king Gustav V and even Henry Ford. They all bought at least one, even though there is no consensus on which model they bought. An American newspaper only reported that Henry Ford had bought a 16 HP Minerva chassis.

Henry Ford and Minerva –

Like all car manufacturers in those days, Minerva chose a bonnet ornament. It(s no big surprise they chose the Greek goddess of wisdom and arts after who the company is named.

Bonnet ornament – Pixels

No success is eternal. World War I caused the destruction of most of Belgium, including the Minerva factory. But at least the luxury car manufacturer built armoured cars in the first few days of the war in a desperate attempt to defend the city of Antwerp. Just 16 were built and they had an open-top so destroying the vehicles was easy.

Armoured car defending Hoboken, Antwerp – Wikipedia

After the war, the factory was quickly rebuilt and Minerva became one of the biggest names in the business with the new 30 HP model.

30 HP model (1920) – Minerva-Tyres

All was well for Minerva in the interbellum. More and more people were employed in the factories and dealer network, until the great depression… Global economic collapse is disastrous for a high-end car manufacturer. Bankruptcy was imminent in 1934, but luckily it could sort of be saved by Imperia that bought the company. I say sort of because in 1958, Minerva had to close the books and that was the end for the Belgian Rolls-Royce.

In 2013, the world could witness a useless attempt to bring Minerva back. The Minerva J.M. Brabazon concept car that looked like an Audi R8 from Primark would have a twin-turbo V12 and a top speed of 400+ km/h. Of course, we never heard from it again after the press release and personally, I am very glad.

I would rather see some kind of restomod than yet another ridiculous supercar with a million horsepower that will never exist. I don’t think Minerva will ever see the light of day again, but at least I can remember the fallen soldiers who defended Antwerp and the factory when I drive past the monument to honour them… Hopefully one day in a Minerva restomod.

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