Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Car of the Month - November 2004

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Rally NC - two seater sport body - manufactured in 1930

There was a time when a car manufacturer could produce only a handful of cars each year and still be successful. That was in an era when skilled manual labor came relatively cheap and the price of a car was largely dictated by the materials used. Small, specialized manufacturers were able to build cars to order and charge enough for them to pay for the man-hours and materials while there were just enough customers who could afford it. This way a large number of tiny car factories existed up to the 1930s when economic recession prompted for a far more commercial manufacturing process and only the most famous of them were able to survive.
The French manufacturer Rally was a small scale operation located in Colombes which didn't survive the 1930s. Since the company started its production of small, lightweight sports cars in 1921 it competed with better known French marques as Amilcar and Salmson. The company quickly gained a reputation of producing rapid cars of high quality. Practically all of their cars were open 2-seaters particularly suited to be used in competition on normal roads, hence the name of the marque. But Rally sports cars were also entered in circuit events like the 24 hours of Le Mans. During the years the cars Rally produced grew from Harley-Davidson powered "cycle cars" to compact yet mature roadsters with a sturdy chassis and 4-cylinder engines.
The best known models Rally produced were the types ABC, NC and NCP, all from the late 1920s and early 1930s. Since the cars were largely built to order each one that left the factory was more or less unique. The engines which powered the Rally models usually came from outside manufacturers and could be specified by the customer; engines of the make SCAP were mostly used. The car on the picture however has a 4-cylinder Salmson powerplant with alloy cylinder head and two carburettors. Rally has produced a proprietary engine as well, a 4-cylinder with double overhead camshafts producing 40 hp @ 3800 rpm.
Rally didn't stray from the uncompromising competition designs which had rendered them a loyal following of customers, unlike Amilcar and Salmson. This lead to the downfall of the marque in 1933, when the demand for its true sports cars just wasn't enough to survive and there were no other, more practical, car designs to fall back on. The limited amount of cars Rally had produced were hardly known outside of France and this meant the marque was soon forgotten. But fortunately its loyal following kept many of the cars alive to this day and a small but increasing circle of connoisseurs of vintage sports cars appreciate and value the Rally marque highly, ensuring the future of the extant cars.

This Rally is a great example of that bygone time of myriads of small car makes which produced low quantities of special cars that flavored the car scene, and are now reduced to mere footnotes in history. But it's these footnotes that make a history come alive.

© André Ritzinger, Amsterdam, Holland

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