Posted on: Jan 26, 2013
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Unique of the Week: 1958 Deutsch-Bonnet HBR 5


It may not look like much (especially without its engine) but the DB HBR 5 was a very well respected lightweight race car in its day.
Ask someone to name a French automaker and their reply will almost certainly be Peugeot and Citroen. However, there have been several others over the years. A case in point being Bugatti, a French company that its now in the hands of the Volkswagen Group. And then there's Deutsch-Bonnet, later known simply as DB, which was in business from 1938 until 1961. Founded just before the outbreak of World War II, the automaker first focused its attention on making lightweight race cars.

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After the war it expanded operations to include small street legal sports cars. One of its later and most successful models was the HBR 5, which was built from 1954 until 1959. With its fiberglass body the car became very popular in amateur sports racing also thanks to its slippery shape and front-wheel-drive which allowed for excellent traction. In later years, a HBR-5 actually set multiple Bonneville land speed records in its class. Power came courtesy from Panhard flat-two engines that could easily be modified for additional power by owners. All told, around 430 units of the standard HBR 5 were built.
But in 1960 and 1961 the company built an additional 10 cars. Called the "HBR 5 Super Rallye," these cars were basically a competition version of the base car lowered by roughly six inches. They also featured a more steeply raked windshield, plexiglass side windows and even more aluminum for the sole purpose of cutting weight and improving aerodynamics. As a result of these improvements, the Super Rallye took part in major events such as Le Mans 24 Hours in 1960 and 1961, the 1961 Rallye Monte Carlo and the Tour de France Automobile along with several other lesser known races.
The end for the HBR 5 came when the automaker was split up after a disagreement between its founders: Deutsch wanted to stick with Panhard engines while Bonnet favored Renault engines. The two also regularly disagreed on whether their cars should continue to be front-wheel-drive or mid-engined. This 1958 DB HBR 5 that's currently up for grabs on eBay previously took part in vintage racing events but hasn't been driven in 15 years. In fact, it doesn't even have an engine at the moment but it comes with a complete 850cc unit. However, it still has a race seat, roll bar and a fuel cell.
The seller claims that it can easily be brought back to life and commissioned once again as a vintage racer. The engine currently has 12,345 miles on it, which is really nothing considering its age. And for those looking to have a truly unique vintage weekend racer, get ready to spend at least $8,275, which is the current bid as of writing.

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by Jay Traugott
Unique of the Week: 1958 Deutsch-Bonnet HBR 5
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