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Minerva

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Template:List of Minerva ModelsThe Minerva was an important Belgian luxury automobile manufactured from 1902 until 1938.

In 1883, a young Dutchman, Sylvain de Jong settled in Antwerp, Belgium. He started a bicycle factory and by the end of the century was producing motorcycles. In 1902 cars as well with a 6hp 4 cylinder model. In 1903 he founded Société Anonyme Minerva Motors in Berchem (Antwerp). Volume car production started in 1904 with a range of two, three and four cylinder models with chain drive and metal clad wooden chassis and the Minervette cyclecar. The 8 litre Kaiserpreis won the Belgian Circuit des Ardennes race in 1907.

A certain Charles S Rolls was a Minerva dealer in England selling the 2.9 litre 14hp. The most important market for the constructor remained England, where at GBP105 the small 636 cc single cylinder Minervette was the cheapest car on the market, followed by the Netherlands and France.

In 1908, Minerva got a worldwide Knight Engine license. The Knight motor developed by Charles Yale Knight in the United States used double sleeve valves and ran almost silently. All future Minervas would use these engines. Sporting successes continued with the new engines including the Austrian Alpine Trials and Swedish Winter Trials. Customers included the kings of Belgium, Sweden and Norway and Henry Ford.

After World War I, during which Sylvain de Jong and his engineers had headed to Amsterdam where they kept on developing parts, they returned to restart the production of luxury cars in 1920 with 20CV 3.6 litre 4 cylinder and 30CV 5.3 litre six cylinder models. The constructor's star rose in the United States as well where American filmstars, politicians and industrials liked the cars. The car had the same qualities as the Rolls-Royce, but was a little cheaper. In 1923 smaller models were introduced with the 2 litre four cylinder 15CV and 3.4 litre six cylinder 20CV with standard four wheel brakes. For 1927 there was a replacement for the 30CV with the 6 litre AK and also a new 2 litre six with the 12-14. Large cars continued to be something of a speciality and in 1930, the then almost compulsory for the time, straight eight was introduced in two sizes, the 6.6 litre AL and the 4 litre AP. The last Minerva was the 2 litre M4 of 1934 but it did not sell well. With the financial crisis in the 1930's the company was reformed as Société Nouvelle Minerva but in 1936 merged with the other major Belgian constructor Imperia. Imperia continued to make Minervas for a year and the AP until 1938 and from 1937 badged some of their cars and trucks for export to England and France as Minerva-Imperias. Just before the outbreak of the war a group of businessmen from Verviers bought out Minerva.

After World War II the company produced Land Rovers under license for the Belgian army up to 1953. There were plans to re-enter the car market but these did not get beyond the prototype stage. The company struggled for survival and made the Continental engined Land Rover like C20 until 1956.

Nowadays, there are still several Minervas all over the world in drivable condition.

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