Voisin C28 Aerosport

Illustration for article titled Voisin C28 Aerosport

Sadly, most people know next to nothing about the 1935 Voisin C28 Aerosport other than the painfully obvious: it looks fantastic. As much a design study as it is a glimpse into the future, the C28 Aerosport was nonetheless actually built and driven. Eight vehicles in fact (some claim only 3-4), though only one blue example remains today. Equally sad, the 1935 Aerosport was the very last vehicle designed personally by Gabriel Voisin even though he lived until 1973. Luckily the C28 Aerosport is not only his finest product but his most important. Before understanding why the car is so significant (and without doubt voting it straight into our Fantasy Garage), we're going to take a look at the man behind the car.


Born in 1880, Voisin's first love was not cars, but airplanes. Actually it was flying, as airplanes had not been invented yet. In 1905 he built a glider and had it towed behind a boat. He was airborne for about 500 feet before he crashed and almost drowned. The next year he and his brother Charles started the world's first aviation firm, Les Freres Voisin. He stopped building planes after WWI, traumatized that his creations were used to kill so many people. His admirable pacifism is our gain as he turned his mechanical mind to cars. Fantastically great cars in fact, favored and beloved by the wealthy and powerful (like the French President). In all, over 11,000 Voisins were made and sold before Gabriel lost control of the company just before WW2.

Applying much of what he learned from aviation to automobiles yielded Voisin some major advantages over the competition, principally in regards to weight and aerodynamics. Exactly like today, the way to make a vehicle lighter is to use materials other than pig iron and steel. All Voisins benefited from the use of exotic materials. Especially aluminum, the use of which was exceedingly rare at the time. Gabriel favored sleeve-valve engines as they were far quieter than motors with cams. Sure, they left behind a trail of white smoke, but that's a small price to pay for such silent luxury! Voisin built loads of different engines, ranging from early straight-fours to radial 7-bangers to cylinder-war inspired V12s, all of which featured sleeves. His cars were also quite safe for the era, as his brother and business partner Charles was killed in a car crash in 1912. Traumatized, passenger safety became a design mandate for all Voisins.

Gabriel and Charles Voisin

Illustration for article titled Voisin C28 Aerosport

The C28 Aerosport came equipped with a 3.3-liter, 102-hp, sleeve-valve straight-6. Obviously, that's not a lot of power. The reason the car was fitted with such a relatively small motor was because it was produced at the height of the Great Depression. Faced with the awful choice of toning it down and building less wonderful cars, or staying the course, Voisin (thankfully) chose the latter. Honkin' V12s were the unfortunate economic casualties of his rather bold decision. And as Colin Chapman has popularized, more power isn't always the answer.

Illustration for article titled Voisin C28 Aerosport

If power was to be sacrificed, another aspect must then make up for it. Enter advanced aerodynamics. Chrysler had taken a stab the year before with the much less aesthetically pleasing though quite radical Airflow. But in our opinion, the C28 Aerosport gets it right. All the modern touches are present, from the way the body is integrated with the fender wings in a "pontoon" form to the fastback rear end. Voisin raised the "catwalks," (the space between the fender peaks and the hood) farther than anyone before him dared. The headlights were in turn buried in the catwalks. And even though the Aerosport is more than 80-years-old, the face (despite the vertical grill) looks surprisingly contemporary. Compare it to the nose of the modern Rolls-Royce Phantom and see for yourself.

Illustration for article titled Voisin C28 Aerosport

Other notable features include a vacuum controlled sliding roof, driver adjustable front and rear dampers and a preselector gearbox where the gear is first selected and then activated by pressing a pedal. Even if the C28 Aerosport didn't move at all we'd still want the sole copy to be included in our Garage. Long, low-slung and sleek with an insane attention to details (check out the triple wipers and the slatted bumpers) the C28 is another French heartbreaker. Knowing that its low weight and sophisticated aerodynamics make it an actual performer (100 mph in 1935 ain't shabby) only seals the deal. Plus it's stunning, simply, utterly stunning. Happy voting.


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The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage, So Far:
RUF RT12 | 1978 Aston Martin V8 Vantage | Honda 1300 Coupe 9 | 1931 Daimler Double Six 50 Corsica Drophead Coupe | Ferrari 288 GTO | Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 | 1970 Buick GSX 455 | First Generation BMW M Coupe | Bugatti Veyron 16.4 | Ford GT | Citroen SM | Porsche 928 | Jensen FF | DeTomaso Vallelunga | Audi Quattro S1 | Buick GNX | Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R | Honorary Fantasy Garager: The LS1 Powered Rotus | Lamborghini LM002 | Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe | Ferrari 250 GTO | Bentley Speed Six | Talbot-Lago T150C SS Figoni et Falaschi Raindrop/Teardrop Coupe | Porsche 917 | Audi RS4 Avant | Lamborghini Miura | Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 | BMW E39 M5 | Jaguar E-type | Mercedes-Benz 300 SL | Dodge Charger/Challenger R/T | Toyota 2000GT | Facel Vega HK500


[The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage appears every Wednesday. Readers vote the cars in or out. The idea is that we'll have 50 cars in our Fantasy Garage, the world's greatest mechanic and endless wads of cash. Would you like to nominate a car for the Fantasy Garage? Write tips@jalopnik.com with the subject line "Fantasy."]


burglar can't heart click anything

@jonnylieberman: Miffed at the double shot I took on you on this and the 928, huh?

I tend to think of JFG cars like this:

Long about when you are reaching driving age, you start to get into cars. You read the magazines, see the pictures, and look at the test results. You know all the stats by heart.

And then it happens. Maybe you see it. Maybe you hear it. Maybe you ride in it. The one car that changes everything. Gives you the chill down your spine. It becomes more than numbers, or stats, or CAD data. It touches your soul. And you never look at cars the same.

These are the cars I vote yes for for the JFG. They turn people who like cars into passionate gearheads.

For me it was the first time I noticed a fender flare on the back of a 911 Turbo. It was ridiculous, yet somehow perfect. I've since experienced automotive nirvana many times over in a variety of wonderful machines, but one day I will own my own copy of that fender flare, because that's what started it all.

Sure, this thing is very nice. The story is nice, too. But I will never see it. Very few ever will. And thus it will be "The One" for very few. This is why I voted no. It's a Frank Zappa, it can only truly be appreciated by someone who is already hopelessly entrenched into automotive lore.

And I'm still going to vote to toss the 928.