Automotive visionaries, Laurin & Klement made sure the young brand from Mladá Boleslav had solid foundations with the iconic L&K FC…
Taking its inspiration from the F series of passenger cars, the FC was instrumental in the early days of the company with success in racing events both home and abroad with an almost certainty of crossing the finish line in pole position wherever they entered their cars.
It was racing driver and chief engineer Otto Hieronimus who developed 19 vehicles of this type between 1907 and 1909 albeit in different variants including 2.0 and 2.5 litres with varying dimensions for bore and stroke. All were rear-wheel-drive transferred directly from a three-speed gearbox.
Success was most prevalent in 1908 when it was entered several vehicles in different classes in the Zbraslav-Jíloviště hill climb race and secured six first places, five runner-up positions and a respectable third place.
Otto Hieronimus himself took first place in his class on the 686-kilometre long-distance drive from St. Petersburg to Moscow, thus proving the outstanding reliability of the vehicles he had designed. The L&K FC also left the competition behind at the demanding Prinz-Heinrich-Fahrt in Germany. Over nine days, the route covered 2,200 kilometres from Berlin via Kiel and Hamburg to Hanover, Cologne and Trier before the participants reached the finish in Frankfurt am Main.
Not satisfied with his achievements Otto Hieronimus went on to design the Laurin & Klement FCS – an overhead-valve engine with a powerful 3.5-litre power unit that went on to gain the first three places in its class straight away at Semmering hill climb in Austria.
In 1908, Otto Hieronymus took the wheel at the legendary Brooklands… the first test track built exclusively for racing and testing. On the 5.2-kilometre oval course with two banked bends, he reached an impressive speed of 118.72 km/h, setting a new speed record for the FCS vehicle class.
The most powerful and uncompromising variant of the FC was the FCR in 1909. It had a slim body and an arrow-shaped radiator and achieved an output of exactly 100 hp (74 kW) with a displacement of 5.6 litres. The top speed was 140 km/h, which was incredible at the time. The vehicle made its debut at the Semmering, where Hieronimus immediately secured another class victory. He also won the overall classification at the Zbraslav-Jíloviště and Trieste-Opicina hill climbs in 1911.
On 10 October, Count Kolowrat registered for the competition under the alias Doconald, as he did not want his father in America to find out about his racing exploits. However, Kolowrat waited in vain for his Laurin & Klement FC, which was supposed to be delivered by rail in a wooden crate. Giving up early was out of the question, though. So, he decided to put his faith in the Laurin & Klement Type F he had arrived with.
By then, the vehicle had clocked up 18,000 kilometres, a considerable mileage at the time. ‘Sascha’ and a mechanic spent the night preparing his L&K FC for the race; the pair stripped the car of everything that was not absolutely necessary for the competition.
They even removed the seats and mounted small wooden boxes without backrests in their place. By optimising the weight of the vehicle, Count Kolowrat had managed to compensate for his car’s power deficit. In his class, he beat all seven rivals. This success had one minor drawback for Kolowrat personally, however – the secret he had kept from his father was now history…
You may also like:
Poetry In Automotion – Škoda’s ‘Popular’ Monte Carlo