Unic was a French manufacturer founded in 1905, and active as an automobile producer until July 1938. After this the company continued to produce commercial vehicles, retaining its independence for a further fourteen years before being purchased in 1952 by Henri Pigozzi, who was keen to develop Unic as a commercial vehicle arm of the then flourishing Simca business.
Unic was founded by Georges Richard after he left Richard-Brasier. In 1905 Richard had a meeting with the entrepreneur-financier Baron Henri de Rothschild and obtained funding for the creation of the “société anonyme des automobiles Unic“, based at Puteaux. The objective was to manufacture “unique” (rather than mainstream) vehicles, and at the start the company made only light cars and taxis with two-cylinder and four-cylinder engines.
The taxi business would remain important to Unic for more than three decades, while Rothschild’s steady financial support through good times and bad, provided stability which sustained the business, critically during the immediate post-war years.
Although the manufacturer’s initial range was restricted to light cars, their popularity as taxis led to the production of delivery vans and other small utility style vehicles. The 1943 cc 12 CV (9 kW) four-cylinder model (used mainly as a taxi) was extremely successful and survived in production for nearly 20 years. (The engine was enlarged later to 2120 cc.) During World War I, taxis made by the company participated in the Marne operation. After World War I, a new four-cylinder (1847 cc) was offered, along with the taxis.
In 1922 the firm introduced a three-ton truck, called the Unic MSC, which marked the start of a switch towards production of larger commercial vehicles. 1922 was also the year when the founder of Unic, Georges Richard, died while awaiting transfer to a Paris clinic, following a motor accident en route to Rouen. Georges Dubois, hitherto in charge of vehicle testing, took on responsibility for the business.
During the 1920s, a 1997 cc sports model was marketed and in some models sleeve valve engines were used.
By the time of the 19th Paris Motor Show, in October 1924, Unic were exhibiting three passenger cars. All had four cylinder engines, although large 4-cylinder engines such as that fitted in the 16HP model were by now seen as rather old fashioned:
- Unic “Type L1T” 10 CV/HP: 4-cylinder 1843 cc: wheelbase 3,050 mm (120.1 in)
- Unic “Type L3T” 11 CV/HP: 4-cylinder 2000 cc: wheelbase 3,050 mm (120.1 in)
- Unic 16 CV/HP: 4-cylinder 3450 cc: wheelbase 3,450 mm (135.8 in)
Four years later, at the 22nd Paris Motor Show, only one of the two cars on show was fitted with a 4-cylinder engine. This was an evolution of the two-litre model exhibited in 1924, now branded as the Unic “Type L9”, with a 3,150 mm (124.0 in) wheelbase and usually fitted with “Torpedo” or “Berline” (saloon/sedan) bodies. However, for the 1929 model year attention was now focused on the company’s first 8-cylinder model. The new Unic 14 CV/HP “Type H1” featured a
2+1⁄2-litre straight-8 power unit and sat on a substantial 3,460 mm (136.2 in) wheelbase. It was priced at 55,000 francs in bare chassis form.