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Louis Hervé Coatalen (September 11, 1879 – May 23 1962)[1] was a Breton automobile engineer.

Coatalen was born in the Breton fishing town of Concarneau and went on to study engineering at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers at Cluny[1] (France).

After working for De Dion-Bouton, Clément-Bayard and Panhard-Levassor he left France to work in England in 1900. After a short time with the Crowden Motor Car Company he became chief engineer with the Humber Car Company in 1901.

In 1906 he went into partnership with William Hillman to form the Hillman-Coatalen company and it is alleged in 1907 he married one of Hillman's daughters, now disproved. The partnership was dissolved in 1909 when Coatalen moved from Coventry to Wolverhampton to join Sunbeam becoming joint managing director in 1914.

Coatalen's streamlined Nautilus in 1910

During World War I he designed aircraft engines for Sunbeam.

In 1920 Sunbeam joined with Talbot and Darracq to form STD Motors Ltd and Coatalen had a seat on the board as one of the directors remaining chief engineer of Sunbeam. His main interest became racing cars and Sunbeam became heavily involved in land speed record attempts including the successful 1000HP car of 1927 and the failed 'Silver Bullet' of 1930. In 1926 Sunbeam's racing activities were taken into the STD company and moved to Suresnes in France and although Coatalen continued working part time in Wolverhampton, he spent most of his time in Paris. STD failed in 1931 but its affairs were so complex it took until 1934 to sell the Suresnes works to Lago.

Coatalen's innovations included balancing the wheels (a technique also claimed by Sig Haugdahl), re-locating the oil pump into the sump, and he was an early advocate of shock absorbers.[2]

From the proceeds of his STD share sale, Coatalen bought control of the French branch of Lockheed hydraulics and from the income from this bought a yacht and a villa on the Isle of Capri. [1]

During World War II he lived in France although he had earlier taken out British citizenship and continued living there until his death.

Louis Coatalen married four times, in 1902 to Annie Ellen Davis (divorced 1906), in 1910 to Olive Bath (daughter of a Sunbeam director), in 1923 to Florence van Raalte and in 1934 to Amy Bridson.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1.  
  2. ^ "A History of Sunbeam".  


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