the staff of Motorsport Marketing
the staff of Motorsport Marketing Writer
12/13/16 1:41 p.m.

story and photography by Dirk de Jager

Belgium may be known for its chocolates, waffles and beer more than its car manufacturing, but before World War I, this small country—just a touch bigger than Maryland and squeezed between Holland, Germany, France and Luxembourg-made its mark on the automotive world.

To tell that story, we’ll need to rewind to more than a century ago–1907, to be exact–and travel to the Belgian countryside hamlet of Nessonvaux. The town sits between Liége, an economic hub teeming with festivals and folklore, and what is perhaps the most beautiful race track in the world, Spa-Francorchamps. Here, nestled in the hills among charming stone cottages, a factory occupied nearly 2 acres of land. Inside, a fledgling car company called Impéria was stretching its legs after moving out of a much smaller facility.

It needed the room.

Earlier that year, the press had fawned over the company’s elaborate debut at the auto show in Brussels. Now that company owner Adrien Gustave Hourmade had bought these new digs, Impéria could begin to meet the growing demand for its handsomely finished coaches. It could also start designing new models to show off at the year-end Paris Motor Show.

Under the arched glass ceiling of the Grand Palais that December, Impéria dazzled showgoers yet again with its machines, underlining its status as a manufacturer to watch. From there, the brand continued to build high-quality automobiles and a reputation to match.

But that momentum abruptly hit a wall in the form of World War I. German forces plundered the Nessonvaux factory, appropriating Impéria’s cars and equipment.

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