Francois Pilain had worked for Serpollet and for La Buire before starting on his own in 1893. He then worked for Vermorel before returning to Lyons in 1901 where he set up the Societe des Automobiles Pilain often known as SAP and these three letters also appeared on the hub-caps, the radiator core and some radiator emblems.
Francois Pilain was the uncle of Emile Pilain who later founded the Rolland Pilain in Tours.
Few cars were made by Francois Pilain before 1904. In 1906 he offered a chassis with a 6.2 liter and even a 8.6 4-cylinder engine. The cars had round radiators in the Delaunay – Belleville or Hotchkiss style.
Francois had to leave his own company in 1909 and the new directors introduced a range of smaller cars.
In 1913 a v-shaped radiator was adpopted. The last Pilain was sold in 1920 under the name S.L.I.M-Pilain.
(source for parts of this article via: Radiator Emblem Collection)
The body of the 1911 Pilain Tonneau Type 40 (below) is quite original because the front left-hand seat has to be tipped up in order to gain access to the rear seat.