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History of The Automobile in France

French Auto Show DS CITROEN 1955

A great adventure that has been going on for more than 120 years now!

what first? without Tyres, a car is not going anywhere… right?

Early 1736, discovery of “Cahutchu” ; a natural rubber which is a renewable raw material extracted from the sap of the tropical rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), has been making automobile history a century later, introducing Tyres.

Charles Goodyear was an American self-taught chemist and manufacturing engineer who developed vulcanized rubber. Final manufacturing process was under control in 1839. After several tests, tyres were mounted the first time on a vehicule in 1895.

In France, Edouard and André MICHELIN who are tyre specialist built their first car called “l’éclair”;“flash lightning” 😛

They also participated to Paris to Bordeaux and back to Paris Car Racing, and they Did a successful car race.

michelin tyres

What about the first automobile in France?

“L’Obéissante” : “the Obedient” an impressive automobile would be considered as precursor of the first automobile regarding its whole structure and built by an Industrial named Amédée Bollée (1844–1917). It was also the first vehicule to obtain a driving license.

since the dawn of the automotive era

what about internal combustion engine? it Was engineered by Belgium Étienne Lenoir, then it was improved in theory though by French Beau de Rochas. But, the German Nikolaus Otto was able to design the first 4-stroke engine in 1876.

Another German Gottlieb Daimler did invest in industrial solutions that enabled motorization of a new generation of automobiles. Principle of design was French and developed by Messieurs Panhard and Levassor. Daimler is an awesome pioneer of internal-combustion engines and automobile development.

Panhard levassor manufacture 1917
Panhard and Levassor Manufacture

Diesel engine was designed in 1893 By German Rudolph Diesel as engineer, mainly used in industrial diesel engines since 1920s,  and adapted to automobiles from 1936. Quite noisy, smelly and polluting cars though, But 🙂  thanks to the injection pump designed by Robert Bosch, it became a powerful engine, consuming less fuel. Anyway, it is still about polluting cars nowadays, even if they improved diesel engine…

The Front-wheel drive cars : la Fameuse Traction Avant!

Since 1934, the elegant, powerful and performing sedan fascinated French people. Designed by talented Flaminio Bertoni, this model included significant innovations ; as a lower vehicule,  lighter weight car body, giving better grip on roads… the type 15 was gangsters and policemen Favorite cars too! 😛

 

Flaminio Bertoni designed also fabulous Cars as 2 cv and DS ! he was simply a prodigious designer.

Flaminio Bertoni citroen traction avant
flaminio bertoni the Best auto designer ever!

Between 1934 and 1957, 760 000 cars named  “Reines de la route” ; “King-of-the-Road models” were manufactured thanks to Michelin brothers.

For reminder, in 1919, André Citroën produced a car called Type A 10 HP. This one was equipped with electric lights, starter, one spare tyre! and manufactured and based on a mass production initially developped by Henry Ford in Detroit USA. About 27 millions of Ford T were produced between 1908 and 1927 while Citroën factory did assembly 30 Type A per day.

andre Citroën Type A 10 HP Advertising

the generalisation of private vehicles

 who was considered as the first car manufacturer?

In France, Armand PEUGEOT was considered as the oldest car manufacturer as he built the company’s first car in 1889, with also the Great Panhard and Levassor manufacturers though. Late 19th, Peugeot was especialized in household equipment, they manufactured coffee mills and their well-known Velocipedes!

By 1890, started the era of a four-wheeled car with a petrol-fuelled internal combustion engine built by Panhard under Daimler licence.

Did you know ? the word chauffeur-driven car came from the need to heat up engine spark plugs when the car is started! It was quite a long process though 🙂

Louis Renault was Passionate and exceptional mechanic.  In 1898, he built his first Renault type A. Then, he set up a company with his brothers.

Did you know ? There were several hundred car manufacturers in France by the early 1900s, but just Three car manufacturers in France nowadays! Uh-oh! 🙂

Car racing only made it possible to develop automobile, to democratize autos access to a large public! But Car racings also meant Danger! Too many accidents, high risks and many deads on the road as Marcel Renault who was killed when he crashed near Angouleme on the Paris-Madrid race in 1903… that is why they finally built racing tracks, like at Indianapolis with the businessman Carl G. Fisher early 1910s.

The Golden Age of automobile in France ran from the start of the 1920s to late 1940s. indeed, it was the Culmination of French Chic cars. Several renowned designers as Delage or Bugatti built amazing Luxury cars in that period.

Did you know ? Citroën Logotype was designed by André Citroën, depicting an herringbone gear teeth.

What is fantastic with Andre Citroën is about his clever marketing strategy! He invented cars advertising, as Toy cars, Publicity caravans… he also managed to get his emblematic logo; illuminated letters of thirty-metre high, placed on Eiffel Tower since 1925 until 1934. What a major achievement for Citroën!🙂

Since early 1950s until 1960s,  Renault company launched his fabulous 4 CV. Later, the great Renault 4 (4L for limousine)  was launched early 1960s, simple and robust car, easy to repair. A great success! 8 millions 4L in several versions sold! produced since 1961 until 1992. Another nice car Renault 5 (R5) was launched in 1972 until 1985.

greater mobility, more use of private cars

Back to Citroën. The adorable and Famous 2 CV was launched. This simple but robust car was manufactured since 1948 until 1990! manufactured during nearly 52 years. Wow! Very popular and very much appreciated by Frenchies and European people.  Easily identified due to its particular engine sound! 🙂, its  bigger sister, so the first one and similar was produced with a single light and named TPV (very small car) early 1930s.

Peugeot launched alsomarvelous cars as the 203 and 403 Cars early 1950s. 404 Peugeot early 1960s… The fabulous 205 peugeot was produced since 1982 until 1998, an average of 6 millions 205 sold. 205 Peugeot came in several and amazing versions over this period.

A revolutionary car model was conceived for Citroën company.

Her name : Citroën DS (Déesse) was launched in 1955. Oh well 😉 my favorite classic car ever! (hmm😉 to tell the truth, I’m also crazy about the Unique Bellissima Jaguar Mark II /Daimler V8/250 in Willow Green from 1960s…Anyone? 🙂)

DS car is a pure Beauty ; Aerodynamic design combining pure lines. DS was produced since 1955 until 1975. “She” was also French Presidents De Gaulle and Pompidou ultimate driver’s car. Then, another great Citroën Luxury car named Citroën SM was about to make a hit, but unfortunately, the first 1973 oil crisis among other causes for sure participated to ruin its great destiny…

 

Peugeot had to repurchase Citroën company in great difficulty in 1976. French group PSA Peugeot Citroën.

French Car Manufacturers Citroën – Peugeot – Renault Graphic Marks Logotypes:

 

Just as an aside 😉 My late uncle Michael was also a mechanical genius, he knew everything about automobiles. He was often asked to repair breakdowns even in Garages around.

I remember the way he used to respond me whenever I was arguing about the likely cause of my car breakdown or whenever asking : “ what if?…what about this?…” lol

Sure, I got on his nerves! 😛 But he ever told me though : “when it is about automotive mechanics or about Electricity, there are no stupid questions!”…

However, at some point 😉  he often said:   “hey You! “the know-it-all”, come here! and now place your small hands under the engine hood and tell me what you see, what you know!…”  🤔

oh my!… I usually replied: “Hmmm, oh well… anyway… you are the Boss!” (for sure, I had been keeping a very low profile). And he usually said : “Ah! now, leave my working area and go play somewhere else!”  (for sure, I had been keeping a very low profile again).

I went to Michael’s home, direct to his private room where he collected some fabulous small cars, finest and highly collectible ones. Once there, I usually shouted at him by the window:”Hey Boss! can I play with your small cars?”  Yep! 😉 I used to play with some of my favorites small cars, even if Michael always replied: “NO! Do Not Touch my Collection!!” … 🤔

One day he asked me to purchase two mechanical parts for my car (a little Peugeot 104).   I drove my car to a nearby garage, asked reference parts and paid. Once back at home, Michael instantly noticed parts were not the right ones at all! He was laughing out loud first! but he was also furious, and I got furious because of the stupid auto mechanic who had sold oversize parts for bigger Peugeot models, when he had already seen my car!

Like a Flash, Here I go… 😛

Vroom vroom! driving back to garage as fast as a Shelby GT500 Super Snake! Lol

I met the mechanic (HE : a mechanic? really?), but I can’t describe my “shout” at him! I will summarise that way: “Arrrgghh!!!!” as would say Snoopy 🙂

Vroom vroom! driving to Peugeot Car Dealer in town as fast as a Panhard Dyna Z!  where I explained the issue with the local garage. The guys there were laughing out loud hearing of car parts he sold me regarding my Peugeot model. The Director came to see me and did instantly refund all parts, plus gave me for free the right parts…while ‘leaving garage, he told me: “don’t worry Mademoiselle, I will shortly be handing him … on a serious note!”. (“I hope so!” I thought…)

Vroom vroom! driving back to Michael’s home, as fast as a Citroën Ami 8 Super! 😛

My conclusion about garage mechanics regarding my experience : Beware!

Nowadays, many frenchies are really fed up with those recent cars that are no longer working as they used to… in those precious times mentioned above and until 1990s, so before the electronic era… yep! the time when we could easily repair engine and parts… “Ah! c’était le bon temps!”

Note: informations regarding “History of The Automobile” come from documents/video reports source verified! and might be subject to relative impartiality and objectivity from Source writers.

Last but not least, article is dedicated to my Dear uncle Michael. I love you Dude! 💖

That’s all for now Folks! 😉  Thank you for reading! Thank you for Following and Sharing our blog too because it’s worth it.

& Enjoy your Day! ❤️

4 thoughts on “History of The Automobile in France

  1. Wonderfully written, facinating, interesting, and your anecdotes truly kept me chuckling! I especially loved your tale of the parts for the P104 and reference to Snoopy! Marvelous indeed. Thank you for the wonderful and informative read and I shall share in all my social media.

    Merci!

    1. Yeeeaah!😛 and I thought interesting to comment about my own personal experience of car repairS 😉 with my Dear Michael! LOL But later, after the death of Michael, I had to face again some other incompetent or corrupted mechanics! Bah! So! Vroom Vroom again 😛 I had to drive to garage/auto parts suppliers, as fast as a Citroën SM Mylord 😉 Merci mon Ami! 💖

  2. I thoroughly enjoy your articles – this one is fabulous! I love seeing the photos of the cars and their emblems. Very interesting. Thanks again for an entertaining and informative article!

    1. Merci JD 💖 & so pleased to hear from you 😉 I thoroughly enjoy your articles too, in the same way the vintageunscripted Blog you co-founded with nice authors. let’s keep in touch here and there😉 Last, you and your father are in my Thoughts! …

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