France is one of the three countries that really pushed the idea of the automobile in late 1800s. It even has it's own claim to being the first European country in which an automobile was built; although that is of course contested by the Germans and the Austrians. 
     
    There is no doubt that France has contributed much to motor car design, technology, motor sports and vehicle production methods. It is not by chance that the F.I.A. (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) has its head quarters in Paris.
     
    Though many of the once great French manufactures have now gone they have left their mark on the world through design terminology. De Dion axles, Panhard rods and "the Panhard system" to name a few. But more than just manufacturers France boasts the designs of Bugatti, Lago-Talbot, Delahay and Citroen. From works of art to functional classics, France is a country which embraced the motor car in it's earliest days and still does today. 

Thank you France for capitalising on all your positive opportunities
to make such an indelible presence in the history of motoring.
1769 Cugnot steam tractor.      

1/32nd scale kit 

   One of the earliest automobiles the world ever saw, possibly not the success it should have been; but then it was early days in the progress of steam power itself. 

1886 de Dion, Bouton & Trepardoux steam Quadricycle.

1/24th scale scratch built model.

   In 1882 a small Parisian engineering workshop run by Georges Bouton and Charles Trépardoux was visited by the Count de Dion who had seen their models and scientific toys, including a beautifully made small steam engine.

   Count de Dion himself had an engineering interest and he was looking for someone to work with him in building a steam vehicle to vie with the new spirit driven automobiles. The design is four wheeled but with the two driven rear wheels so close together it has the appearance of a tricycle. The vehicle also has pneumatic tyres which is one of the earliest uses of them on a motor car.

   A similar vehicle took part in the very first organised automobile competition in 1887, the 2km course ran from Neuilly Bridge to the Bois de Boulogne. Georges Bouton won the event on the de Dion, Bouton & Trépardoux machine.

1891 Panhard et Levassor 4hp automobile.            
        
1/24th scale scratch built model
           
   Rene Panhard experimented with cars in 1888, having set up to build engines for Daimler 2 years earlier in 1886, in partnership with Emile Levassor.

   by 1893 The Panhard system (as it was referred to despite being designed by Levassor) was now well established - Front wheel steering, front mounted engines, transmission (chain) to driven rear wheels and all the passengers facing forward - and remained the basic design layout for cars for decades.

   9 years later production had passed 1000 mark and cars were being sold in London by the Hon. Charles Rolls, who raced Panhards at this time.

1895 Panhard et Levassor Coupe.       

1/32nd scale Europe kit

    Rene Panhard experimented with cars from 1888, having set up to build engines for Daimler 2 years  earlier in partnership with Emile Levassor. 
    In 1891 they sold first the two cars, based on the Daimler engine they were building under licence, then 2 years later in 1893 they had sold 55 cars & 294 Daimler engines!

1895 P&L Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race car.      

1/32nd scale Europe kit conversion

   The Paris-Bordeaux-Paris Trial became the first real motor race, as all the 46 competitors started together, en mass. Émile Levassor (driving a two-cylinder, 1205 cc, 750-rpm, four-horsepower Daimler Phoenix engined car), started carefully, observing his opponents. Stopping regularly to check his car's components Levassor led for most of the race. 

   Arriving in Bordeaux several hours before anyone was expected Levassor found the driver who was to be his replacement was still asleep in a hotel, and no-one knew which one! Levassor accepted the situation calmly, woke the organisers to record his time, then, after taking a brief walk, eating some sandwiches (and having a drink of champagne), at 2:30 am he set off on the return leg to Paris. 

   After two days and nights behind the wheel Levassor drove triumphantly into Paris. His time for the 732 mile journey was 48hrs47min's, an average speed of just over 15mph. It was nearly six hours before the runner-up appeared.

1898 Panhard et Levassor racing car.

1/32nd scale scratch built model.

   Car #1 is PL's 1898 winning car from the Paris-Amsterdam race. 

   Although the rear wheels are still larger than the front other developments are clearly taking shape. 

   The car is lower and has an inclined steering wheel rather than a tiller and the electric spark ignition boosted the straight four cylinder 8hp engine up to 18hp.   

 1899 Renault Type A.

1/24th scale scratch built model

    Louis Renault, son of a button manufacturer, turned to cars and built a single cylinder De Dion engine powered prototype with shaft transmission as opposed to the more fashionable chain drive. Intended for his own pleasure it aroused much interest among his friends, who ordered replicas. The car has a unique feature for the period, it could be started from the drivers seat by the crank handle protruding from the dashboard, a feature popular with the lady drivers.

    Renault set up Renault Freres in March 1899 with 40,000 francs capital put up by his brothers.

    The car displayed at the Paris Automobile Salon in June and generated 60 orders. Renault then set up a factory and 179 cars were made in 1900, the first full year of production. This was the company’s first production car. 

1902 Renault 'K' type light car class racer.

1/43rd scale kit

   When the Renault brothers set up their company they immediately saw that racing brought car brands publicity and popularity. Starting out in the small car, or "voiturettes", categories they quickly made a name for themselves in the city-to-city races in the early years of the 29th century.

   Renault moved up a category for the 1902 Paris-Vienna event. They entered 3 Type K “light cars” alongside 4 of their small cars. Having to cross the Alps through the Arlberg Pass, 1,500m above sea level, the going was always going to be tough. 

    The Type K was small and light and nobody gave them much of a chance against the large and powerful vehicles. The Type K’s light weight made it very competitive on the steep roads and Marcel Renault took advantage to cross the finish line first, having covered the 1,300 km at an incredible average speed of 62.5kph! His winning time being 15:47:43.

1903 de Dietrich racing car.   

1/32nd scale kit conversion

   'Dietrich and Cie' of Luneville built it’s reputation in the manufacturer of railway stock. 
   In 1896 they started building motorised vehicles. Their first three-wheelers were designed by Leon Bollee’s older brother Amedee Bollee. Shortly after them, a young Ettore Bugatti was also employed to design a range of models for the new make. These Bugatti designed cars were to be driven by two, four and six-cylinder engines.

1904 10/12hp Darracq "Genevieve" 

Scratch built model in 1/24th scale.

   When it comes to complex layers of history that make a story hard to tell, then the history of Darracq is probably the example to prove it. Alexandre Darracq has the same mix of drive, ingenuity (both mechanical and financial) and awkwardness that seem to typify the many great designers and manufacturers in the history of motoring. Born in Bordeaux, France, on the 10th of November, 1855, Pierre-Alexandre Darracq was of Basque heritage. By the time he died in Monaco, 1931, Alexandre Darracq had proven himself a successful businessman having founded Gladiator bicycles (with all their own fame, records and race wins), designed an electric car, established his eponymous motor car company and manufactured his own design of cars in Suresnes, France and Coleman Street, London, Britain. 

1905 Panhard Tonneau Roi des Belges.          

1/32nd scale Europe kit

    This style of 18/24hp Panhard was named after a car built especially for the King of Belgium in 1904. The main feature of the car is the tulip shaping of the semi enclosed rear body work. The rear glass is also shaped but not toughened!   

1906 Renault town car.

1/32nd scale Pyro kit.  

    Louis Renault built a single cylinder De Dion engine powered prototype with shaft transmission as opposed to the more fashionable chain drive.   

    Intended for his own pleasure it aroused much interest among his friends, who ordered replicas. 

    Renault Freres was set up in March 1899. The car when displayed at the Paris Automobile Salon in June brought in 60 orders. Renault then set up a factory and 179 cars were made in 1900, the first full year of production. 

 1911 Renault AX.

1/28th scale Revell kit

   The AX series was in production from 1908 to 1914 and was especially popular with Paris Taxi drivers.

   It had a 2 cylinder engine displacing 1,060cc. It weighed in at 750kg but the little engine had enough power to propel the vehicle at speeds of up to 34mph.

1921 Bugatti Type 13 "Brescia".        

Scratch built model in 1/24th scale

   Bugatti's breakthrough model the Type 13 won a stunning victory at Brescia and was for evermore know by the Italian towns name. 
1923 Voisin C6 Laboratoire.       
    
1/24th scale scratch built model
   
       Voisin worked on the design of the C6 with Andre Lefebvre to give the world it's first monocoque chassis in 1923. 

   Drawing upon his aviation experience he set two precedents, using aircraft technology and one piece body/chassis construction, which were decades ahead of their time. 

   Unitary construction did become common practice in the 1950s but true monocoque designs really found their place in motor racing as late as 1962.

1926 Bugatti Type 41 "La Royale".    
         
1/24th scale Lindberg kit
    
   Bugatti had a dream to create a car so luxurious and perfect it would rival any Rolls-Royce, Duesenberg or Mercedes type luxury vehicle anywhere in the world.
          
   His dream came true with the type 41 Royale in 1926. They called it a whim, but for a whim it was pretty substantial. With a 15litre engine and claimed 300bhp (twice as much as a Rolls-Royce), a 180in's wheelbase which was even longer than a long chassis ‘Phantom’ and the same as a London bus, the bonnet was so long you could park a Mini on it; the Type 41 was a sensational car in its day.

1927 Darmont Sports. 

1/43rd scale Brumm conversion.

   The small French firm of Darmont started making Morgan three wheelers under licence before moving on to create their own machines along the lines of Morgan and Sandford designs but with a continental flair to them.

1927 Bugatti Type 35B road version.   

1/24th Monogram, 1/32nd Airfix and 1/76th Jet promo kits
 
   
The 35B came out in 1924 and became one of the most famous models of this Marque. 
   It had the rare distinction of being capable of winning G.P’s and also being available for sale to amateurs.
   Between the wars it was the most successful race car available, winning 12 major GP in 1926. It can claim over 2000 racing successes during its period of manufacture between 1924-31. 
1928 Bugatti Type 35B "W. Williams".    

Airfix 1/32nd scale kit conversion

   W. Williams was the French born son of an English horse breeder. Willy hid his racing activities in motorcycles and cars by racing under the pseudonym. His real name was William Charles Frederick Grover. Later in life he combined the name that had made him famous to become Grover-Williams.  
   Williams was not from an affluent background and had to work his way up in all walks of life. His crowning moment was winning the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, the car being the one modelled here. 
   Bugatti? Well enough said. 

1930s French Post bicycle.
            
1/35th scale Tamiya kit conversion
        
      The history of the bicycle has to include the influence of the French bicycle industry which has now spanned three centuries and seen two booms and is still relevant in the 21st century; and not just for the “Tour de France" bicycle race.
      This relatively inexpensive form of transport became popular with young men and created a boom in sales. Bicycle races were soon flourishing and bicycle magazines sold thousands of copies per week. This sowed the seeds for a post war rebirth of the French bicycle industry.

      The list of French bicycle firms is long and includes illustrious names like Michaux, Hurtu, Gitane, and Renault.

1930 Bugatti Type 35b.

1/24th scale Monogram kit 

   The Type 35 Bugatti made its debut in the 1924 French Grand Prix at Lyon and was  Immediately recognised as an outstanding machine combining mechanical functionality and handsome looks. The final version of the Type 35 series was the Type 35B (sometimes titled 35TC) of 1927 which had a 130hp, 2,262cc, straight 8-cyl engine.

    The engine was the heart and soul of the car featuring 5 main bearings for the crankshaft and roller bearings for the big ends which helped raise the safe engine rev’ limit by around 50% and thus increased power too. The cylinders were cast in pairs with an integral head  housing 2 inlet and 1 exhaust valve. The valves being operated by a single overhead camshaft. and cross over finger rockers. A Roots-type Bugatti supercharger helped raise performance to a top speed of 125mph, the car making 0-60mph in six seconds.

1934 Bugatti Type 59.         

1/18th scale Bburago kit

      Bugatti’s last serious Grand Prix car,  powered by a 3,257 cc twin-cam straight 8 engine. The rear suspension consisted of inverted semi-elliptic leaf springs and the wheel rims had external spokes and aluminium inner discs. It won minor GP’s but was not truly successful.

    It is a tribute to the innovative ideas and quality of build that the drawbacks Ettore Bugatti placed upon the cars by steadfastly sticking to two seat bodywork and cable operated brakes could be overcome.

   Jean-Pierre Wimille drove no.10 in the 1934 Monaco GP.   

1939 Citroen 15/6 'Traction Avant'.    

1/24th scale Heller kit 

   The ‘Traction’ was introduced at the 1934 Motor Show in 3 forms, the ‘7’,’11’ & ‘22’.  Andre Lefebvre was the man who organised the building of this revolutionary car in 13 months.

   But Andre Citroens firm met financial difficulties in 1934 and the Michelin Co. took over the factory. Citroen then proceeded with a more powerful car and the 15 with 2867cc 6 cyl. in line engine appeared in 1938. 

   In 1948 the engine was designed to rotate ‘clockwise’. Why it had rotated anti-clockwise before that date has never been known!

1939 Type 57 ‘tank’ le Mans Winner.      

1/24th scale, is from the Profil24 kit

   Bugatti had success in racing at le Mans and after winning the 1937 race decided it wasn’t worth the effort and expense of doing it again. Why would you want to prove you can win it when you already have!

   In 1939 Bugatti’s son convinced him that they should continue the le Mans programme but Ettore Bugatti put in a limit of his own. “As only one car can win, you can only build one car”.

   One car was built, and it duly won!

1991 Bugatti EB110

1/24th scale Heller kit.

    The promising rebirth of the name in 1991 gave us the EB110. It was named to recognise Mr. Bugatti's 110th birthday by using his initials instead of a traditional ‘type’ number. The companies aims outstripped it’s resources and it nearly collapsed to leave us bereft again, but VW stepped in to rescue Bugatti and have produced  some very modern super cars of outstanding quality to maintain the heritage of this most emotive brand name.

    This page will be added to regularly as the French cars on the website already are linked in and other French marques cars are added to the site.  Please keep popping back to see what is new on the site and within the French collection too. 
   Thank you for you continued support.