History of French Automobiles

by: Jason Perry

The First Car Ever Made

‡ Several Italians recorded designs for wind driven vehicles. The first was Guido da Vigevano in 1335. It was a windmill type drive to gears and thus to wheels. Later Leonardo da Vinci designed a clockwork driven tricycle with tiller steering and a differential mechanism between the rear wheels. (William W. Bottorff, µ2007¶)

Nicolas Cugnot
‡ The very first self-powered road vehicles were powered by steam engines and by that definition Nicolas Joseph Cugnot of France built the first automobile in 1769 - recognized by the British Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Club de France as being the first. So why do so many history books say that the automobile was invented by either Gottlieb Daimler or Karl Benz? It is because both Daimler and Benz invented highly successful and practical gasoline-powered vehicles that ushered in the age of modern automobiles. Daimler and Benz invented cars that looked and worked like the cars we use today. However, it is unfair to say that either man invented "the" automobile. (William W. Bottorff, µ2007¶)

Automobile Evolution Timeline
‡ 1680 - Dutch physicist, Christian Huygens designed (but never built) an internal combustion engine that was to be fueled with gunpowder. ‡ 1862 - Alphonse Beau de Rochas, a French civil engineer, patented but did not build a four-stroke engine (French patent #52,593, January 16, 1862).

Automobile Evolution Timeline
‡ 1883 - French engineer, Edouard DelamareDebouteville, built a single-cylinder four-stroke engine that ran on stove gas. It is not certain if he did indeed build a car, however, Delamare-Debouteville's designs were very advanced for the time - ahead of both Daimler and Benz in some ways at least on paper. ‡ 1885 - Gottlieb Daimler invented what is often recognized as the prototype of the modern gas engine with a vertical cylinder, and with gasoline injected through a carburetor (patented in 1887). Daimler first built a two-wheeled vehicle the "Reitwagen" (Riding Carriage) with this engine and a year later built the world's first four-wheeled motor vehicle. ‡ 1886 - On January 29, Karl Benz received the first patent (DRP No. 37435) for a gas-fueled car. ‡ 1890 - Wilhelm Maybach built the first four-cylinder, fourstroke engine.

The Duryea Brothers
‡ Running by February, 1893 and ready for road trials by September, 1893 the car built by Charles and Frank Duryea, brothers, was the first gasoline powered car in America. The first run on public roads was made on September 21, 1893 in Springfield, MA. They had purchased a used horse drawn buggy for $70 and installed a 4 HP, single cylinder gasoline engine.
(William W. Bottorff, µ2007)

First Gas-Powered Car in America

The First Automobile Race

‡ The first closed circuit automobile race held at Narragansett Park, Rhode Island, in September 1896. All four cars to the left are Duryeas, on the right is a Morris & Salom Electrobat. Thirteen Duryeas of the same design were produced in 1896.
(William W.Bottorff, µ2007¶)


The First Successful Car
‡ In this engraving Ransom Eli Olds is at the tiller of his first petrol powered car. Riding beside him is Frank G. Clark, who built the body and in the back are their wives. This car was running by 1896 but production of the Olds Motor Vehicle Company of Detroit did not begin until 1899. After an early failure with luxury vehicles they established the first really successful production with the classic Curved Dash
Oldsmobile.(William W. Bottorff, µ2007¶)

The First successful Production Car
‡ The Curved Dash Oldsmobile had a single cylinder engine, tiller steering and chain drive. It sold for $650. In 1901 600 were sold and the next years were 1902 - 2,500, 1903 - 4,000, 1904 - 5,000. In August 1904 Ransom Olds left the company to form Reo (for Ransom Eli Olds). Ransom E. Olds was the first mass producer of gasoline powered automobiles in the United States, even though Duryea was the first auto manufacturer with their 13 cars.
(William W. Bottorff, µ2007¶)

Curved Dash Oldsmobile

My µ1901¶Curved Dash Oldsmobile

‡ Peugeot is a major French car brand, part of PSA Peugeot Citroën. Peugeot's roots go back to bicycle manufacturing at the end of the 19th century. Its headquarters are in Paris, Avenue de la Grande Armée. Although the Peugeot factory had been in the manufacturing business for some time, their entry into the world of wheeled vehicles was by means of the bicycle. Armand Peugeot (1849-1915) (educated at the Ecole Centrale Paris) introduced the Peugeot "Le Grand Bi" penny-farthing in 1882 and a range of bicycles. Peugeot bicycles have been built until very recently, although the car company and bike company parted ways in 1926.

‡ Early History ‡ 1890 Armand Peugeot quickly abandons steam for petrol and produces the first Peugeot petrol-powered four-wheel car, the Type 2, fitted with a Daimler engine, at the Valentigney factory.

1892 Peugeot produces 29 cars and is the first company to fit rubber tires to a petrol-engine four-wheel car. Peugeot's Type 4 is a unique model, ordered by the Bey of Tunis

Citroën Traction Avant
- Released in 1934, the 'traction avant', as the name suggests, was a front wheel drive car - the first mass-produced in the world. It was also stylish, elegant, and sexy.

Citroen Vans
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Honorable mentions - the Citroën vans As well as producing a great series of classic cars Citroën also managed to produce a couple of 'classic' vans. photo copyright The van shown, the Citroen HY, was much loved by French tradesmen for many years and is still an occasional sight on the roads. It's much smaller brother, the Citroën Acadiane, was the forerunner of the 'small transit van' and is still regularly seen transporting hunters and their dogs around the countryside on a Sunday morning.


Citroën SM
‡ Perhaps the last Citroen to be considered a classic car, the SM (as you might guess approximately from the photo) was introduced in 1974.

Citroën DS
‡ Introduced in 1955 the Citroen DS had a couple of radical features, including being the first car to have disc brakes, and the curious self-leveling suspension that Citroën used for many years (I'm sure my grandfather would go for a drive in his Citroen just for the pleasure of starting the car and feeling it rise elegantly to position). Again super-stylish for its time, the DS subsequently came in various versions including estate and convertibles.



of the Parisian bourgeoisie. He was the youngest of five children (two sisters and two brothers). His father made his fortune in the trade of fabrics and buttons and his mother was the daughter of wealthy merchants. He had an early passion for mechanics and new techniques. The Renaults had a second home in Billancourt, near Paris. This what where he used the tool shed as his first workshop. There, he tinkered with an old Panhard engine until the age of 14.

Louis Renault was born in February 1877, in the heart

Renault Samsung QMX

‡ The Renault-Samsung QMX was just introduced at the Seoul Auto Show. It's a small SUV, powered by a Renault 1.7 turbo-diesel engine putting out 177 hp. Not sure if that's a misprint, as it seems to be a lot for such a small (turbo-diesel) engine.

Renault Twingo Compact
‡ ‡ Paris Auto Show: Renault Twingo Concept The Twingo is the smallest car Renault makes, and after several days spent driving around France, I feel confident in calling it the frumpiest of the French cars. But it's certainly economical in a country where fueling up a normal-size compact car (say, a Ford Focus rental car) costs 50-60 bucks a pop. Help could be on the way in the next redesign, though, because this concept car looks much sharper and more youthful than the current production Twingo. And with a turbocharged, 1.2liter four-cylinder engine good for 100 hp, this Twingo would likely scoot around nicely for a car in the featherweight class. Inside, of course, all the features that 20somethings supposedly want are in attendance -- in addition to a USB port, specific-branded ports for iPods and Nokia phones are included. And it goes without saying that there's internet access and an on-command interior light show. Electronic gimmicks aside, this would definitely be a good styling direction for Renault to take with the Twingo. It would be also be a good direction for good buddy Nissan to take with its U.S.-bound subcompacts.



Ettore Bugatti during his time as designer at de Dietrich, about 1902

Bugatti¶s History
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Education Ettore attended finishing school and went on to Milan's Academy of Art. He then began an apprenticeship at the Prinetti & Stucci bicycle factory. Technology The automobile had just been invented and young Bugatti was bewitched with its mechanics and technology. At the tender age of 17 years, he installed a motor on a tricycle. After that, he installed twin DeDeon engines on another tricycle. In 1897, he raced his first vehicle, a bicycle. First Bugatti Automobile By 1901, Bugatti had created his first automobile with the help of the Gulinelli brothers. He introduced it in Milan at the International Exhibition. The French Automobile Club presented him with the T2 prize for the vehicle's construction. The Mathias Contract Ettore Bugatti spent a great deal of time developing and building racecars. This made the de Dietrich Company unhappy. They felt his time would be better spent developing a series production. Since Bugatti wasn't obliged to accommodate de Dietrich, his contract was terminated. At this time Bugatti sought employment at Emi Mathias. He designed a new automobile and installed a 4-cylinder engine. Within two years, problems cropped up between Bugatti and Emil Mathias. Again, the contract was terminated.

‡ ‡

‡ ‡

The first Bugatti made in µ1901¶

Original Bugatti¶s

The Fastest Car in the World
‡ Bugatti has won more races than any other car company ever has, arguably making Bugatti the most successful car company ever. Not in terms of production volume or number of sales but as far as race winnings, and performance aspects they are number one, including being the first to surpass the 0-60 record made by the Maclaren F1.

Bugatti Grand Prix
‡ ‡ Based loosely on the Type 35B of the mid-1920s, the Type 51 Bugatti was yet another engineering triumph, a twin-camshaft supercharged car made 70 years ago. Today supercharging is making a comeback, but dual cams still aren't found on a lot of cars. Compared to cars of its day, it was an embarrassing powerhouse: Type 51s won Grand Prix races in Tunis, Monaco, Morocco, Geneva, France--in other words, these cars dominated until the mid-1930s. It's possible this car won the 1931 Belgian Grand Prix, although little else about its racing history is clearly documented. What is known, besides the fact that it is exceedingly rare, is that it is one of few Type 51s with its original coachwork, instrumentation and other interior touches. Although it was restored more than once, it appears that only cautious work was done, with an effort to preserve the history rather than gloss over it. 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix $700,000-$900,000; Christie's

Early Bugatti





µ1939¶ bugatti
This particular vehicle was a gift from Bugatti to the Prince of Persia on his wedding day.

Ralph Lauren¶s Atlantic
‡ Bugatti wins Louis Vuitton ‡ In September 1999, Ralph Lauren´s T57SC Atlantic won best of show at the Louis Vinton Classic at the Rockefeller Center, New York.

Atlantic Interior

Bugatti Atlantic

The new Bugatti Vayron

Bugatti Veyron
‡ Among the many options a Veyron buyer can order, are two one-carat diamonds, cut with 16 sunray facets (16 being the number of cylinders the engine features). The two diamonds reside, respectively, on the speedometer needle, and at the center of something Bugatti calls the "power meter." The latter shows how much of the motor's available mustard is being put to the pavement. We happen to think this gauge will only be a source of frustration for any Veyron owner (even if he gets the diamonds), since using all 986 horses even once will prove a challenge unless you also happen to own a private racetrack.

Bugatti Interior

Bugatti Interior

Special gauge tells how much power is left

Hydraulic spoiler that pops up for added traction

Bugatti µPur Sang¶

In µ2007¶ a race was proposed against the Bugatti and a jet.

Bugatti Concept

Bugatti Furniture
‡ Exceptional result for Carlo Bugatti furniture ‡ ‡ At a Christie's auction of works from the collection of the late New York dealer Allan Stone (New York, Rockefeller Center, 2007), big prices for the unusual resulted: a desk from about 1900 by furniture designer Carlo Bugatti made 10 times its estimate, fetching $1.56 million! This must be a record for any Carlo Bugatti furniture, and is in line with increasing prices for "products" from the other members of the Bugatti family, with a Rembrandt Bugatti sculpture "Lionne d'Afrique,´ from circa 1910, realizing $1,832,000 at a Christie's auction in June this year.

Bugatti Cologne

Bugatti Aircrafts

Ettore Bugatti¶s race plane
At the EAA Air Venture Museum in Oshkosh, WI resides the only example of a race plane designed by Ettore Bugatti.

Flight Simulator Game Option

‡ 1.) William W. Bottorff, 2007: http://www.ausbcomp.com/~bbott/cars/car hist.htm (The first car.com) ‡ 2.)Prewarcars.com ‡ 3.) thomas.forsman@swipnet.se

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful