1989 commercial for Peugeot Cars “Takes your breath away”

The Peugeot family of Valentigney, Montbéliard, Franche-Comté, France, began manufacturing coffee grinders in the 1800s. Although the Peugeot factory had been in the manufacturing business since the 1700s, the company’s entry into the world of wheeled vehicles was by means of crinoline dresses, which used steel rods, leading to umbrella frames, wire wheels, and ultimately bicycles. Armand Peugeot introduced his “Le Grand Bi” penny-farthing in 1882 and along with a range of other bicycles. Peugeot bicycles continued to be built until very recently, although the car company and bike company parted ways in 1926.

Armand Peugeot became interested in the automobile early on, and after meeting with Gottlieb Daimler and others, was convinced of its viability. The first Peugeot automobile (a three-wheeled steam-powered car designed by Léon Serpollet) was produced in 1889; only four were made. Steam power was heavy and bulky and required lengthy warmup times. In 1890, after meeting Gottlieb Daimler and Emile Levassor, steam was abandoned in favour of a four-wheeled car with a petrol-fuelled internal combustion engine built by Panhard under Daimler licence. The car was more sophisticated than many of its contemporaries, with a three-point suspension and a sliding-gear transmission.

More cars followed, twenty-nine being built in 1892, forty in 1894, seventy-two in 1895, 156 in 1898, and fully three hundred in 1899. These early models were given “Type” numbers with the Type 12, for example, dating from 1895. Peugeot became the first manufacturer to fit rubber tires to a petrol-powered car that year (solid tires). Peugeot was also an early pioneer in motor racing, entering the 1894 Paris-Rouen Rally with five cars (placing second, third {Pierre Giffard, who had conceived the trial}, and fifth {Koechlin}) and the 1895 Paris-Bordeaux with three, where they were beaten by Panhard’s car (despite an average speed of 20.8 km/h (12.9 mph) and taking the 31,500 franc prize. This also marked the debut of Michelin pneumatic tyres in racing, also on a Peugeot; they proved insufficiently durable. Nevertheless, the vehicles were still very much horseless carriages in appearance and were steered by a tiller.

1896 saw the first Peugeot engines built; no longer were they reliant on Daimler. Designed by Rigoulot, the first engine was an 8 hp (6.0 kW) horizontal twin fitted to the back of the Type 15. It also served as the basis of a nearly exact copy produced by Rochet-Schneider. Further improvements followed: the engine moved to the front on the Type 48 and was soon under a hood (bonnet) at the front of the car, instead of hidden underneath; the steering wheel was adopted on the Type 36; and they began to look more like the modern car.

In 1896 Armand Peugeot broke away from Les Fils de Peugeot Frères to form his own company, Société Anonyme des Automobiles Peugeot, building a new factory at Audincourt to focus entirely on cars. In 1899, sales hit 300; total car sales for all of France that year were 1200. The same year, Lemaitre won the Nice-Castellane-Nice Rally in a special 5,850 cc (357 cu in) 20 hp (14.9 kW) racer.

At the 1901 Paris Salon, Peugeot debuted a tiny shaft-driven 652 cc (40 cu in) 5 hp (3.7 kW) one-cylinder, dubbed Bébé (Baby), and shed its conservative image, becoming a style leader. After placing nineteenth in the 1902 Paris-Vienna rally with a 50 hp (37.3 kW) 11,322 cc (691 cu in) racer, and failing to finish with two similar cars, Peugeot quit racing.

Peugeot added a motorcycle to its range in 1903, and motorcycles have been built under the Peugeot name ever since. By 1903, Peugeot produced half of the cars built in France, and they offered the 5 hp (4 kW) Bébé, a 6.5 hp (4.8 kW) four-seater, and an 8 hp (6.0 kW) and 12 hp (8.9 kW) resembling contemporary Mercedes models.

The 1907 Salon showed Peugeot’s first six-cylinder, and marked Tony Huber joining as engine builder. By 1910, Peugeot’s product line included a 1,149 cc (70 cu in) two-cylinder and six four-cylinders, of between 2 litres and 6 liters. In addition, a new factory opened the same year at Sochaux, which became the main plant in 1928.

A more famous name, Ettore Bugatti, designed the new 850 cc (52 cu in) four-cylinder Bébé of 1912. The same year, Peugeot returned to racing with a team of three driver-engineers (a breed typical of the pioneer period, exemplified by Enzo Ferrari among others): Jules Goux (graduate of Arts et Metiers, Paris), Paolo Zuccarelli (formerly of Hispano-Suiza), and Georges Boillot (collectively called Les Charlatans), with 26 year old Swiss engineer Ernest Henry to make their ideas reality. The company decided voiturette (light car) racing was not enough, and chose to try grandes épreuves (grand touring). They did so with an engineering tour de force: a DOHC 7.6 liter four cylinder (110×200 mm) with four valves per cylinder. It proved faster than other cars of its time, and Boillot won the 1912 French Grand Prix at an average of 68.45 mph (110.2 km/h), despite losing third gear and taking a twenty minute pit stop. In May 1913, Goux took one to Indianapolis, and won at an average of 75.92 mph (122.2 km/h), recording straightaway speeds of 93.5 mph (150.5 km/h).[12] In 1914, Boillot’s 3 liter L5 set a new Indy lap record of 99.5 mph (160.1 km/h), and Duray placed second (beaten by ex-Peugeot ace Réné Thomas in a 6,235 cc (380 cu in) Delage).[13] Another (driven by Boillot’s brother, André) placed in 1915; similar models won in 1916 (Dario Resta) and 1919 (Howdy Wilcox).

For the 1913 French Grand Prix, an improved L5 (with 5,655 cc (345 cu in) engine) was produced with a pioneering ballbearing crankshaft, gear-driven camshafts, and dry sump lubrication, all of which soon became standard on racing cars; unfortunately, Zuccarelli was killed during testing on public roads, but Boillot easily won the event, making him (and Peugeot) the race’s first double winner. For the 1914 French GP, Peugeot was overmatched by Mercedes, and despite a new innovation, four-wheel brakes (against the Benz’s rear-only), Georges proved unable to match them and the car broke down. (Surprisingly, a 1914 model turned a 103 mph (165.8 km/h) lap in practice at Indy in 1949, yet it failed to qualify.) Peugeot was more fortunate in 1915, winning at the French GP and Vanderbilt Cup.

During the First World War, Peugeot turned largely to arms production, becoming a major manufacturer of arms and military vehicles, from bicycles to tanks and shells.

Info taken from Wikipedia

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