[Updated with answers] Starting tomorrow, a whole nother French Deadly Sins series will also look at this great era (and others), so let’s see revisit our classiques a bit. This photo, probably taken in the summer of 1954, purports to display the “New French Automobiles for 1955.” It’s a fairly good spread. How many can you name?
I blanked out the box, obviously. But there are a few interesting omissions in the photo, as well…
Which of these would you fancy taking home?
I’ll post the image’s missing text box as soon as — but let me tell you right now: even back in the ’50s, copy editing was not an exact science. There are some interesting issues with that text and with this selection of cars.
So here’s the photo with the text:
NEW FRENCH AUTOMOBILES for 1955 include (front row, from left to right): the Salmson 13CV limousine, the 7CV Peugeot 203, the 3CV Rovin, the 5CV Panhard “Junior,” and the 7CV Simca “Grand Large.” Back row, from left to right: the 11CV Renault “Frégate,” the 15CV Citroën (with hydropneumatic suspension), the 11CV Citroën, the 22CV Ford “Monte-Carlo,” the 7CV Ford 203 (behind the “Monte-Carlo”), the 12CV Hotchkiss-Grégoire, the 4CV Renault “Sport,” the Simca town coupé (behind the “Sport”), the 2CV Citroën, the 5CV Dyna Panhard and the 22CV Ford “Vendôme.”
Lots to unpack there already. First off, that there Salmson isn’t a “limousine” — neither the English nor the French usage of the term could fit the 2300 S. Same with “Simca town coupé” — its correct name is Simca Sport Coupé de Ville; that last bit, being part of the name (the convertible was “Simca Sport Week-End”), should not have been (mis)translated. And the “15CV Citroën” is really a 16CV Citroën 15-Six, a common enough mistake.
But I really must object to the “7CV Ford 203.” That’s a Peugeot 203 saloon, not some newfangled French Ford. Those are present with two heavyweights: the gorgeous Monte-Carlo, derived from the Ford Comète, and the glitzy Vedette Vendôme. Both were launched in 1953 with the big 3.9 litre Mistral flathead used on Ford SAF’s trucks and aimed at the Hotchkiss / Delahaye clientele. Not many took the bait, but then aside from draining its gas tank with unparalleled gusto, the Vendôme wasn’t much better than the plain old 13CV Vedette. The all-new 13 CV Vedette, absent from this picture but seen in October 1954, became a Simca in January 1955.
It seems most of you were stumped by the Rovin, that partially obscured little red car in the middle. These were some of the remnants of the Second Great Microcar Epoch, which began under the German occupation. The times were tough, but a huge variety of designs were attempted: EVs, pedal-cars, two-strokers, gazogenes, three-wheelers, FWD or rear-engined… They came in all shapes, but only in a size S. This continued after the war, albeit usually with petrol engines. This pretty Galy above, made in 1954-55 and powered by a single-cylinder two-stroke 250cc, could also have appeared somewhere in our ’55 French cartastrophe, next to that Rovin D4.
Launched in 1946, Robert de Rovin’s rear-engined “Motocar” was apparently one of the best of its kind. It was built at the old Delaunay-Belleville factory in Saint-Denis, which was almost akin to seeing Reliants coming out of R-R’s Crewe works. In the end, they really couldn’t compete with the Citroën 2CV and Renault 4CV, which had two extra doors and seats, at pretty much the same price. The D4 was Rovin’s final model; production stopped in 1954, but sales continued for about three additional years.
I’m not sure why this Hotchkiss-Grégoire is in this picture. my reaction was “Hotchkiss for 1955? Nope. Does not exist.” Looking into it, production stopped before June 1954 and sales were extremely poor: only seven FWD Grégoires and about 50 RWD Hotchkiss were sold during the first eight months of 1954. Hotchkiss had announced its merger with Delahaye in March of that year — and stated their intention to launch a new model. They did produce a couple of their Monceau saloons (and one coupé) to feature something at the Grand Palais in the fall of 1954, but this hasty reskin of the Hotchkiss 3.5 litre chassis was dead on arrival. So no, that one is definitely not a new French car for 1955.
There are a few missing pieces, too. For one, if Hotchkiss is allowed in, then why not the Delahaye 235? Production stopped in early 1954, but some were only sold a long while later. Chapron had some in stock until 1957.
Beyond such ghostly figures as the Delahaye, one could also picture a small horde of tiny sports cars, nipping at the 235’s well-fed heels. Alpine (who, to be fair, only got started in the spring of 1955), Arista, Autobleu (which bears its name well, in this case) and DB were representatives of this new generation of small sports cars, represented in the picture only by the Panhard Junior. These were not made in very big quantities, but at least equivalent to Hotchkiss or Salmson.
And where, may one ask, is Talbot in this picture? Already erased from all living memory? In the summer of 1954, Talbot-Lago could sell you a 4.5 litre 6-cyl. T26 GSL like the one below, or one of the handful of ugly Record saloons still in stock like the one above.
At FF 2.8m a pop in late 1954, the GSL was the most expensive French production car. Times were tough, but Talbot were busy working on a completely new car that, strangely enough, would be made to look exactly like the present model being made (in frighteningly small numbers) at the Suresnes factory. The new car would not be shown before April 1955.
Until this one came along, of course. Another missing car (the last one, I promise) is the Facel-Vega. The prototype was shown to the press in late July 1954 and they raved about it for weeks. The FV was a tad too short, so the production cars, from early 1955, are the slightly longer FV1. Okay, I’ll give that one a pass. A bit short-notice and brand new, the Facel-Vega ended up being the quintessential new French car of 1955.
So, yes. Just found a nice period picture that sparked something in me, and thought I’d share with the group…
This picture is the photo cover of a book, ” les voitures de grande série from Fabien Sabatès, edited in the 80ies.
The title is funny because if you look at some cars like Salmson or Hotchkiss Grégoire, they were very expensive and sold poorly.
Only Citroën, Peugeot and Renault survived…
Whoops! I got about 60%, but was then distracted by the 203 convertible. I’d either forgotten it existed or didn’t ever know, so I googled “1955 203”. Blow me down if the second photo to come up wasn’t le originale of the above, so in answer to your question, I can i/d ALL of them. But that would be cheating, which would be a sin, maybe even a deadly one on CC.
I also feel a little guilt for not paying attention in previous classes, Dr T, because a number of these have been mentioned in your dispatches before, yet still I couldn’t recall. I promise to be early, sit up the front and pay full attention to the ones from tomorrow. (lLast time, I was distracted by Neidemeyer, he was sitting down the back making funny noises and building a campervan).
Justy, I will join you in the “Time Out” corner. I suspect we have all been given the answers to these already. We should have been paying attention and not kicking each other under the table.
No fair! Mr. Tatra didn’t say there was gonna be a quiz!
Love your sense of humour, justy!
Baum, you naughty boy.
So who’s missing from this picture? There are a few….
I’ll take a stab.
Front row: 1?, 2 Peugeot, 3 ?, 4 Panhard Dyna, 5 Simca Aronde (?)
Second row: This is hard because they are parked by Frenchmen. 🙂
I see two Citroens and a Panhard, but that’s all I’ve got.
I think I have all but a couple but I eagerly await the reveal.
Back left is a Traction Avant Citroen of course. Made from 1934 all the way to 1957. The coolest getaway car from French films noir.
Guess the 1955 DS hadn’t come out yet. It was unveiled in October. A bit ironic that “New French Automobiles of 1955” doesn’t include the newest and greatest of them all.
If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make the practical problems go away, I’d take the Hotchkiss-Grégoire.
You and me both.
But it’s kind of strange that it’s here at all: they had stopped production by early 54…
I’ll take the 203. Three reasons: I like it. It’s a convertible and my collection lacks one. I wouldn’t be able to find parts for any of the others and I figure I would have a tough time even with this one. Yes, I generally like French cars. Had two. Lots of fun. Not practical though. The 203 reminds me of my father’s ’47 Oldsmobile.
That Ferrari looking yellow beauty is a Ford Comète.
I really wonder why Ford didn’t sell this by the million.
You just led me on a Wikipedia quest for information on this and the Ford Vendome and Vedette. I had no idea about the postwar Ford operation in France, which produced cars completely different from the UK Fords and I guess the German Fords as well, mostly looking like 3/4 scale ’49 Mercurys. I thought the Comete was probably a Ghia design, but it turns out it’s a facelifted version of a Facel bodied shortened platform Vedette sedan, which originally looked less Ghia. But who knows?
The Comete was originally a shortened Ford Vedette chassis (2.2L V8, later 2.4L). It was designed by Stabilimenti Farina and its body was produced by Facel.
The Monte-Carlo was simply a Comete with wire wheels, a Ferrari-esque grille and a great big 3.9L V8 from Ford’s truck range. It was basically the old Mercury side-valve, but with a higher compression ratio, producing 105 hp. This took the Monte-Carlo to about 155 kph, which isn’t terribly impressive.
It was the most expensive French Ford: FF 1.73m in 1955 (last year of production). The price of three Peugeot 203s… The Salmson 2300 S was a direct competitor: similarly priced, it had a much smaller (2.3L) engine but was far better performance-wise.
Ok… I recognize a Traction Avant in the back left. A 2CV (I guess that one’s kind of a gimme). A Panhard next to it. And that’s all I can identify. I’m sure there must be a couple of Peugeots and Renaults in there but I can’t ID them.
Somewhere in America there are mechanics and hapless past buyers of these cars, “of a certain age”, shuddering to themselves, turning red in the face and muttering obscene words in arcane, dead languages to themselves.
Mon Dieu! Quel parque de voitures!
Je recontre le Traction Avant, Renault 4 CV, Citroen 2 CV, Panhard Dyna et Peugeot 203.
My best estimate: Citroen Traction Avant 2 versions, Renault 4CV and Fregate, Citroen 2CV, Panhard Dyna Junior, Dyna Z and Dyna X, Peugeot 203, Simca Aronde, Simca Vedette, Hotchkiss(?).
Not expecting more than a C+ from the examiner.
I suspect that when I was 10 or 12 years old I could have identified most of them, but 50 years later I can of course see the TA, the 4CV and 2CV, the 203 and a couple of Panhards, perhaps a Simca Vedette and somethings fthe Hotchkiss/Gregoire ilk …. and that’s about it.
American cars of 1954 would all look generally similar and cars of 2019 would look much more generally similar when you get past the identifying grilles, as would French cars of 2019. But these look like the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. The Panhard in the back row stands out for being low, rounded and having no vestige of a prow hood or separate fenders, plus it has the grille of an electric car.
I didnt do very well, I got the TA of course and the Simca Aronde that was easy I owned one once upon a time, The Panhards and baby Renault, Pug Fregate but that was all epic fail, I know.