(first posted 1/4/2012. Updated 4/9/2016) I don’t read French very well, but somehow, someone got it in their heads to have French coachbuilder Chapron build a Presidential 1962 Rambler. The upshot was…predictable. De Gaulle loved his Citroens, either the regular DS, or the long and very French Citroen Chapron Presidential. He didn’t like this. I wonder why? If you can translate French, here’s the text that might explain it, as well as the Rambler’s custom grille:
partir d’une Renault Rambler ’62, le carrossier Chapron réalisa à la demande de la Régie de réaliser sur la base de son nouveau vaisseau amiral une voiture présidentielle à soumettre à l’Elysée, en vue de reprendre à Citroën, ce prestigieux marché dont elle était la spécialiste jusque dans les années Quarante. Il en résulte une auto assez austère, aux lignes assez rigides. La calandre a été simplifiée au maximum, la lunette arrière panoramique, transformée en lunette classique, laissant de larges custodes. Ce projet ne déclencha aucun enthousiasme de la part du Général De Gaulle, qui, depuis qu’il fut sauvé par sa DS et l’hydropneumatique de son carrosse au Petit-Clamart, fut et demeura un inconditionnel de la marque du Quai de Javel. Deux vues de la Rambler Renault carrossée par Chapron dans le but de la faire utiliser par l’Elysée, avec sa calandre fort simplifiée, ses custodes retravaillées et ses divers enjoliveurs chromés. L’insigne du carrossier est sur les ailes avant, sous la baguette de caisse. Le Général resta malgré l’offre du constructeur nationalisé, fidèle aux Citroën…
Google gave me this gibberish as a translation:
From a ’62 Rambler Renault, the coachbuilder Chapron realized at the request of the Board to perform on the basis of its new flagship car for submission to the presidential Elysee Palace, in order to return to Citroen, the prestigious market which she was the specialist until the forties. The result is a car rather austere lines rather rigid. The grille has been simplified to the maximum, the rear pan, turned into a classic bezel, leaving large custodians. This project does not trigger any enthusiasm on the part of General De Gaulle, who, since he was saved by his DS and hydropneumatic his coach at the Petit Clamart, was and remained a fan of the brand of the Quai de Javel. Two views of the Rambler Renault coachwork by Chapron in order to make use of the Elysee Palace, with its simplified grille fort, its custodians and its various reworked chrome bezels. The badge of the body shop is on the front fenders, under the baton of cash. The General remained despite the offer of the manufacturer nationalized, true to Citroën …
Here’s the more intelligible story, thanks to our astute (and French-speaking) commenters:
Renault wanted to recapture the French presidential limousine market from Citroen. Chapron wanted this for the prestige, as they had been the suppliers of such vehicles until the 1940s. So they commissioned Chapron to build one based on what I presume was the largest car they offered at the time, a Rambler. At the time, Renault was selling Belgian-built Ramblers as their top-line car, as they had no large cars of their own.
The “custodians” in the translations are the C-Pillars; the “simplified grille fort” is a “much simplified grille”, the “rear pan” is a panoramic rear window and the “baton of cash” is the chrome strip around the waistline. Quai de Javel in Paris is where the Citroën headquarters used to be, while Régie (meaning something like state-owned company) refers to Renault, which has been mostly privatized since.
I’ve always wanted my bezels to have large custodians and that my grill forts could be as simple as possible. However, my insufficient baton of cash precludes this.
“The Day of the Jackal” opens with a gripping recreation of the Petit Clamart assassination attempt referred to here, that made the French president so loyal to the Citroen DS. You can watch it on YouTube, it runs from 1:00 to about 5:45:
We see many shots of a long line of gorgeous black Goddesses. Take note of DS handling as the president’s car evades another DS attempting to block it.
As sensible and solid a car as George Romney’s Rambler was, it’s an ox-cart compared with the DS.
Yesterday, I was listening to a BBC panel discussion on the Algerian Revolution which mentioned the assassination attempt on Gen DeGaulle. Of course no mention was made of the AMC limo which CC has dutifully reported.
If the French had to go stateside for the basis for a limo (the first concept I am having trouble with), I cannot imagine anything less appealing to gallic sensibilities than a Rambler. The French are known for great flair and flourish in food, clothing styles and archetecture. So they get a Rambler for their State Limo? I have never been a great DeGaulle fan, but I am with him 100% on this.
Well, the French love Jerry Lewis, so…
That is going to leave a mark.
Well yes, at least my father did. He was born in 1941. I think he also had at least two Sydney Bechet records :-).
Seriously now, I’m not sure any head of state (French or other) would want to be seen in a car that looks like the Rambler Renault. I certainly wouldn’t if I were President (God forbid). De Gaulle had his DSs and JFK his Lincoln Continentals. Even the Eastern block managed to make a few stylish comrade movers at that time (say, Tatra 603s). If you risk being shot at, at least do it in style.
Dag meneer, how is Willem-Alexander doing?
Willem-Alexander is doing just fine, rolling down the road in his stretched Audi A8 4.2 V8 TDI. Well, both his father and his grandfather were German….just like August Horch and Rudolf Diesel (although born in France).
Sometimes, the comrades also preferred Citroens-here’s Erich Honecker of the German Democratic Republic arriving at a state function. (He ordered an even nicer stretched version but the Wall fell before it was delivered.)
Thanks, I didn’t know the story about the stretched version, I just found in Auto Bild Klassik that 2 of these were ordered from a Swedish coach builder. One of them was sold by Artcurial last year. The East German leaders were quite fond of the Volvo 264 as well. The Trabant was good enough for the toiling masses, apparently.
Was this representative of the Ramblers built by Renault in the early 1960s?
People were puzzled at the AMC-Renault matchup in 1978, but it was really just a solidifying of a long-standing relationship – only with the former patron-client becoming the benefactor-controller.
Well, if you want to built a presidential limousine, why a Rambler? It’s like trying to make a presidential limo today out of an Aveo or something. Presidents generally travel on cleared roads anyway, so size should not matter much. Why not start with something better, like an Imperial or a Lincoln? No wonder de Gaulle rejected it! The DS, while not large and luxurious by American standard, is the top of the line Citroen.
The grillework and slightly canted lights look nice; this would’ve looked nice on the ’62 Ambassador as that car shared the 108″ wheelbase and grille with the lesser Rambler Custom. Obviously, the roof on this one was raised for “regal” entries and exits, and, I’m sure, a concession for the very tall DeGaulle.
Would’ve made a good state vehicle for lesser VIP’s. Tall roof reminscent of period Daimlers. 327 AMC V-8 in this one??
Meant to say “Classic” vice “Custom”.
The front looks like the evil offspring of a 1960 Buick and a 1961 Imperial.
I like the smiley front grill better than the frowning AMC grills on the 61 Ambassador and American. The front door windows and windshield look a bit like the ones on the later mid 60s Rambler hardtops.
The “custodians” are the C-pillars, the “simplified grille fort” is a “much simplified grille”, the “rear pan” is a panoramic rear window and the “baton of cash” is the chrome strip around the waistline. Quai de Javel in Paris is where the Citroën headquarters used to be, while Régie (meaning something like state-owned company) refers to Renault, which has been mostly privatized since.
Hope this helps
I don’t know why, but I would have thought that Chapron would have done a better job of customizing the Rambler.
Plug-ugly in any language if you “aks” me. This is an insult to all “custodians”, of which I served my time as one!
Other sources suggest that in 1962, Renault was selling Belgian-built Ramblers at the top of its range (an arrangement eventually abandoned when the R16 made its debut). And indeed, that’s a contemporary Renault logo on the grille of this limo. Thus, the choice of a Rambler wasn’t at all illogical, however ungainly the results.
Thats right imported in CKD in to Belgium until 1967 ,2 years after the R16 lunch.
looking at the related web sites many were Dutch or Belgium registered Suspect
road taxes were lower than France and with no domestic models, American cars sold well. GM had a plant in Belgium too remember.Sales must have been very low in France due to high tax fees on a 3.2 ltr engine. Similar set up to the Spanish Barrious Dodge Dart .That to had a 3.2 ltr six engine..
De Gaulle made the right choice ride and handling of the Rambler would have been nowhere near as good as the Citroen never mind the looks.
According to the text, Renault wanted to recapture the French presidential limousine market from Citroen. They wanted their cars there for the prestige, and had been the suppliers until the 1940s. So they commissioned Chapron to build one based on what I presume was the largest car they offered at the time, a Rambler. If I recall, they were assembled in France, but that could be wishful thinking.
Some of the changes have been gone over in previous posts (grille, rear window) and the reasons De Gaulle refused, despite the fact that Renault was state-owned at the time.
If Renault was really serious about usurping Citroen, they should have had Chapron stretch the car to convert it into a real limousine, instead of just a modified sedan. That might have given it some “presence”. It would still have been ugly and ungainly, but less stubby-looking. As it is, it gives the impression that they did it on the cheap.
With the DS running around Paris by the thousands, it still looked completely appropriate for the French president to be seen using one, and a stock one at that.
By the way, thank you for that YouTube link, MikePDX. Can you imagine what that opening scene would have been like if a Rambler had been used instead of a DS? And there still would have been that long line of Citroens behind it, putting it to shame.
I don’t think they could. IIRC, Rambler shipped those cars CKD to Renault. I don’t know whether the stampings were the same as American Ramblers; those front fenders look like those off a 1961 Ambassador.
A roof job would be relatively easy. A chassis stretch, a lot more work.
I agree. But this is the French President we’re talking about. At the time, De Gaulle was arguably the most globally visible head of state after the U.S. president. I’m sure he and his advisors gave more than a little thought as to what car he should be seen in. The French auto industry had a ready-made option in the DS, one of the most elegant cars ever made and a car that screamed “France!” to the public.
Renault did not give him any reason to switch.
From what I’ve read, the Renault Rambler was a total badge-engineering job. Other than Renault badging, and the European bodyside running lights, it was a standard Rambler Classic. I’m pretty sure they were CKD kits.
Presidential or not, this is the first I’ve heard that Renault re-sold Ramblers. Clearly a preview of the Renaults old by AMC dealers here in the States 15 years later. But even if DeGaulle didn’t like it, I’m sure the mayor of Kenosha would have loved it.
French automobiles usually look like something that has been styled by a French pastry chef, but the Renault Rambler looks like a frumpy loaf of bread-small wonder De Gaulle
summarily rejected it. By comparison a Lada looks downright attractive.
One more thing…Renault did build a pretty nice looking Rambler a few years later, in Argentina, the IKA-Renault Torino.
I Israel we had a Kaiser-Frazer Manhattan for the prime minister and a presidential Studebaker Lark convertible, but both were assembled in Israel and represented the local car industry then, so it made sense of sorts.
The DS looked other worldly and futuristic. This looks like the clown car from a circus.
Bizarre, just bizarre! What a conceptual and stylistic mismatch! This feature should be titled “When Custom Coach-building Goes Horribly Wrong!” Once they drew it up, they should have had a hardy laugh, then set about selecting an appropriate luxury car basis. The only then-current AMC that might reasonably been the basis of a Presidential limousine was a 1961 Ambassador with its out-there frontal styling. At least it could feign being a ‘luxury’ car with a long, impressive hood!
Here’s an example of the type of Renault French presidents would have been pleased with, a 1932 Renault Reinstella Type 2 with a town car body by Kellner.
This was the last big Renault model (executive class), also used by the French president.
I just can’t imaging De Guaulle riding around around in that little lump of M__de… It has a 3rd World vibe to it. Interesting front end treatment though…
Interesting !! I see a bit of Rambler American too , with those “eyebrows” on the front of the hood. A mix of American and Classic !!
De Gaulle did use a Simca (formerly Ford) Vedette before the DS.
You want crude? How about a Ford V8-60 flathead?
The DS remains the definition of a French car, a characteristic the French makes lost in the 1990’s with the Camry-like Renault Laguna, Peugeot 405, Citroen Xantia and C5. Lately, to their credit, they’ve been trying to get that Frenchness back, as it can be a neat selling point, particularly in their domestic market.
The Rambler was a second-rate design by American standards, so couldn’t have been very appealing to de Gaulle.
Yes, glad to see the Simca made it here. DeGaulle favored both Simca and Citroen because they were privately-owned, so Renault was battling uphill even before they came up with this.
This reminds me of the strange Ghia-designed Checker from the late 60s in its lack of stately proportions. And the grille looks like one of those stylized “car” illustrations you’d see in body shop yellow pages ads back then.
As a former DS owner and mild fanatic, I have to say I’ve never been a fan of Henri Chapron’s designs – strange proportions and too much brightwork.
man,this thing is ugly enough to separate your retinas
it looks worse than a 61 American!
De Gaulle didn’t like the DS Presidential because it had a separation between front and rear compartiment.
By the way, it is told that the DS Presidential was built to be longer than american presidents’ Lincolns.
Yup. Presidential pissing contest…
Could not resist finding what the Citroen Chaparone Presidential looked like. Reminds me of some of the flying cars in the Jetson’s animated TV program from the 60s.
No matter how much you gussy it up, an unstretched ’62 Rambler is never going to be anything more than a crude, frumpy grocery-getter you buy for your wife… and only then if you don’t like your wife very much. A head of state has his/her image to think of, and no leader wishing to be respected would consent to be crammed into this thing’s midsize back seat, nor be assaulted by its Conestoga-like ride quality.
Especially not when your country has Citroens aplenty!
Renault did get to make a Presidential Rambler after all-here’s the IKA-Renault Ambassador used by Raul Alfonsin of Argentina in the 80’s:
I…just…I…no. Even with the Marchal headlamps, just no.
Okay, we’ll put you down as a “maybe”.
There was also a « not invented here / not built here » element. A French President can not be seen in a foreign built car – it’s still true today – the big Citroen sedan (the DS9) is only made in China – and current President Macron refuses to be driven in it.
…which made me curious about what Macron’s ride is. It turned out to be this:
Yes, also a Stellantis DS, but this one proudly made in France, not in China.
The Google translation is funny, as those often are.
“Leaving large custodians”.
So that’s how they make those.
The Rambler Chapron looks like something you would see a party functionary of the East German government driving in the 1970’s. De Gaulle chose wisely.
It appears Chapron’s, ah, designers could’ve done with a chaperon or two.
At 6 feet 5 inches (196 cm) De Gaulle probably felt squished in either car.
As well as the extra room needed for his ego. Or did that travel in a trailer?
The high water mark for Rambler, and even though rejected by the intended, certainly seems to be a bit of an honor for an otherwise humbled brand favored by thrifty consumers of the day. Great car to Ramble through the French Countryside, no? Can’t see the Kennedy family tooling around the Hamptons in this.
Google Translate has improved markedly in the decade since this was first posted – here’s how it translates the original French now:
“From a Renault Rambler ’62, coachbuilder Chapron, at the request of the Régie, produced a presidential car based on his new flagship, to be submitted to the Elysée Palace, with a view to taking over from Citroën this prestigious market whose she was the specialist until the 1940s. The result is a fairly austere car, with fairly rigid lines. The grille has been simplified as much as possible, the panoramic rear window, transformed into a classic window, leaving wide quarter panels. This project did not arouse any enthusiasm on the part of General De Gaulle, who, since he was saved by his DS and the hydropneumatics of his carriage at Petit-Clamart, was and remained an unconditional fan of the Quai de Javel brand. Two views of the Rambler Renault bodied by Chapron with the aim of having it used by the Elysée, with its greatly simplified grille, its reworked quarter panels and its various chrome hubcaps. The coachbuilder badge is on the front fenders, below the body strip. Despite the offer of the nationalized manufacturer, the General remained loyal to the Citroëns…”
No more upside-down triangular C-pillar custodians…
From 1945 the company was renamed “Regie Nationale des Usines Renault”. That stands for National Administration of the Renault Works.