Of Dali’s car, peppermills and ice cubes.
Filing the coffers is the name of the automotive game, be it through finance incentives, software investment or the plain shifting of tin. Of course, entrepreneurial spirit lies strong within the field – new avenues to pursue, lucrative boulevards to not only build but furnish, to the delights of old and potential customers alike. These can take many forms, especially when one combines celebrity and the historical record.
When one is a self-described (and wealthy) genius, allowances can curve toward the over exaggerated. Take the moustached dreamscape decorator, Salvador Dali. A marketers dream, then as now, the artist never drove a car, yet became absorbed by the American luxury only Cadillac could deliver.
Not obsessed with the motorcar per-se, for Dali, the looks of the car either dismayed or delighted – the technicalities were of no concern. Having had a great deal of success with the de Luxe, General Motors, on asking for Dali’s input, received his request to name this extra luxurious Cadillac after his wife, Gala. Dali even penned a biro sketch on hotel notepaper within five minutes. Whilst interesting, the sketch was never going to become a production reality. That is until GM later launched a new Cadillac de Gala – Dali demanded and received $10,000! Easy money for the artist, despite GM’s official rationale being “the name of a horse.
Dali then went on to create the artwork, Rainy Taxi, where a car would become a water feature replete with Burgundy snails – later painting the The Automobile Clothed, along with The Special Automobile. It is undetermined how much influence these creations had on potential customers. In one last dalliance with the car, Dali helped promote the Datsun 610, as seen in this typically bizarre advert. But Dali’s obtuse inputs are hardly solitary. Artists are drawn to the car as equally as the humble enthusiast, determined to follow their proven marque.
In the early millennium years, I was fortunate enough to spend many happy hours within the Circuit de La Sarthe for the Le Mans 24 hours. One amid a quarter of a million souls, a sizeable number of whom were inadvertently or intentionally promoting a particular race team or perhaps simply the corner names of the legendary track. Some official, many not; T-shirts, caps, flags, even watches, alongside many other diverse applications.
However, depart the circuit environs and such motoring paraphernalia simply looks obtuse. An Audi R8LMS T-shirt as outdated as the Dali Gala, a Bentley baseball cap plonked upon an otherwise balding European’s pate, something of a misnomer. Brand loyalty however, however short in memory, remains a selling point. The elder statesmen of the automobile industry have cottoned on to the idea of merchandise at differing points in their history but two French Stellantis protagonists, Peugeot and Citroën have recently relaunched.
The Belfort Lion began to roar by producing salt mills in 1810, way before the car appeared. Today, the lifestyle boutique can foist upon you twenty salt and pepper mill varieties. From the modern Alaskan Quartz mills (just €99.90) to more traditional wooden or glass variations. Need your coffee ground? For €125, the Nostalgie mill in walnut colour (in stock, 24 hour delivery) can grind those beans to your liking. And all with a small lion motif somewhere to help remind you that you’ve never had a 205, 607 or drove the famous circuit. But your everyday 3008 has a similar lion, so roar away.
Model cars, clothing and pens have been the staple of ‘merch’ for many years and Peugeot does not buck that trend. Modern Peugeot miniatures can be had in 1/43 scale along with more contemporary, almost Dali-esque vintage coupé models (not for children!) There’s even a resin and die cast metal E-Legend concept car from 2018, very sweet. And all from €5 to €105.
Heading over to André’s double chevron, we find similar but a more diverse bucket of eggs – a fricassee more frisson, a soupçon more savvy. With a keen eye on sustainability, baluchon bags (muslin) can be had with a Citroën and Sun logo for the adults or for junior, a more playful rendition of models past. And at only €12.22 and €9.00 respectively, they’ll last longer than your monthly pcp payment.
Available on such esoteric items as mugs, shopping bags, flasks and umbrellas, all carry the legend, “Oui are French.” Hankering for two wheeled transport with a Citroën twist, at just shy of €1,000, the Rider Citroëniste Men or Women by Martone Cycling can be had in 52” and 56” frame sizes. And with that white steel frame weighing but twelve kilograms, one might be persuaded to carry a metre circumference Citroën and Sun logoed buoy (€18.60) to el mar, alongside a Mehari themed wooden beach chair for just €32. And if your better half is pedalling to the beach with the basket out front, why not stuff in the €150 Megaboom Bluetooth speaker, the €25 Mehari brolly and the Citroen Monopoly game (in either English/ French or German/ Italian) editions for the evening? Bargain at €50.
One trinket to receive the full five gimmick stars being the €10 Mehari ice cube tray, in red. They do look, ahem, cool and really quite adorable. Another, the Berlingo rubber stamps (€5.50) that daubs “Ballade en vie,” the other printing “Journée a la plage.” But the avenues of automobilia are painted with excessive hyperbole. “Refresh your drinks, amaze your friends and children with these small, original ice cubes!” For the stamps, “Add a piece of passion to your documents with these new Citroën Berlingo pads.”
And therein lies the problem. Poking fun at either of the Stellantis brands is unfair yet all too easy. Similar articles (some, far worse and hideously expensive) can be found under any given car manufacturers’ ‘lifestyle’ section. Somebody buys (some of) this stuff but akin to works of art, acquisitions remain highly subjective. The khaki Ami charging cable – or the blue? (€20)
But can these items really assist keeping the CUVs pouring forth from the line? I imagine that every kind of sale must help, but akin to Dali, pontificating, simulacrums and jackanapery will prevail. It never hurt Dali one bit.
 The original Rainy Taxi installation which first premiered in 1938 at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris, part of the ‘Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme,’ used a Rolls Royce, whereas the version currently on display at the Museo Teatro at Figueras is the 1941 Cadillac driven by Dali’s wife, Gala.
Revolted by Dali’s avaricious ways, the above title is an anagram of Salvador Dali’s name, given to him by fellow surrealist painter and proclaimed head of the movement, André Breton.
Author’s note: Since I wrote this (early June for goodness sake!) the prices have altered massively – fuel crisis? Ukraine? Greed? Lack of interest – “ramp up the price, that’ll get the buggers going?”
Data Sources: lifestyle.citroen.com/ boutique.Peugeot.com/ media.stellantis.com