The story of one visionary at Citroën’s Bureau des Etudes Avancées.
The Bureau des Etudes Avancées Citroën or BEA, under the direction of Pierre Jules Boulanger, was the idiosyncratic French carmaker’s creative ideas laboratory. Fittingly located at number 44 to 48 on the Rue du Théâtre in Paris, it exuded an air of secrecy and mystery. Not just engineers and stylists were employed there but also scientists, mathematicians, physicists and even an astronomer.
Born in 1891, Fridtjof Le Coultre came from the famous Swiss jewellery and watchmaking family of Jaeger-Le Coultre. He had worked as an astronomer at the observatory in Geneva for several years but left and moved to France in the early thirties after a dispute with his boss. There being not much demand for his trade, Le Coultre worked in various jobs to sustain himself and developed and sold an artificial marble-like material that enjoyed some popularity in decorative lamp-posts. Continue reading “The Stargazer of the Rue du Théâtre”
The Ami 6 was as expedient as it was successful. This is its story.
It is probably reasonably accurate to suggest that while Automobiles Citroën was confident about the prospects of its radical 1955 DS19, the initial impact, and subsequent retail demand must have taken them aback somewhat. The Goddess of course was an expensive, upmarket car, well outside the budget of the average French motorist. The gap therefore between the rustic 2CV, which primarily appealed to rural customers and the Grand Routier DS would remain chasm-like.
Despite attempts at offering the big Citroën in decontented form, it was clear that a smaller, more affordable car was an urgent requirement. But not simply lacking a 7-8 CV contender, Quai de Javel also found itself without a viable rival to Renault’s popular 845 cc Dauphine.
When work on Études Projet M began in 1957, early thinking was allegedly for an entirely stand-alone model, with Panhard’s 850 cc horizontally-opposed twin being initially considered as a possible powerplant. However, perhaps for reasons of speed to market, or a desire not to step on Panhard’s toes, it was elected to Continue reading “A Friend In Need”
The news earlier this week that JLR cancelled its Jaguar XJ programme, believed to have been close to production-readiness was greeted with varying degrees of dismay by the commentator and enthusiast community. Many questioned the financial logic of taking such drastic action so late in the developmental programme, suggesting that such profligacy was madness.
Whether folly or expediency, it was certainly not unique, BLMC rather notably electing to cancel the Rover P8 programme at huge expense in 1971, for example. However, perhaps the most glaring and possibly the most financially damaging instance was that of Citroën, when in April 1967, President, Pierre Bercot took the decision to Continue reading “F is for Failure”
Observing 50 year old events through modern eyes can make for a faulty tool, yesterday’s visions of the future tending to appear somewhat naive to twenty-first Century sensibilities – as much a consequence of socio-economic factors, evolving customer tastes, not to mention the relentless march of time itself. Few carmakers have done more to define the modern automobile than Automobiles Citroën – especially during the post-war era – not simply in design, but also in terms of systems engineering, in particular its widespread adoption of aviation-inspired, engine-driven hydraulics.
If only Citroën could have made a car as technologically and stylistically advanced, as resolutely modern as the 1970 SM, it could only have done so during this fecund (some might say profligate) period of their history. Today, the SM still appears thrillingly futuristic, yet the future to which it spoke so promisingly seems more the subject of fond regret; one where to Continue reading “The New Frontier : [Part One]”
As Citroën’s SM turns 50, we trace an unlikely inspiration.
During a cocktail party at the French consulate in Detroit in 1960 – it is not known if any Ferrero Rochers were served – Citroën president Pierre Bercot met a man by the name of Henry de Ségur Lauve. Present as an interpreter because of his excellent command of both French and English, de Ségur Lauve was soon engaged in animated conversation with Bercot as the Citroën boss discovered that the Franco-American had considerable previous experience in car design.