A Short History of Paris Motor Show

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About 1894 twenty cars were in use in the entire France. This strange and new thing for that time gave birth to the will to be exposed to the public. At the traditional exhibition "Salon du Cycle" that used to be held in January every year, in the "Wagram" hall only a modest section was assigned to the automobile. This experience was a completly failure because only two cars were presented that year.

For the first time in 1896 at the "Rapp" Gallery is presented an exhibition dedicated to the automobile.There, the cars that took part in the Paris - Bordeaux race from June 1895 were presented.

In 1898 the French Automobile Club created "Le Salon de l'automobile du cycle et des sports". The international motor show opened on the 13th 1898, on the terrace of the Tuilleries Gardens, took place outdoors, sheltered only by some improvised roof. Before being admitted to this show the exhibitors had to prove their "seriousity" by driving their cars from Versailles to Paris. The President from that time, who opened this motor show, did not hesitate to expose his scepticism about the future of the automobile and of course left the Tuilleries Gardens using a carriage…

But the automobile had gained the hearts of people of his part.

In 1899 this motor show is recognized as being the sole and the unique manifestation of its kind. It took place at the Tullerries Gardens, too. The automobile was looking for his way, yet because neither techniques had not succeded in imposing itself: neither the steam engine, nor the explosion engine, nor the electrical one.

The universal exhibition from 1900 suppressed temporarily the motor show for replacing it by a complete exhibition concerning all that had something in common with transport in general: bodies of the cars, bicycles, harnesses, etc. But during the same year the automobile regained his rigths. The next year two shows dedicated to automobile were organized: the first one in January the latter in December. This beginning of a new century gave birth to one of the most dynamic industries as it would be proved later. Everyone brougth something new: in 1902 the ignition using electric resistence, in 1905 the steerwheel is moved on the left side of a car (except you know were), in 1906 the transmission using a cardan replaced the older technique that used a chain …


1907 meant the arrival of lux in car industry. The motor show became a distinct world every stand following a particular identity that had to attract people. The companies did not wasted their efforts to make themselves well-known among the visitors. So for example to celabrate the great race Pekin-Paris "De Dion-Bouton" company reproduced in its stand one of the gates of Pekin.

In 1908 Ford launches "Lizzie" that was beginning of a important increase of automobile industry production in the USA . The Americans came with new and very courageous solutions: in 1911 the torpedo, 1912 dettachable wheel, in 1913 electric ligths, etc.

The World War I began and so the automobile could not be an object to be exposed. He went to the front. Renault taxies were "recruited" and decisively contributed to Marna victory.

When the Great Pallace open its gates after the war, it lost his brilliance. But an evident thing was already present: the automobile was not a luxury any longer, it became an everyday use object. Then Andre Citroen produced the first series french cars: Citroen type 'A'. He very well realized that the americans had gone beyond the europeans and more he realized that the power of the engine from that time was about 10 H.P. This way the Motor Show from 1922 was named "Le Salon de 10H.P.". Companies like Peugeot, Renault, Unio, Delahange, Citroen are their to measure their forces. Citroen also had the merit to anticipate the emancipation of women and created especially for the the model "5 CV" named also "le trefle". Also Citroen "borrows" from the americans the iron plate body that he adopted during 1924 show.

In the same time he discovered the true advantages of advertisment and in 1925 the Eiffel Tower is decorated with ligths symbolizing Citroen. This is the period when Andre Citroen imposed himself as a personality in the world of city automobile, and Ettore Bugatti in the world of racing automobile. The next years brought with them the expression of "chryslerisation" of Europe, because of the success of the 6 cylinder engines adopted by Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Hotchkinss.

The period between 1931 and 1936 brought in its motor shows new technical innovations as independent front wheels, and front traction but also new car models as Peugeot 201C and Citroen 10CV.

The aerodynamic car body appeared. American manufacturers began to design rocket shape like automobiles such as Chrysler Airflow. The exhibition from 1934 presented Peugeot 402 - an american inspiraton. The World War II was coming and the automobile industry is affected by numerous strikes that influenced the production.

The last motor show before the war took place in 1938. At that exhibition models like Peugeot 202, Renault Suprastella, Bugatti T52, Citroen 15 Six were introduced to the public.

After the World War II reached its conclusion the reopening of the Paris Motor Show was tried, but an industry that 5 years was used exclusively to serve military purposes could not present any new things in its actual field. Only in 1948 really new models could be admired: Renault 4CV, Panhard Dyna, Ford Vedete, Peugeot 205 and Citroen 2CV.

The next years of this exbition hosted by the Great Pallace became again what it used to be before the war. But a lot of great names like Bugatti, Delahange, Dellage, Hotchkins, Talbot, Hispano-Suiza will have disappeared from the usual exhibitors.They merged with others, changed their profiles or simply did not resist the opposition( gone bankrupt ).

Like a curiosity in 1954 a coachworker became the the manufacturer of very interesting car Facal Vega.

New problems were then posed to automobile industry: oil crisis, secure and environmental cars, compact and family cars or minimum consumption cars. These are the new elements that are now the guidlines in designing a new car.

Paris Motor Show became "Mondial de l'automobile" and will continue to attract people for now on at every 2 years.

To be continued...

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