Big things with little cars

This - believe it or not - was one of the world’s first racing cars. Was it purpose built for the races? We’re not sure, but it seems the engine was specifically enlarged for the racing event. The race in question was the 1896 Paris-Marseille-Paris.

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The first competitive ‘city to city’ motoring event had been the 1894 Paris–Rouen where the Count Jules-Albert de Dion was first into Rouen but steam-powered vehicles were ineligible for the main prize. Likewise, in 1895 the nascent Automobile Club de France) (ACF) organised its first event, the Paris–Bordeaux–Paris race, but excluded two-seater cars such that their official winner, a four-seater, finished 11 hours after Émile Levassor.

The outcry resulting from the 1895 result lead the A.C.F. to organise the Paris–Marseille–Paris Trail as the first fully competitive motor race, where the first car across the line was the winner. The entry list included : seven De Dion-Boutons (5 gasoline powered tricycles and 2 steam powered cars); five Bollées (comprising four Léon Bollée tricycles and tandems plus an Amédée Bollée); four Panhard et Levassors; three Peugeots; two Delahayes; two Société Parisiennes and two Triouleyres. There were also single car entries from Fisson; Landry et Beyroux (or poss.Landoy); Lebrun; Rochet-Schneider; Rossel and Tissandier. You see, there’s a lot we don’t know about the cars in those days.

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So, no one seems to able to say for sure if this particular Peugeot was a Type 7 or Type 8. Back in those days, each single car looked different, both had the same engine but did had other mechanical differences. And we don’t even seem to be sure what the differences were. Either way, the output of the Daimler engine was about 4hp.

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At the end, the race was won by Emile Mayad in a Panhard-Levasseur in a time of 67 hours 42 minutes and 58 seconds. This Peugeot was driven by Auguste Doriot and finished, a mere 13 and a half hours after the winner. No photo seems to have survived of the car, only this watchmacallit = etching?

The model is a very early Guisval plastic model in roughly 1/43 (I guess) - made in the late 1960s. It was number 4 in a series of 18 cars called “Coches de Ayer” - or Cars of Yesteryear. Now one might think that they cribbed the idea from Matchbox, but that’s not the case. Both the idea, and the castings, were copied wholesale from the French company “Safir” - which is not well known today. They specialized in race cars all the way from the 1890s to the 1980s in both 1/64 and 1/43. And Guisval copied both their 1/43 Edwardian racers and their 1/64 contemporary races cars to start off with. Later of course, they developed their own castings.

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