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Les Autos Françaises: 60 Years of French Automotive History

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Les Autos Françaises: 60 Years of French Automotive History - On Display May 21, 2015 - April 4, 2016

This summer Lane Motor Museum brings you “Les Autos Françaises: 60 Years of French Automotive History,” focusing on 60 of the 120 years of car production in France. Starting in the 1890s, France remained the largest producer of cars in Europe until after WWI. In fact, from 1902-1907, France produced more cars than the rest of Europe combined. The United States did not out-produce France until after 1907.

What made France such a leader in the beginning? There were three major reasons: First, they had an excellent road system that allowed early, rudimentary cars to be driven almost everywhere; second, France’s high level of technical competence, from bicycles to steam trains; and lastly, France had an abundance of energetic and talented entrepreneurs.

In 1913, there were 31 major French car makers, and many smaller car companies. Although other countries eventually caught up with, and surpassed, French car production, the French manufacturers remained alive and innovative. Citroën was a major manufacturer with many technologically significant cars, starting with the Traction Avant in 1934, and continuing with the 2CV in 1950 and later, the ID19, which stunned every attendee of the 1955 Paris Auto Show. Although Citroën was a large company with technologically-advanced cars, there were many smaller manufacturers that turned out unique and interesting cars, such as Georges Irat, Matra, Rovin, Hotchkiss-Gregoire, Panhard, Simca, and many more.

Lane Motor Museum will be displaying 30 of the most unique French cars from the 100+ French cars in the collection, focusing on the heyday of French production – 1924-1985.

The Choice- by Jeff Lane, Director

With over 100 French cars in our collection, one would think it easy to do an exhibit called “All Things French”. Actually, it was very, very difficult, and the biggest problem was pruning 100 cars down to 30.

I started with Citroëns since we have about 50, and Citroën was one of the larger French manufacturers, and without a doubt, the most innovative. Citroën started later than some makers, beginning production in 1919. They more than made up for their late start by being hugely innovative. The Traction Avant began production in 1934, and was the first front-wheel drive, steel unibody production car. It remained in production until 1953, and sold in large numbers. As if the 19-year success story of the Traction Avant was not enough, in October 1955, Citroën introduced the DS at the Paris Motor Show. The DS was the first mass-produced car with front-wheel power brakes. It also featured a self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension system. In short, the DS was a technical sensation clad by a futuristic aerodynamic body. Ride quality and handling were unmatched for the day. In fact the ride quality, 60 years later, has not been improved on. The DS was such a successful car that Citroën did not introduce another clean-sheet-design car until the 1970s.

Moving away from Citroën, I tried to choose several unique examples from the three other large French manufacturers: Renault, Panhard, and Peugeot. Renault is a volume French car maker that still survives. Known for conservative cars and leadership, it has always been very successful in France, yet less so in the rest of the world. Panhard was a very early car manufacturer, starting production in 1890. Before WWII, Panhard made mostly upmarket cars. After WWII, they declined, and made more middle to low-end cars, mostly with 2-cylinder, air-cooled engines. Peugeot has always been Renault’s rival in France, and has enjoyed tremendous success in their 100+ years of production.

France has had four major car makers, but throughout their history, they have also had hundreds of others. While many of them were not large or long-lived, they made unique and interesting cars. Georges Irat, Matra, Hotchkiss-Gregoire, and Deutsch-Bonnet are three examples featured in this exhibit.

To complete the exhibit, I picked six of the most interesting French microcars plus the Helicron, which is propeller-driven! Not an easy choice, as I made list upon list, and finally whittled it down to 30 unique and special French cars that are a major part of automotive history.

 

1933 Dymaxion Replica- Now On Display

Dymaxion

(Please note-- the Dymaxion will be on display in 2015 with the exception of approximately June 9-17, 2015 when it will be shown at Ault Park Concours d'Elegance in Cincinnati, OH and July 24-29 when it will be at Concours d'Elegance of America at St. Johns in Plymouth, MI )

Backwards To the Future

Lane Motor Museum Announces Completion of Classic Dymaxion Replica and Appearance at Amelia Island

After eight years, Lane Motor Museum is pleased to finally announce that its replica of Dymaxion Car #1 is complete and will go on display starting Feb. 26, 2015.

Three Dymaxion Cars were produced between 1933 and 1934 by famed futuristic visionary Buckminster Fuller. The Dymaxions were legendary for being far ahead of their time in both design and technology. The three-wheeled Dymaxions, powered by a Ford V-8 engine, could achieve 30 mpg and carried up to 11 passengers. The Dymaxions were teardrop-shaped for aerodynamic efficiency and could reach speeds of 90 mph. The cars also featured front wheel drive, a rear mounted engine, and rear wheel steering.

As advanced as the Dymaxions were, the project failed to attract sufficient funding to continue, and the project stalled. Two of the cars were sold; one was destroyed in a crash, the other in a fire.

The sole remaining, non-running, original Dymaxion rests at the National Automobile Musueum in Reno, NV. Now, thanks to a dedicated team of restorers and mechanics, Lane Motor Museum has one of their own. After undertaking the project in 2007 and after taking many twists and turns, the retrofuturistic Dymaxion is back and here to stay.

“The Dymaxion just makes sense for us to have at the museum,” said Director Jeff Lane. “The design is well ahead of its time and its looks definitely fit the uniquely different philosophy we build our collection around. After doing lots of research, we decided that Dymaxion #1 was the best fit for the museum and now it’s here.”

In 1934, an original Dymaxion was driven on a road trip to Connecticut by famous designer Isamu Noguchi, who helped design the wonder car. This year, Lane Motor Museum Director Jeff Lane will be driving Lane Motor Museum’s example on a road trip of its own from Nashville to make its debut at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida on March 15, 2015.

About Lane Motor Museum: TheLane Motor Museum is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, established in 2002 by Jeff Lane. Museum director Jeff Lane searches out cars that are technically significant or uniquely different. The goal of Lane Motor Museum is to share in the mission of collecting and preserving automotive history for future generations. For more information about the cars, hours, or the mission of Lane Motor Museum visit: http://www.lanemuseum.org/.

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Postwar People Movers

 

Postwar People Movers Exhibit

Growing up in the USA probably evokes fond memories of “the family truckster”. Some families had sensible sedans, while others may have had a minivan or a wagon. Who doesn’t remember the family Impala, Roadmaster, or Country Squire?

The post-World War II period in Europe was no different. As governments rebuilt their infrastructure and families rebuilt their lives, the need for sensible transportation was vital to getting the economy running again. The postwar period from the late 1940s to the early 1970s in Western Europe brought about an unprecedented economic boom. In Germany it was called “das Wirtschaftswunder”, in Italy, “il Miracolo Economico”, and in France, “les Trente Glorieuses”. No matter the name, the meaning was the same – new wealth, strong employment, and easier access to power and resources – it was a period of growth and prosperity in the West.

The largely Communist East, on the other hand, did not enjoy the benefits of the European Recovery Program, aka the ERP or The Marshall Plan. Many Eastern industries were nationalized and consolidated under Communist rule, including automobile manufacturing. Consequently, many familiar marques were lost, but a few new ones were formed, or reborn. But, again, the need for sensible, affordable transportation remained, as strong here as across the border.

Seen here are but a few examples of “the family car” as may have been found on Eastern and Western European streets during the period of 1945-1973, or “the Glorious Thirty” as France called it. While the needs on both sides were very similar, it should be noted that the ability to fulfill those needs were far different, East and West. The West enjoyed access to fresh ideas, raw materials, and seemingly limitless energy, while the East struggled with leftover ideas, worn-out equipment, and trade sanctions.

Both sides managed to make do, just in different ways…

EAST

Buying a car in East Berlin? Put your name on a list and be prepared to wait – most likely several years. Demand outstripped supply by 5X! Used cars were instantly attainable, and commanded far higher prices than new ones!

Cars were often heavy body-on-frame, of poor material quality, and used antiquated, noisy, smoky two-stroke engines. Some, like Tatra, were quite advanced, but only meant for the elite.

Car model life was often measured in decades. Trabants and Wartburgs were virtually unchanged from 1957 to 1990.

WEST

Buying a car in Munich, Paris, or Rome? Walk in with funds and drive away!

Many cars were of galvanized unibody construction with powerful, quiet four-stroke engines and decent creature comforts, like heaters.

Manufacturers brought fresh new designs to market regularly, incorporating new technology such as fuel injection, disc brakes, and improved safety equipment.

 

 

 

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