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Peugeot Classic Car History - Web Exclusive

Throughout its 200 years, Peugeot has developed a unique vision, enabling it to anticipate underlying trends.

May 26, 2010

200 years ago, two Peugeot brothers, Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frederic, established the Peugeot company with the creation of 'la societe Peugeot-Freres et Jacques Maillard-Salins'. The company was set up after the brothers had converted their father's corn mill into a steel mill to make the most of the industrial revolution, which was gathering pace.

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Since then, the French company has been associated with saws, tools, steel crinoline stays, salt and pepper mills, coffee grinders, bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, cars and vans. Each of these diverse products is founded on those early origins in steel while bearing Peugeot's hallmark of modernity and innovation.

Throughout its 200 years, Peugeot has developed a unique vision, enabling it to anticipate underlying trends, keep abreast of the times to adapt and accept new challenges. This vision led Peugeot to successfully produce bicycles and motorcycles from 1886, and then in 1891 the motorcar. From the first petrol-powered four-wheeler codenamed the Type 2, to its more recent products, Peugeot draws its strength from its industrial roots in the east of France allied to a pioneering spirit. That spirit led Peugeot to create the 403, the first mass-produced diesel powered saloon; to launch the 205, a true icon thanks to its many versions and sporting victories; to introduce the particulate filter as a world first on the 607; to drive an HDi FAP engine to victory at Le Mans and to create the BB1, the urban crossover between the car and the scooter. By continually nurturing its engineering, human and industrial development, Peugeot has grown from an annual production rate numbered in dozens to a present day average daily production of several thousand units across 18 families of cars and light commercial vehicles.

Expansion started after the First World War, as demand for more and more varied cars grew and in 1929 Peugeot instigated the numeric identification system that is still in use today. The 201, named purely because it was the engineering department's 201st project, was the first car to carry a number and this evolved to become the three-digit naming system. The first digit indicates which family the vehicle belongs to and the third number indicates the model's generation. The second number, the 0, is the link between them.

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Since then, the 2-series and 4-series are the only ranges that have continued this system without interruption. More than 26 million of these cars have been sold, representing nearly half of the Marque's total sales. In 2000, letters were added to the three numbers to designate specific body shapes; CC for Coupe Cabriolet, SW for the family/leisure body shape. In 2004, 75 years after the 201, Peugeot added a four-digit moniker to depict models that were not part of the original range, starting with the 1007.

Comfort on the road is a regularly acknowledged quality of Peugeot vehicles and, perhaps due to the hilly countryside around its Franche Comte home, Peugeot has frequently led the way with innovations in suspension systems. The 201 was the first car to be equipped with independent front wheels, guaranteeing comfort for its occupants and Peugeot is still the only manufacturer to produce its own shock absorbers to fit on its models. Today, Peugeot is still committed to excellent road manners as illustrated by the 3008 which, despite its tall architecture, is impressing drivers with its drivability. The Peugeot 3008 Crossover also features grip-control, allowing the deployment of intelligent drive options in five different modes.

Among these innovations, the Coupe Cabriolet deserves special mention, with an ingenious system that allows the rigid roof to retract into the boot. This made its first appearance as early as the 1930s on the 401 Eclipse but it was the 206 CC that brought this body shape to a wider public at the turn of the 21st Century and, with 700,000 units sold, it has made Peugeot the world leader in CCs. Peugeot is also synonymous with the development of the diesel engine, which it made available for the first time on a production model, the 403, in 1959. This saloon was also the first car to feature an automatic cooling fan controlled by engine temperature. The popularity of diesel was instant, with the 403 being the first Peugeot model to pass the one million sales mark.

More diesel innovations were to follow: in 1975, the 604 became the first car in Europe to be equipped with a turbo diesel engine and, in 1999, the 607 was the world's first car to be equipped with a particle emissions filter, a technology that has helped cement Peugeot's position as a world leader in emissions reductions. More than 2.3 million Peugeots are equipped with the particle emissions filter.

It was as early as 1941 that Peugeot first pioneered electric power with the VLV, a light urban vehicle with an electric motor, several hundred of which found their way onto the streets of Paris. However, concern over man's effect on the climate from the late 20th Century has driven an explosion in low carbon technologies. Naturally, Peugeot has been at the heart of this push with the ION concept car in the 1990s, and later the electric 106, which is still the top selling zero emissions car.

Of course, the greatest effort has been on making continuous improvements to the efficiency of naturally aspirated engines and Peugeot is at the forefront of the industry, with half of its cars sold in Europe emitting less than 130 g of CO2/km.

In the autumn of 2010, Peugeot will return to the electric car market with the iOn and next year, Peugeot will marry internal combustion with electric power in the 3008 HYbrid4, a diesel-electric hybrid producing 35% less CO2 than a diesel engine. This set-up also offers great driving flexibility with optional four-wheel drive. In 2012, another major step will be taken with the rechargeable plug-in 3008 HYbrid that will produce just 50g CO2/km.

As long as there have been motor races, there have been Peugeots to take part in them, starting with the first ever race in 1895, the Paris - Bordeaux - Paris, which was won by a Peugeot.

Success in those early pioneering events drove Peugeot to start developing cars for motor sport, with equal success, starting with the L76 at Brooklands in 1913. The L76 was powered by the first engine with two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It was the precursor to the victorious "Grand Prix" campaigns which saw Peugeot take the checkered flag at the Indianapolis 500 in 1913, 1916 and 1919.

The 1920s saw successes at the Targa Coppa Florio and Spa 24 Hours before one of the Marque's dealers, Darl'mat, inspired the creation of a competition variant of the 302, the 302 Special Sport. This gained distinction in the 24 Hours, with three cars crossing the finishing line at the 1937 event, before making its mark the following year in the 2-liter category.

More recently, the successful African campaigns of the 404 and 504 forged a reputation for reliability among the Marque's models, establishing a direct link between production cars and their motor sport derivatives. Of all Peugeots however, it is the 205 that symbolizes most strongly the Marque's competitive spirit, evident not only commercially but also on motor racing circuits the world over. This appetite for competition led Peugeot to organize a Competition Department, producing racing models that would win in a variety of demanding competitive events ranging from standard and long-distance rallies to Formula 1 and Endurance. Today, endurance and fuel-economy are watchwords for Peugeot alongside performance and so Le Mans has become a natural focus, with the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP taking the double in 2009. Peugeot is looking to the future by keeping close watch on a hybrid endurance prototype, the 908 HY.

Peugeot has reaffirmed its ambition to be a reference in terms of style with its latest concept, the SR1, an elegant roadster with ideal proportions. Whilst adopting the most modern styling ideas, SR1 carries the same Peugeot genes shared by stand-out models from the past, such as the 402, the 404, the 504, the 205, the 406 Coupe and not forgetting the brand new RCZ, which is sure to become a classic in its own right. These genes were first set down in the 1930s with Peugeot's first styling department, headed up by Henri Thomas. After the classic good looks of the 201, the new Director of Style gave the 2 series an aerodynamic style, whilst the 402, presented at the 1935 Paris Motor Show, appealed with its inclined front grille depicting a coat of arms and its streamlined wings.

Perhaps the most instant characteristic of all modern Peugeot cars is the slanted, feline headlamps, an initiative first put into production on the 504 under Stylistic Director, Paul Bouvot. This visual signature is an essential feature of the Peugeot style, as is the dynamism that Gerard Welter gave to each of the models designed while he was in charge, including the 205, marketed with the slogan; "a manufacturer draws its claws".

Peugeot has also held a number of styling collaborations, starting in the 1930s with the superb 302 roadsters and coupes and later, Peugeot drew inspiration from the Turin based coachbuilder Pininfarina for the 403 in 1955. This collaboration proved particularly prolific and gave rise to several of the Marque's finest designs: the 504 Coupe, 306 Cabriolet and 406 Coupe.

Looking forward, the BB1 and SR1, initiatives of Jean-Pierre Ploue and Gilles Vidal, convey strong messages for the future. The BB1 4-seater zero emissions micro-car concept opens up new avenues in urban mobility whilst the SR1 for its part lifts the veil on large Peugeots of tomorrow.

Pedal-powered Peugeots; from the Grand Bi to the electrically powered bicycle Well before the start of the motorcar story, the bicycle's history began in 1886 in spectacular fashion with the Peugeot Grand Bi with its 1.35 meter diameter wheel. This exotic invention quickly made way for bicycles with wheels of equal diameter and in 1890, Peugeot presented the hugely popular Lion which was characterized by its lightness (22 kg) compared to other cycles of the time.

First entered in the 1905 Tour de France, Peugeot Cycles have numerous victories to their name and have become renowned for quality gear changes and transmissions, as well as a comprehensive range that places the firm at the forefront of bicycle manufacturers. The bicycle boom quickly became established and sales of Peugeot cycles rose to 50,000 units in the 1950s, culminating at more than 400,000 in the 1970s.

Today, Peugeot is investing again in the bicycle with a range that provides an original and practical response to the challenge of mobility. With the introduction of an electrically powered bicycle this year, Peugeot is the only manufacturer to propose an integral electric mobility solution, with the iOn electric city car and the e-Vivacity electric motor scooter.

Peugeot first added petrol power to its bicycles in 1898 at the Beaulieu plant, the Marque's historic birthplace for bicycles, cars and motorcycles. As early as 1904 Peugeot motorcycles grabbed the headlines by setting the world speed record, followed by a string of victories, including the 1924 Nations Grand Prix, the 9 world records of the 515 in 1934, and success at the 1952 Bol d'Or.

In the 60s, the trend moved from motorcycles to mopeds with breathtaking success. In 1973 alone Peugeot broke the records by selling over 550,000 of its famous "100" family. The 1980s saw the advent of the scooter and Peugeot was the first to launch the new-generation scooter with a plastic body in 1982 and this soon became the preferred mode of urban transport. During the 1990s, Peugeot enjoyed further success, in particular with the SV, and became the first manufacturer to sell the electric scooter with the Scoot'Elec in 1996.

The 21st century saw further Peugeot innovation as it introduced the first ABS braking system as standard on a 125cc scooter. In 2004, the Ludix 50 modular scooter broke the all-important ?999 price tag and immediately became a best seller in Europe in its category. One year later, Peugeot was the first manufacturer to develop a 125cc engine turbocharged by a volumetric compressor, brought to market on the Satelis range which took Peugeot into the top-of-the-range GT scooter market. This year, more than 110 years after the appearance of the first Peugeot motorcycle, the Marque is still present making it the oldest manufacturer of motorized two-wheel vehicles in the world.

At the beginning of 2010 Peugeot reinvented itself, presenting a new Marque plan and making clear its ambitions for 2015: to climb three places in the world ranking of car manufacturers; to make Peugeot the benchmark in terms of style and to become the leader in mobility services.

To reach these objectives, Peugeot can rely on an ambitious product strategy with no fewer than 14 new models scheduled to appear between 2010 and 2012, new style lines illustrated to perfection by the SR1 concept car, new mobility offers and also a new visual identity with a more modern, two-tone Lion and a new international signature: Peugeot, MOTION & EMOTION.

A global manufacturer with 55 million vehicles to its name, unique in its ability to propose an offer of global mobility, Peugeot has the strengths to face the future with confidence and rise to the challenge of creating ever greater harmony between the motor car and its environment.

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