June 13, 2010


Here is another popular French car… but not exactly from the same era!

A little history

As an industrial company, Peugeot was rather precocious. During the 18th Century, the Peugeot family started production of saws. One century later, pepper grinders were the factory’s specialty. When bicycles started to appear on European’s roads, Peugeot saw in them another way to diversify its production, unaware of the consequences this early involvement in transports would have on the company.

In 1889, when modern automobile was only five years old, Peugeot built its first powered tricycle and soon started selling a little series of them. By 1899, as the curtain was raised on a new century that would see the reign of automobiles, the Valentigney plant was already producing three hundred vehicles a year, a number in constant progression. This success wasn’t easily achieved, though.

Management of the Peugeot company was then, as it was since its founding and would be until a few years ago, the responsibility of the members of the Peugeot family, and automobile was the source of harsh disputes between cousins. Doubtful about the future of this new invention, Eugène Peugeot didn’t want the company to be involved in what he saw as a simple fad. Armand Peugeot thought otherwise and, burning bridges with Eugène, left in 1896 to set up Automobiles Peugeot.

During the 1904 Paris motor show, Automobiles Peugeot introduced a tiny two-seater, the Type 69 or Bébé (“baby”), powered by a small 650cc four good for 10 hp. Despite a price that, for the times, could be considered low, the Bébé-Peugeot hadn’t sacrificed either quality, innovation or performances, and success was instant. Soon Bébés were sold in four times the volume of all other Peugeots combined.

Enticed by the Bébé’s triumph, the sons of Eugène Peugeot, now in charge of the rival company since their father had recently passed away, were willing to imitate their cousin. As a necessary preliminary, Armand Peugeot granted them the right to use the Peugeot name for their own production, which started in 1905. Therefore, for a few confusing years, there were two Peugeot automobile manufacturers in France: Automobiles Peugeot and Peugeot-Frères, the latter selling its production under the name Lion-Peugeot... This situation lasted until 1910 when the two companies merged, forming what was at the time one of Europe’s largest automobile conglomerate.

Widely sold throughout France and also exported in large numbers, the Bébé remained the united Peugeot company’s biggest seller. Nevertheless, by the early Tens it was due for replacement. The company didn’t even have to design one, as a perfect project came from across the German border. There, an Italian immigrant trying to put up his own plant in Alsace, Ettore Bugatti, had proposed the design of a popular car to Wanderer. Leaving Wanderer wondering he wandered to neighbouring France, and just after passing the border scattered his blueprints onto Peugeot’s desk. The French company promptly signed an agreement and, as a testimony of Bugatti’s clever design, Wanderer meanwhile agreed too. Therefore the car was built by both companies, with only small differences.

The new Bébé, now officially called BP1, was unveiled during the 1912 Paris motor show. Peugeot’s car was fitted with in-house engine (850cc four, 10 hp) and gearbox. Despite the modest output a top speed of 60 kph could be reached, thanks to a minimal weight: less than 350 kilos! Despite the outbreak of World War One, it renewed the success of its predecessor and saw more than three thousand copies built until the model was phased out in 1916.

About the model

Model: Peugeot Bébé Type B3 P1
Year: 1916
Maker: Norev
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Hachette as no.26 of its Collection Peugeot press series
Acquired: brand new, in April 2007, in Souillac, France

A tiny little thing – clumsy hands, behold! Though industrial brands aren’t the best suited to correctly assemble die-casts made of so many little parts, Norev did it well enough. My rating is 11/20.






JDMike's Diecast Site said...

its a cute little blue car! i like it! and yes, Norev does good with small scale. :-)

lorenzo721 said...

Thanks Mike. I too like Norev's work here, even more considering the fact that cars this old are seldom reproduced as scale models.