Advertisement

22 July 1894: Paris to Rouen motor car competition

The Paris to Rouen motor car competition of 1894 pitted petrol cars against steam-powered vehicles in a thrilling 79-mile event.

If you've ever negotiated the Periphrique around Paris, you'll know that wishing to see more cars around the French capital is masochistic. But that's exactly what Le Petit Journal set out to do on this day in 1894.

The previous December, the newspaper's editor, under the nom de plume of Jean sans Terre (real name Pierre Giffard), announced with fin-de-siecle pomp a "concours des voitures sans chevaux" from Paris to Rouen. This competition for cars without horses is often cited as the world's first motor race.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Only, it wasn't really a race at all. It was a competition for engineers both professional and amateur to showcase "the vehicles of the future".

Ten thousand gold francs were up for grabs, with 5,000 francs going to the car that was judged to be closest to the ideal standards set by the newspaper: not dangerous, easy to drive and cheap during the journey.

One hundred and two readers answered Le Petit Journal's challenge, of which only a handful made it to qualifying, each paying ten francs.

At one minute past eight on the morning of 22 July 1894, the 21 qualifiers set off on the 79-mile-trip to Rouen. Roland, the newspaper's reporter, waxed lyrical on the fine weather and the great crowds thronging the pavements and, much to the consternation of the police, the roads too.

Riding in the lead car, Roland noted the amazement on the faces of spectators as the cars left Paris, winding their way through the French countryside. Old men waved from windows, pretty girls threw flowers, whilst "braves paysans" came up to offer fruit to the drivers.

Averaging a blistering speed of 12mph, Jules-Albert de Dion was first to cross the line in his steam-powered car. But as his vehicle required a stoker, it wasn't deemed easy to drive, so he had to make do with second prize.

Five minutes later, Albert Lematre came pootling along in his petrol-powered Peugeot to claim the 5,000 francs, which was shared with Panhard today a maker of armoured cars.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

3 August 1792: Richard Arkwright, ‘Father of the Industrial Revolution’, dies
This day in history

3 August 1792: Richard Arkwright, ‘Father of the Industrial Revolution’, dies

Richard Arkwright, barber turned textiles magnate, died on this day in 1792, having revolutionised the manufacture of cloth in England.
3 Aug 2020
1 August 1981: MTV goes on air
This day in history

1 August 1981: MTV goes on air

On this day in 1981, MTV went on the air. It was an instant success, gaining two million viewers within less than a year.
1 Aug 2020
31 July 1970: the Royal Navy ends daily rum ration
This day in history

31 July 1970: the Royal Navy ends daily rum ration

One of the Royal Navy's most popular traditions came to an end on this day in 1970 when the last of the rum ration was doled out.
31 Jul 2020
31 July 1703: Daniel Defoe pilloried for seditious libel
This day in history

31 July 1703: Daniel Defoe pilloried for seditious libel

On this day in 1703, journalist, novelist and English spy Daniel Defoe was sentenced to three days in the pillory for writing a satirical pamphlet.
31 Jul 2020

Most Popular

Can the recent rally in sterling continue?
Sponsored

Can the recent rally in sterling continue?

A "double top"  – a very recognisable pattern – is forming in in the US dollar. Dominic Frisby explains what it is, and what it could tell us about st…
3 Aug 2020
UK banks have had a shocking week – so it’s probably a good time to buy
UK stockmarkets

UK banks have had a shocking week – so it’s probably a good time to buy

Lloyds Bank reported a £676m loss this week. And, with all of the UK's high street banks having a terrible time of things, bank stocks are detested ri…
31 Jul 2020
Gold bugs' dreams are coming true – but we could still see a V-shaped recovery
Gold

Gold bugs' dreams are coming true – but we could still see a V-shaped recovery

John and Merryn talk about how it's perfectly reasonable to expect a V-shaped recovery and to continue holding gold as well. Plus, inflation, staycati…
30 Jul 2020