by James Kraus
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, a number of firms built specialized vehicles to be run in the Tour de France publicity caravan that rolls though France ahead of the peloton. Since the three-week event routinely attracted over 10 million spectators, it was an ideal venue for advertisers to reach a broad audience. This practice continues today.
One of the most distinctive and enduring of these vehicles was the Le Nain Gourmand Renault, which debuted on the 1952 Tour to promote the products of the popular confectioner. The front featured a giant replica of the founder and the rear incorporated a depiction of his wife. In between were displayed oversized candies, chocolates and bon-bons.
The Rizla cigarette paper Delahaye first saw duty on the 1950 Tour. Four loudspeakers are built-in at each corner of the roof.
This is the Renault-based version of the Butagaz vehicle, composed of a pair of giant portable gas bottles. These were used throughout the 1960’s in various versions depicting large gas bottles and storage tanks.
This vat-shaped machine was built a on a Renault Tonneau chassis and promoted Byrrh “Vin Tonique”, an aperitif currently distributed by Pernod-Ricard. The vehicle was constructed to resemble the 1.0 million-litre oak aging vat at the Byrrh cellars in Thuir. Completed in 1950, the giant barrel remains the world’s largest wooden wine vat. One of the Byrrh distillery buildings was designed by Gustave Eiffel (of tower fame) and the facility is well worth a visit if you are travelling through the Roussillion area.
The Cochonou meat and sausage purveyor used Citroën 2CV’s, some lengthened in the centre, some simply painted to resemble the company’s product packaging, as in this example.
In 1957, the Avia oil company rolled out this special-bodied Citroën H Van created by the coachbuilder Le Bastard.
The SPAR Peugeot D3 van, adorned with the SPAR fir tree logo, outsized display windows and twin loudspeakers advertised the SPAR chain of grocery shops.
This standard Citroën 11BL Traction Avant was used to promote Miko ice cream products. It began its career in the 1958 Tour painted in Miko livery.
Another Peugeot D3, this example was used to announce the performance of accordionist Yvette Horner. Yvette entertained the crowds daily following the completion of each stage. She played at every Tour from 1952 to 1964, often performing on a tiny stage mounted on the roof of a Traction Avant.
Special publicity vehicles are still being built for the Tour de France today. This is the Eurotyre Citroën C3 Pluriel in the 2009 Tour. Note the woman sitting inside the tire.