Monday, January 6, 2014

Berliet and Licorne: Last-Ditch Body Transplants

Automobile production levels were low in Europe until the 1950s, at least when compared to the United States.  So I continually wonder how a country such as France could have supported so many car manufacturers.  (As late as model year 1938, 22 firms exhibited at the Paris Auto Show, and there were others in business that didn't exhibit.)  Part of the reason was because cars were mechanically much less elaborate than nowadays.  Also, bodies were usually composite, steel sheeting over wood framing until into the mid-1930s.  Therefore, less expensive tooling was required for body construction, though more hand-work was involved.

But industry consolidation was inevitable, and accelerated by the Great Depression of the 1930s.  During those years the French auto industry was dominated by three firms: Renault, Peugeot and Citroën -- the latter, having fallen on hard times, was taken over by Michelin, the tire maker.  Lesser firms were being squeezed out of the market and sometimes resorted to preservation strategies that might strike us today as being odd, yet were occasionally used in even the USA.

The strategy the present post deals with is where a smaller, weaker company sells cars built from components of cars from stronger makes.  Examples here are Berliet and Licorne.


1939 Peugeot 402 BLE
1939 Berliet Dauphine
For the 1939 model year, Berliet turned to Peugeot to body its Dauphine line.  As can be seen above, from the cowling on back, the body is strictly Peugeot 402 B (the largest model in Peugeot's line at the time).  The front end borrows heavily from 1937-vintage American styling.

1938 Citroën 11
1938 Licorne Rivoli
Licorne's borrowing for 1938 was even more drastic.  Besides having a Citroën body, this Licorne model also had a Citroën motor and transmission -- necessary because the Citroën was front-wheel drive and therefore had no structural provision for a driveshaft and powered rear wheels.  This Licorne is essentially a Citroën with a different grille.

UPDATE: See Comments for a discussion of the Licorne's running gear and motors that runs counter to my speculations.


Anonymous said...

The Licorne Rivoli used the body and engine of Citroën (a Licorne engine was offered also), but it had rear wheel drive!
The Citroën monocoque body was placed on a Licorne rwd chassis. The Citroën engine was basically an inversed TA engine, which was also used in Citroën's rwd Rosalie car.

Donald Pittenger said...

Anonymous -- Thank you for the information. My sources regarding minor French makes are limited, as is my reading knowledge of the language.

I do wonder how rear wheel drive was implemented on a unitary body having little or no provision for a driveshaft. (Here is a Wikipedia entry that (as I write this) includes an image of the monocoque showing a flat floorpan.

JW said...

Because of the use of Licorne's own chassis, the Citroën body didn't need to be self supporting. Licorne simply cut the central section of the floorpan to create space for the driveshaft.

Please have a look at the site of the Corre-La Licorne club, where you can find a (small) picture of a Rivoli's floorpan (here, hope this works).

Donald Pittenger said...

JW -- Thank you for the details. Appreciated. Also for the mention of the car club ... I'll keep those in mind when writing about other minor brands.

Since my previous comment, I was beginning to wonder if Licorne did something like putting the new body on an existing chassis, but didn't think that they would alter it. Now I realize (thinking of the image I cited in my previous comment) that the floorpan was not really part of the monocoque structure, so structural harm was minimal or absent.

Also, looking closely at the photos in the post, the Licorne does seem have a little bit more road clearance than the Citroën. Profile views of both cars (if available) would have made this difference more obvious, but I tried to select images of cars taken from the same point of view.

Anonymous said...