Some cars are noted for their beauty. Some are known for their speed. Others become famous for their landmark design and innovations. Others are remarkable because of the roads they traveled. Such is the case with the 1953 Citroen in the LeMay Collection, which was driven on the 90th anniversary of the Peking-to-Paris Rally by LeMay Museum Board Member Burt Richmond in 1997 and was later donated to the Collection of the Harold E. LeMay Museum. Richmond and his co-driver finished the race second in his class.
The Peking-to-Paris motor race was first held in 1907 for automobiles between Peking (now known as Beijing), China and Paris, France as a way to show off the relatively new invention. The race spanned 9,317 miles. Known as the “Deux Chevaux,” which translates to “Two Horses,” the French “people’s car,” was conceived before World War II and secretly developed during the war. It made its official appearance at the 1948 Paris Auto Salon. Designed under the direction of Pierre Boulanger, the Citroen was designed for working-class country farmers.
The car was designed to “carry two farmers wearing clogs, plus 110 pounds of potatoes or a small cask of wine at a maximum speed of 30 mph.” The car was simple, rugged, reliable, inexpensive and nearly indestructible. The manual four-speed shifter comes out of the dash and twists left or right for gear changes and powered a 375-cc engine that only sipped 50 miles per gallon. More than 8 million were built from 1949 to 1990, making it the most popular car in France in the post-war era.