How do you keep the people of Paris talking about your car brand? If you're Citroën, you rent out the city's most famous landmark

André Citroën wasn’t shy about making grand statements to publicise his burgeoning car brand, which he established in 1919. In 1922 he arranged for an aeroplane to write ‘Citroën’ in the sky above Paris ahead of the opening of the seventh motor show in the French capital.

Three years later he went even better, renting the Eiffel Tower and arranging for a spectacular light show promoting his company – which was based at a factory just along the Seine – to adorn it.

The display was part of the 1925 Paris Expo. It was a significant event in the advancement of the art deco movement;  the whole of the city centre was made part of the show and major landmarks were illuminated at night. Citroën’s display – which consisted of 250,000 bulbs and 370 miles of wiring – was appraised by Autocar.

“A new attraction to the night scenes in Paris has now been provided by Monsieur André Citroën,” our correspondent wrote. “In order to further bring his cars before the public, he has rented three sides of the Eiffel Tower, which is brilliantly illuminated by night with electrically lit letters each 92 feet high. At first the tower is outlined in luminous lines and then a certain number of small stars and five or six bigger ones with the tail of a comet are seen. At the same time, bright flames shooting skyward appear at the top of the tower.

“As the tails of the comets gradually lengthen to form letters making up the word ‘Citroën’, two signs, red and blue in colour, bearing the dates 1889-1925, the former the date of the tower’s creation, become luminous, and are almost immediately replaced by the double chevrons which are the Citroën trademark. This may fairly be described as the most remarkable and complete flashing advertising sign yet created.”

At that time Citroën Cars Ltd, the UK importer, was based in Hammersmith, London, with a West End showroom in Piccadilly. The manufacturer was a regular and prominent advertiser in Autocar, highlighting its 11.4hp three-seat Cloverleaf and similarly powered English Body four-seater.

Citroën’s adverts majored on the manufacturer’s “luxury of equipment”, stating that “reliability, economy and comfort are taken-for-granted features of all Citroën models”. These ads were replaced in subsequent issues by ones featuring the Eiffel Tower.

The illumination became a fixture of Parisien life, remaining on the iconic landmark until 1934. Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic, is said to have used the sign to guide him towards Le Bourget Airport as he came in to land in 1927.

André Citroën died in 1935, but by that time the car company had encountered financial difficulties, resulting in the lights being taken 
down from the tower.

Previous Throwback Thursdays

4 March 1899 - Steam, electric or combustion engine? 

26 June 1906 - The first French Grand Prix

14 February 1913 - 100 miles in one hour

8 April 1916 - Making post-war predictions

25 March 1922 - Caterpillar tracks are the future

2 February 1934 - The ethics of skidding

6 July 1934 - A tour of Cowley

1 June 1935 - Introduction of the driving test

22 June 1945 - Driving through post-WW2 Europe

21 January 1949 - Tidier tails

24 April 1959 - Aston Martin enters Formula 1

27 January 1961 - Ford Thunderbird road test

17 November 1961 - TVR Grantura road test

6 May 1971 - Driving Ford's Supervan

13 May 1978 - Ferrari 512 BB road test

19 January 1980 - Talbot Horizon road test

13 February 1982 - 4x4s tested on the farm 

17 April 1985 - Secrets of a lost British supercar

28 April 1993 - BL's unseen concepts

16 March 1994 - Bentley's Concept Java

16 April 1997 - When Bugatti bit the dust

4 April 2001 - 0-260mph in 6.0 seconds

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Join the debate

Comments
1

9 July 2015
At that time, Citroën was at Paris.
Nowadays automotive is the nbr 1 enemy.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer
  • Citroën C3
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Is the third gen Citroën C3 ‘fresh and different’ enough to take on its supermini rivals? We spend six months with one to find out
  • BMW X3
    First Drive
    15 October 2017
    A satisfying rework of the X3 that usefully improves its handling, cabin finish, space and connectivity to make this BMW a class front-runner again
  • Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
    First Drive
    13 October 2017
    Off-road estate is now bigger, more spacious and available with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, but is it enough to make its German rivals anxious?