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by Tim Beissmann

In 1810, Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frédéric Peugeot turned their father’s cereal mill into a steel foundry, taking the Peugeot family into the industrial era.

Today, 200 years later, a new chapter in the Peugeot story is being written with a further evolution of the brand as it enters its third century.

Last week CarAdvice showed you the SR1 Concept which previews Peugeot’s new design language, to be officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

Standing proudly on the bonnet was a new lion badge, which is set to debut on the new RCZ sports car in a few months time. Peugeot says it has been designed in-house and will become the focal point of every vehicle.

It is simpler and more dynamic with a stronger stance, and achieves greater fluidity with its new bi-metallic look through the use of both matt and polished finishes. It discards the blue flag background to give a more autonomous impression.

Some brands are very defensive of their badge, and refuse to change it throughout history.

Not Peugeot.

The Lion emblem was first conceived in 1847 when Jules and Emile Peugeot, who founded the company Peugeot Frères, asked Julien Blazer, a jeweller and engraver, to produce a logo for identifying all Peugeot products.

The chosen design was a Lion, as the characteristics of the lion were very similar to those of the saws the Peugeot brothers were producing: strong teeth like those of the lion, suppleness of the blade like the lion’s spine, and swiftness of cut like the lion pouncing on its prey.

The lion quickly became Peugeot’s sole registered trade mark, and could be found not only on tools and saw blades, but also on coffee grinders by 1881 (the production of which began in 1840), on bicycles from 1882 and, from 1898, on motorcycles.

Although the first Peugeot production car the Type 3, built by Armand Peugeot dates from 1891, it was only in 1906 that the emblem first appeared on a production car.

In 1910, the two entities (Peugeot Frères and Armand Peugeot) merged to become La Sté des automobiles et cycles Peugeot. The two product ranges, however, co-existed until the First World War.

The last car to display the “lion walking on an arrow” was the Bébé Lion (designed by Ettore Bugatti), presented at the Paris Motor Show in October 1912.

Subsequent models, however, used old-style lettering, on the top of the radiator grille contained inside a double “ellipse”, and in some instances with lettering also on the radiator, either on its own or in a coat of arms (from the 201).

In the 1920s the Lion became a rallying call for “Peugeotistes” who used it as a decoration on their radiator caps. Two types of radiator Lions were distributed in the network, a roaring version by the sculptor Marx and one ready to pounce by Baudichon.

For its part, Peugeot bicycles and motorcycles first used the lion “walking on an arrow” emblem against the background of a spoked wheel; later a fighting lion facing to the right was introduced in the 1920s and, finally, the same design but with upright lettering in 1960. Tools and domestic appliances opted for the lion “walking on an arrow” in a coat of arms or on an oval plaque for coffee grinders.

From October 1933, with the launch of the “aerodynamic” range of Peugeot vehicles 201, 301 and 601, a lion’s head re-appeared on the top of the radiator grille.

This design also appeared on the 401, first seen at the 1934 Paris Motor Show and with a tapered head design on the 402 (1935) then the 302 (1936) and the 202 in 1938. 

In 1948, the 203 adopted as its figurehead a lion on the bonnet in a more prominent style. With the launch of the 403 in 1955 another new lion appeared on the bonnet, however, these two designs were deemed too dangerous in the event of a collision and soon disappeared in September 1958.

The launch of the 203 also marked the first appearance of the heraldic lion of Franche-Comté and the Duchy of Montbéliard.

It was attached to the boot lid until October 1952 and then migrated to the front of the bonnet from September 1958 until the end of the series in February 1960. During this period the heraldic lion also appeared on Peugeot motorcycles.

The same design of the lion was also placed in a small coat of arms in the centre of the radiator grille on the 403 range from April 1955 to 1966 before being replaced by a larger version, which first appeared on the Pininfarina styled 404, in May 1960.

It was then replaced by a lion (gilt or chrome-plated) leaping from its background, which first appeared in September 1968 on the 504, then was adopted by the 404, 204, 304 and 104.

Another generation, the lion “in outline” appeared on the 604 marketed in September 1975, and then extended to the 305 (November 1977) and 505 (May 1979) before being presented on a black background in 1982 on the 205, through to the 306 in 1993.

At its launch in October 1995, the 406 stood out with its large lion emblem which rapidly migrated across the entire “six” generation models.  This led in 1998 to a new look lion, with a stylised, angular appearance that decorated the front and rear of both Peugeot cars and scooters.

Which brings us to today’s lion, on display in Geneva from March and in production on the RCZ from April.

After 152 years, the lion has now well and truly become universally recognised as the symbol of Peugeot.

(with Peugeot)




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