Peugeot's Illustrious History of French Presidential Cars

Presidential Peugeot 5008 7 photos
Photo: Peugeot
Presidential Peugeot 156Presidential Peugeot 604Presidential Peugeot 607 PaladinePresidential Citroen DS5Presidential DS 7 CrossbackPresidential Peugeot 5008
The limousine is, by definition, a luxurious vehicle with a long wheelbase for extra legroom for the rear passengers. The chauffer distinguishes it from luxury sedans, and the limo’s origin goes back to the 1700s.
The limousine started out as a horse-drawn carriage but ultimately swapped horse power for horsepower in 1902. The first combustion-engined limousine was developed that year in the French city of Limoges, hence the limousine’s name. The former administrative region of Limousin also needs to be mentioned. Both names originate from the Lemovices, a Gallic tribe mentioned by Gaius Julius Caesar in Commentarii de Bello Gallico.

French automakers know a thing or two about limousines, especially Peugeot. Currently owned by Stellantis, the cross-border merger between PSA and FCA, the French automaker was founded in 1810 in the guise of a steel foundry. Then a family-owned business, the company founded by Armand Peugeot originally produced... wait for it... hand tools and kitchen utensils.

Armand Peugeot took a liking to automobiles after a fateful meeting with Gottlieb Daimler. A steam-powered three-wheeler was launched in 1889, and one year later, Peugeot rolled out a gasoline-powered four-wheeler that would set the stage for the presidential limos we’re covering today.

Alexandre Millerand, the President of France from 1920 to 1924, drove a Type 156 during his tenure at the Élysée Palace. Produced between 1921 and 1923, the six-cylinder model features a 3,670-millimeter wheelbase and straight-six muscle. The 6.0-liter powerplant enables a top speed of 90 kilometers per hour (56 miles per hour if you prefer imperial units).

Presidential Peugeot 156
Photo: Peugeot
This behemoth produces in the ballpark of 25 horsepower, which is alright for a car from that period. Capable of accommodating four to six peeps, the 156 is believed to have sold 180 units. Peugeot used this luxobarge to test diesel engines, but Peugeot’s first non-commercial diesel engine for passenger cars would have to wait until the early months of 1939, when a handful of diesel-engined 402 saloons were sold into the taxi trade.

Approximately half a century after Millerand's 156, a Peugeot-loving automobile enthusiast by the name of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was elected by the French people as their President between 1974 and 1981. The Lion of Sochaux came back to the Elysée Palace in 1975 in grand style.

VGE ordered no fewer than four examples of the 604 during his term. Finished in moss green rather than black, these cars were split into two groups. Three units were top-of-the-line SL trims powered by a V6. The 604-based presidential limousine, by comparison, is 62 centimeters (24.4 inches) longer in wheelbase thanks to French coachbuilder Heuliez. Another French coachbuilder, Chapron, wanted in on the action with a 604-based landaulet that was ultimately delivered to Nigeria in 1979.

Come 1991, the French presidential administration purchased a very special 605 that had been lengthened and armored by Labbé, a Breton company that later morphed into Centigon. The V6-powered limousine was primarily used to drive heads of state such as Mikhail Gorbachev.

Presidential Peugeot 607 Paladine
Photo: Peugeot
Jacques Chirac, one of the most polarizing presidents of the Fifth Republic, succeeded François Mitterrand in May 1995. The 607 was the backbone of the presidential fleet during his 12-year stint at Elysée, but curiously enough, the President’s wife enjoyed driving a red-painted 205. A 1.4-liter Peugeot 205 SR five-door hatch from 1984, to be more precise.

The downright controversial Nicolas Sarkozy rolled in the 607 Paladine, first presented in the guise of a concept at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show. More than five meters long, the landaulet-style limousine was reassuringly bling thanks to a retractable glass roof covering the rear seats, Hermes upholstery consisting of blue and cream leather, and a minibar.

François Hollande, who cozied up to Putin before Russia invaded the Donbas in 2014, used a bespoke version of the DS5 HYbrid4 during a time when DS models were still marketed under Citroen. The sister brand of Peugeot had to phase out the lovely Citroen C6 from the presidential fleet to make room for this part-MPV, part-wagon atrocity of design.

Emmanuel Macron was anointed President of France in May 2017, and his original means of presidential transport came in the guise of a coach-built version of the DS 7 Crossback. The switcheroo back to Peugeot, namely the 5008, occurred on Bastille Day. Celebrated each year on July 14th, the National Day of France marks the 1789 storming of the Bastille.
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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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