Representation, communication, protection… the president’s car is much more than just a car! Peugeot has been a supplier to the Elysée for more than half a century, from the Peugeot 604 for Valéry Giscard d’Estaign to the Peugeot 5008 for Emmanuel Macron. A brief overview of the history of presidential Peugeots…
Let’s first look at recent history. Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected president, arrived with a Peugeot 5008 at his ceremony on July 14, 2017. He kept the car during the first five years of presidency. The Peugeot 5008 is probably the most filmed and photographed car of the past five years. Still, it’s not the car we know the most about. For understandable security reasons, the specifications of the car are not fully known. What we do know is that the presidential car, like all other Peugeot 5008s, was produced at the Rennes factory. After that, the car was entrusted to Centigon, a specialized company in Brittany that carried out the armoring. For the rest, there is only official information about the seating arrangement. In the back there are two seats instead of a back seat and there is also a special center console. You can also see that the grille is equipped with flashing lights and that there is a presidential badge on the body. The rest is top secret!
The pioneer: Alexandre Millerand’s Peugeot Type 156
The “prehistory” of PEUGEOT and the French Republic begins in the 1920s. Alexandre Millerand is elected on September 23, 1920 as the third president of the Republic and drives a brand new Peugeot Type 156 from 1921. The Type 156 is the first model to be produced in Sochaux and was the brand’s top model at the time. The car has an impressive 6-cylinder in-line engine, with a capacity of 5,954 cc and an output of… 25 hp.
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s Peugeot 604
More than half a century later, a lover of driving, cars and Peugeot is elected president. Valéry Giscard d’Estaign brings Peugeot to the Elysée Palace in 1975. That is the year that the Peugeot 604 is introduced as the brand’s new flagship. The newly elected head of state also provides a breath of fresh air: on request, the presidential cars are no longer black, but moss green.
Four Peugeot 604s are ordered in the seven-year presidential term. Three of them are production models, the top version SL with the 2.6-liter V6 with 136 hp under the hood. The president also liked to get behind the wheel in the 604. In addition to these cars, a PEUGEOT 604 Presidential Limousine was reserved for ceremonial occasions. It was built at the time in collaboration with coachbuilder Heuliez, has a 62-centimeter extended wheelbase and is equipped with extra luxurious seats in the back and a roof covered with black imitation leather.
However, the Elysée did not approve the Peugeot 604 Landaulet project, the roof of which could be opened at the rear. That car was proposed by coachbuilder Chapron. The one copy built in 1979 eventually went to the president of Nigeria.
François Mitterand’s armored Peugeot 605 limousine
In 1991, the Elysée Palace received a Peugeot 605, which had been lengthened and armored by the Breton company Labbé. Labbé is the company that later became Centigon, the company that provided the presidential Peugeot 5008. The 605 featured a 170 hp V6, strong armor and bulletproof glass and polycarbonate composite windows. In numbers: the car weighs 2,500 kg, which is 1,000 kg more than the standard 605 V6! This limousine was mainly used by heads of state of other countries who stayed in France, such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Hosni Mubarak and Pope John Paul II.
Chirac’s Peugeot models
During his twelve years at the Elysée Palace, Jacques Chirac regularly used Peugeot 607s from the presidential fleet. But the Peugeot that undoubtedly made the greatest impression on the French at the time is the red Peugeot 205 SR from 1984, which the wife of the president herself drove on the roads of Corrèze…
Nicolas Sarkozy’s Peugeot 607 Paladine
The Peugeot 607 Paladine is perhaps the most spectacular presidential car of the Republic, yet with the shortest period of use. In 2007, for the inauguration on the Champs Elysées, Nicolas Sarkozy’s team went in search of a car that symbolized innovation and modernity. One of the team members mentions the Peugeot 607 Paladine concept car, unveiled at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show. This spectacular 607 was produced by coachbuilder Heuliez for Peugeot. The car measured more than five meters in length and was converted into a landaulet with an opening glass roof over the rear seats. The luxurious interior featured blue and cream Hermès leather upholstery, a wet bar, two power recliners for the leading occupants and a rear-facing folding seat for an additional passenger.
At the request of Nicolas Sarkozy’s team, the Peugeot 607 Paladine was removed from the Peugeot Museum and on May 16, 2007, France and the rest of the world were surprised by the sight of the 607 Paladine on the Champs Elysées. Despite the many changes to the car, it was still as elegant as the standard Peugeot 607. However, the installation of the roof mechanism meant that the petrol tank had to be much smaller: it only held six litres. What was not a problem for the concept car, became a major challenge now that the car would be used regularly. The car was quite heavy and the V6 also liked a sip. That is why it was finally decided not to use the Peugeot 607 Paladine after the inauguration.
One or two flags? There is a precise protocol that determines the “decoration” of the presidential car. When the president drives the car for an official occasion, the French flag is placed in the front right. That is also the side where the head of state always gets in and out. When another head of state or government representative from another country accompanies the French president, the flag of that country is placed on the front left of the car. That is also the side where the relevant head of state enters and exits.
Which license plate? Until the 1970s, the Elysée Palace had reserved license plates for the presidential car: 1PR75 to 5PR75. The registration number 1PR75 has been used for various cars. This tradition came to an end and the presidential car now carries regular registration plates as are issued for all cars in France by the vehicle registration service.
what happens to the cars after their services to the president? There is no hard and fast rule for that. Some cars are kept in the Elysée’s fleet, others are sold or given to museums. For example, the Peugeot Type 156 from Millerand, the Peugeot 604 Limousine from Giscard d’Estaing, the Peugeot 605 limousine from Mitterand and the Peugeot 607 Paladine can be admired in the Musée de l’Aventure Peugeot.