In 1995, the International
Citroën Club Rally (ICCCR) was held on the Michelin test track at
their worldwide headquaters in Clermont-Ferrand, France. Ever since
ICCCR '95, I had heard rumors of a private Michelin museum somewhere
in Clermont-Ferrand. But the museum was only rumored to exist and if
it existed at all, was seldom seen by the public.
Recently, my job allowed me to
work closely with Michelin of France on a project. The project
required several trips to Michelin's Clermont-Ferrand headquarters. On
the second visit, I felt that I had generated enough of a relationship
with my Michelin counterparts to ask if I could visit the mysterious
Sure enough, a museum does exist, and I was invited to see it! But my
Michelin counterpart had himself barely known of its existence! I was
driven to an anonymous industrial building near downtown
Clermont-Ferrand. The building had no way to distinguish itself as a
Michelin building. Furthermore, I found it especially curious that the
museum was not located within the gated, sprawling, and highly secured
Michelin complex itself.
There are several floors to the building and each look to be used
primarily for storage. But on the second floor, sure enough, there is
a large area set up in a museum format.
Once inside, we had to search
for the circuit breakers to turn on the lights. We were all alone in
this huge building looking at these strange and wonderful displays. I
got the impression that very few had ever been inside. It was not
clear whether cameras were allowed, but I brought mine in anyway.
So what was inside this mysterious museum? There were bikes, cars,
motorcycles, Bibendum memorabilia, and of course, 110 years of tire
evolution! And yes, there were Citroëns - three on display and
others in the storage areas. Pictures of the inside of the museum
follow, but first, lets take a look at 170 years of Michelin company
marries a Scot named Elizabeth Pugh Barker, niece of the Scottish
scientist named Mackintosh who discovered the solubility of rubber
in Benzene. Elizabeth introduces rubber into the Auvergne region of
France by manufacturing balls out of rubber for her children to play
Aristide Barbier and Edouard Daubrée open a small
manufacturing plant for farm machinery and pumps in
||They set up a
partnership called Barbier Daubrée & Co., which is soon
changed to E. Daubrée & Co.
a lawyer is appointed to co-direct the company with Ernest Daubrée
(who succeeded his father Edouard Daubrée).
name is changed to J.G. Bideau & Co.
Michelin, who had been operating a painting studio in Paris, takes
over management of the J.G. Bideau company and renames it Michelin
(or 1891, depending on source) A bicyclist happens to show up on
the doorstep of Michelin & Co. looking for materials to repair a
damaged Dunlop tire for his bike.
||It takes 3
hours of labor and an overnight drying time to repair the tire. The
next morning when the bike was ready, Edouard Michelin tried to ride
the newly repaired bike on the streets of Clermont-Ferrand. But
within minutes, he returned on foot - the repair had failed! Edouard
could not believe this ordeal and set off to develop a bicycle tire
that is easier to repair. This single event is credited for igniting
the Michelin tire empire.
Later this year, Michelin files its first patents for detachable
tires (this tire can be repaired in 15 minutes!).
named Charles Terront wins a prestigious bicycle race on a bike
equipped with detachable Michelin tires, giving Michelin outstanding
Michelin foresees that the pneumatic tire will play a central role
in the emerging transportation industry and focuses strongly on tire
Brothers Andre and
Edouard Michelin - 1885
||A car, driven
by Edouard Michelin and his brother André, completes the
Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race (1200 km). This is the first automobile to
be equipped with pneumatic tires!
Michelin is approaching the Michelin tire display at an exposition
in Lyon, he sees a tall stack of Michelin tires and remarks to his
brother André, "Give it some arms and legs and it would
look like a man!" Soon after, the Michelin man corporate mascot
is born with the help of an artist named O'Galop.
||On one of the
first advertising posters with the Michelin man, he is shown
drinking a goblet of sharp objects signifying that Michelin tires
can "drink" sharp objects. Across the top of the poster,
there is a latin verse, "Nunc est Bibendum!" This verse
translates to "It's time to drink!" Henceforth, the
Michelin man was named, Bibendum.
Thought to be the
first and second Bibendum advertisements (1899)
publishes their first travel guide, presumably to make travel easier
and hence generate more of a demand for Michelin tires.
plant in Clermont-Ferrand is expanded to cover 74 acres of land and
employs 4000 people.
opens its first tire manufacturing plant in the USA (Milltown, New
invents the first detachable steel wheel.
starts building airplanes in Clermont-Ferrand as part of the WW1 war
builds the world's first paved airplane runway, located in
Michelin appoints his son, Etienne, as co-director of the company.
takes control of the financially troubled Citroën company.
Fortunately, Michelin decides to continue with the Traction Avant
Michelin (another son of Edouard) is named president of the Citroën
company and Pierre Boulanger is named vice president.
Citroën launches the TPV program (Tout Petit Véhiclule).
As we all know, this became the 2CV.
files for a patent on the first tire of radial construction on June
is launched at the Paris Auto Show.
radial tire is named with the "X" nomenclature.
Michelin (son of Etienne Michelin) becomes co-director of the
sells its shares in the Citroën company.
introduces the "AIR X," the first radial tire for
introduces their "Energy" range of car tires, designed to
reduce rolling friction and hence improve fuel consumption.
celebrates his 100th birthday.
Now for some photos of the
Yup, that is a perfect
2CV Sahara in the background
Metal rivets were used
in an early attempt to improve traction
Early attempt at snow
chains, using leather straps and metal rivets
Post-war Traction Avant
used for tire testing
Test equipment inside
Very Famous Cutaway
Tire showing radial construction (1946). This tire is featured in the
spring 2001 issue of Invention & Technology Magazine