l’Obeissante: 150 Years Old And Still Going Strong!

Images: Musée des Arts et Métiers – CNAM (Franck Botté, Michèle Favareille)

Considered as the first ‘touring’ vehicle, l’Obéissante—built in 1873 by Amédée Bollée—is expected to be one of the stars at the forthcoming Rétromobile Salon, kicking off the festivities linked to the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in hall 1 of Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles, from 1st to 5th February.

This emblematic piece of automotive history, kept at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris, is the very first vehicle to have been driven on the route of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Looking a lot like a minibus, l’Obéissante is an astounding concept from 150 years ago

On 9th October 1875, during the journey that made this vehicle famous, l’Obéissante collected as many as 75 fines between Le Mans and Paris: it was the price to pay so that this vehicle could go down in history!

Amédée Bollée covered the 230 kilometres in 18 hours, with stops to take water and meals included. Bollée had indeed taken the necessary steps with the services of the Ministry of Public Works to obtain a ‘driver's license’ for l’Obéissante on the road, but the ‘driving’ of automobiles was not yet provided for in the regulations of the time.

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The dominating part of the vehicle is the boiler and the mechanisms around it

The fines, incidentally, were eventually cancelled after a demonstration of l’Obéissante with, on board, the prefect of police!

This exceptional vehicle, the first vehicle with mechanical and steam traction, could carry 12 passengers, a driver and a chauffeur, the person feeding the fire. Thanks to its tubular boiler, its chain transmission and its two V-twin engines, it could travel at a cruising speed of 30 km/h. Maximum speed was around 40 km/h, and it had the ability to climb gradients of up to 12 percent!

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With seating for 14, l’Obéissante manages to be very spacious and practical

Named l’Obéissante because of its great steering stability, it was later touted as the first high-speed automobile.

A hundred years ago, l’Obéissante took part in the Le Mans Cup of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, on the brand new 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit. It is currently one of several significant historic vehicles on display as a part of the exhibition called Permis de conduire? (A license to drive) which is on at the Musée des Arts et Métiers (in Paris) until 7th May 2023. If you are in Paris for Retromobile, it is worth popping into Musée des Arts et Métiers, where you can see some of the oldest horseless carriages ever.

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In beautifully restored condition, l’Obéissante remains one of the earliest working automobiles

The presentation of l’Obéissante at the Rétromobile show will be associated with a program of activities intended for a ‘family audience’. On Saturday (4th February), from 2pm onwards, four of the great-great-grandchildren of Amédée Bollée will have a chat with the public about the heritage bequeathed by their illustrious ancestor.

On Saturday, the 4th and the 5th of February, from 10am to 7pm, families are invited to come and make an optical toy on the theme of l’Obéissante. Throughout the show, visitors will be able to come and meet the team from the museums, and experience an ephemeral ‘Special Retromobile’ shop.

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On display at the Musée des Arts et Métiers-CNAM, it is worth dropping into the museum also for its special exhibition on Permis de conduire?

Finally, if you show the show catalogue of Rétromobile, visitors can get reduced rate access to the Arts et Métiers Museum and the Permis de conduire? exhibition (which is valid until 7th May 2023, and is limited to two places, with free access for children under 26 years of age).


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