Category Archives: Artwork

Bibendum – The Larger Than Life Michelin Man

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  •   A 1914  postcard offering this image as a 21 x 29-inch poster for ten cents

By Matthew Hocker:

Bibendum is Michelin’s metaphorical superhero and, like any comic book character, he comes with a fascinating origin story. In 1889, French brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin set out to work on what would become the first detachable pneumatic tires. Up until that point, replacement of tires was complicated and time consuming.  In fact the brother’s quest was inspired by the replacement of a customer’s inflated Dunlop bicycle tire, which had been held in place by glue.

mich4Their invention made its public debut in 1891 when the tires were used in the Paris-Brest roundtrip bike race.  The brothers viewed the event as an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of detachable tires, and their sponsored biker Charles Terron delivered on that promise.  At one point, he punctured a tire and lost the lead but still managed to emerge in first place.  When interviewed, he attributed his victory to Michelin’s tires, claiming they were easy to remove and repair.

For a time, Terron served as Michelin’s spokesman but Andre and Edouard sought a unique way of promoting their product. An epiphany struck Edouard at the 1894 Universal and Colonial Exhibition in Lyon, France. The entrance to the Michelin stand was flanked by two piles of tires, the shape of which Edouard noted to be almost humanlike in appearance.

Soon after this chance encounter, the Michelin brothers were approached by the graphic artist O’Galup. The image he presented was a plump likeness of Gambrinus, the legendary icon of beer brewing. Beer in hand, the figure exclaimed “Nunc est bibendum!” (Latin for “Now is the time to drink.”)  The Munich brewery O’Galup originally crafted the design for rejected the idea, but Andre and Edouard were intrigued.

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  •                   January 8, 1921 “Saturday Evening Post” advertisement

With the brothers’ blessings, O’Galop set out to design Michelin’s mascot, finishing the first advertising posters in 1898.  The result was a fusion between O’Galop and Edouard’s ideas; the mascot was comprised of stacked tires and retained the rotund figure of Gambrinus. O’Galop also ran with the alcohol theme, depicting the Michelin Man raising a toast of broken glass and nails, all while withered looking tire people representing competitors looked on helplessly. The Latin phrase remained intact, with the addition of the motto, “the tire that drinks up obstacles.” After going public, the Latin phrase was frequently associated with the character, and Bibendum became his adopted name.

mich5Like his physical appearance, Bibendum’s public persona was larger than life. He was a prominent figure at auto shows and parades, with Michelin employees donning puffy character suits.  By 1927, Michelin was interested in marketing the character beyond the sale of tires, and he began appearing on stationary, maps, and automotive gauges. Candy confectioner Tobler even made a chocolate Bibendum! Michelin ceased manufacturing accessories in 1930 because companies with similar products felt they were facing unfair competition and threatened to boycott Michelin tires.

In addition to his visual presence, Bibendum served as the voice of the company. An example of this was Michelin Instruction Plates, a 24 page tire maintenance and troubleshooting guide published in 1913. Bibendum was listed as the editor and signed the forward, “yours pneumatically.” His figure dominated the cover illustration, in which he was seen providing a demonstration to a massive crowd.

The Bibendum of early advertisements was vastly different from the form we recognizemich7 today. Prominent features included a big belly, human hands, glasses, and a lit cigar. It’s also worth mentioning Bibendum’s appearance was less restricted than it is today. Contracts with several different artists contributed to a diverse range of interpretations of the character. Michelin’s expanse into foreign markets also gave way to regional variations. His image became more standardized when Michelin’s artwork was done in-house by the 1930s.

Bibendum’s looks continued to change with the passage of time. As the tire titan entered the roaring twenties, the width of the rings on his body expanded, and his hands became whiteHis glasses eventually morphed into large round eyes, reminiscent of the then-up-and-coming animated characters like Mickey Mouse.

Bibendum must have also had an intervention because he no longer drank and, with the exception of the occasional relapse, gave up smoking by 1929. In fact, he became more interested in physical fitness. A 1925 poster featured Bibendum running alongside a tire, an image that was to later become a long-standing emblem for the company. This “exercise” paid off, as he is considerably thinner today.

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  •                        The cover for the 1913 Michelin “Instruction Plates”

In a world where trends come and go Bibendum has stood the test of time, having remained an industry superstar for over a century. To learn more about this legendary mascot, be sure to stop by the library or give us a call. We have a collection of early advertisements, more than 35 Michelin brochures and catalogs and the book The Michelin Man: 100 Years of Bibendum, which offers a comprehensive history of the character. We would also be interested in acquiring additional Michelin material to fill in the gaps within our collection. Contact us at the AACA Library.

Editors note: Matthew Kocker Assistant Librarian at the AACA Library wrote this piece on one of our favorite early advertising symbol’s, Bibendum. You can take a look back here on our earlier coverage of him and Michelin Tires here.

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The Beast of Turin – The Rebirth of a 1729 Cubic Inch S.76 Fiat – The Monster is Spinning


Stefan Marjoram was at Duncan Pittaway’s shop yesterday in the UK and captured the scene with this drawing of the big Fiat engine yesterday and reports:

I heard it chuff and woosh for perhaps the first time in close to a hundred years. It was being turned over by a tractor to check the oil pressure, etc. There were a few issues that need to be looked after, but it won’t be long now and the engine will be bolted into the chassis and the bodywork can go on for the final time.

Let’s all hope they make it to the Goodwood Festival of Speed later in the week with the Monster. You can view many photos and read the rest of the story we have been following  for the last three years covering the Fiat S76 here.

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French Automotive Poster Art


Today we have a series of early posters printed by the color lithography process that was perfected in the 1870s, thereby allowing printers to produce them in larger quantities. In our first post on French poster art, you can learn how artist and printer Jules Cheret further developed the three stone lithographic process to allow the more vivid use of color. This new type of poster soon became popular for advertising the automobile and the motorcycle when both came upon the scene shortly afterwards.

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Today we are sharing with you some of a fresh selection of colorful poster art that Isabelle Bracquemond has come across recently. In the meantime, you can take a look back at our second posting of French poster art and learn more about Ernest Montaut who was perhaps the most famous of all early transportation artists. You can also look back at the work by other automotive artists including Peter Helck here on The Old Motor.


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