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1911 Gregoire with a Submarine Torpedo body

Gregoire Submarine – Advanced Aerodynamics and Skylighting

Gregoire was a French automobile and aircraft manufacturer. Henri Coanda was a brilliant Romanian aeronautical engineer and inventor. Alin and Liautard was a French coachbuilder of the highest order. Together they designed and built at least two extraordinary automobiles.

According to the Gregoire Association, in 1911 the Company introduced new models powered by long stroke four cylinder engines. In addition to the other body styles, it offered this new “Limousine Submarine” which Gregoire patented.


  • The windshield with curved sides and the roof skylights may have defined the automotive term “greenhouse”. The tear-dropped shaped tail on this second circa 1911 Gregoire ends in a point, and the rear-mounted spare tire is entirely concealed. Photo courtesy of Isabelle Bracquemond. 

Coanda designed the car’s body after his experiments with streamlining. He is reported to have built a platform that he mounted on the side of a train car on the Paris to Saint-Quentin route. He used smoke passing over the shapes he was testing at 55 m.p.h. (90 km/h). To record the effects of the airflow he constructed a special camera of his own design.

Alin et Liautard, the accomplished Coachbuilder located in Courbevoie, just outside of Paris, constructed this amazing design. It addition to building it, we assume the Company had to have the custom curved glass formed to the contours and dimensions needed before the body could be constructed.

Changes visible on this second four door version are: a raised skylight with ten side panels, three curved and tapered glass panels on both sides of the roof, a pointed wing-shaped tail with a concealed spare tire, and integrated side lamps.


  • Side view and a top view (below) by Agence Meurisse dated 1911. The first “Submarine” drew quite a crowd at an Exhibition-Concours. Images courtesy of the French National Museum.

Gijsbert-Paul Berk reported in an article on aerodynamics on VeloceToday, that this first semi teardrop shape was built for Jacques Hinstin, the Managing Director of Gregoire. It featured curved glass panels on the top and rear of the roof, and a three-piece windshield.



   Spare tire arangement with doors open, image via Ivan Pozega – Rear view courtesy of VeloceToday.


3 responses to “Gregoire Submarine – Advanced Aerodynamics and Skylighting

  1. After years in the aerospace industry I have long been familiar with the ‘coanda effect,’ but I was not aware that Coanda had collaborated on the design of an automobile coach. The curved glass alone is quite innovative. It isn’t until you see the overhead view that you can appreciate the attention given to the aero, the long hood and narrow radiator would have sliced through the air nicely and fed the flow of air around the cabin. But it still has those gangly looking headlamps. Still, I can’t help but wonder what the coefficient of drag would be if tested from the back of the car.

  2. An early description of this phenomenon was provided by Thomas Young in a lecture given to The Royal Society in 1800,
    Much later, 60 years after this vehicle appeared, I was at University, and a friend was doing research on the Coanda Effect, and simply by blowing air out of the periphery of a teardrop shaped object, he could make it move, and today, you would be surprised what vehicles are using this effect.
    Aerodina Lenticulară a flying saucer (sort of) by AVRO Canada,
    The VZ-9 AV Avrocar (often listed as VZ-9) was an AVRO Canada VTOL craft.
    Avro’s 1956 Project 1794 for the US military was a larger-scale flying saucer intended to reach speeds between Mach 3 and Mach 4. Project remained classified until 2012.
    The McDonnell Douglas YC-15 and its successor, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III,
    The Coandă effect is used in dual-pattern fluid dispensers in automobile windshield washers.
    In Formula One automobile racing, the Coandă effect has been exploited by the McLaren, Sauber, Ferrari and Lotus teams, after the first introduction by Adrian Newey (Red Bull Team) in 2011, to help redirect exhaust gases to run through the rear diffuser with the intention of increasing downforce at the rear of the car. Regulations to ban this were implemented in 2014

    • It’ always interesting to listen to F-1 aeordynamicists, the key it seems is to never try to make air do something, but rather take advantage of what it will do.

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