Renault taxis of WWI | The Exposition

A video series about the history of cars.

Welcome to the first episode of a video series we're calling The Exposition, in which we'll explore the rich history of the transportation industry. From the obscure to the iconic to the everyday, these short videos will offer some fascinating background about cars and the things you might not know about them.

In this episode of The Exposition, we look at how the French used a relatively new invention, the car, in World War I.
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[00:00:00] You hear about the tanks and planes of WWI, but what you don't often hear about is how the humble taxi made a difference on the front.

On Aug. 3, 1914, the Germany declared war on France. Just over two weeks later, 27,000 French soldiers would die in a single day of fighting.

France was already in danger of losing the war. And when German soldiers marched within sight of the Eiffel Tower, all hope seemed lost.

But the French had a plan to use a relatively new invention,

[00:00:30] the car, to deliver troops to the battle. And what better car than the thousands of Renault AG1 Landaulet taxis that already choked Parisian streets.

For many soldiers, this ride in a taxi would be the first time they were ever in a car. The event became part of the legend of The Miracle on the Marne - the moment the French pushed back against Germany.

The legend of this incident quickly outgrew the reality.

People envisioned selfless taxi drivers protecting home and hearth by bravely heading into the fight, when in reality only 5,000 troops were delivered to the front in this fashion.

The taxi drivers also left the meters running and sent the government the bill.

So much for patriotism.

[00:01:00] But the legend of the taxis gave the French people something to cheer for when things looked their bleakest.

And it was this moment that cemented the importance of the car in modern warfare forever.

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