A Chariot of Fire (“fardier à vapeur”) runs at Pinellas Park on April 9th, 2011: Guided Visit by Alain Cerf

A Chariot of Fire (“fardier à vapeur”) runs at Pinellas Park on April 9th, 2011: Guided Visit by Alain Cerf

JPEGAlain Cerf, President and Founder of the Polypack Society, and creator of the automobile museum of Tampa Bay presents a celebration of the first automobile, the chariot of fire.

  • Why did you, the President of Polypack, wish to open an automobile museum in 2005 in the Western coast of Florida?

Alain Cerf: The idea sprung from the Polypack company, as its engineers were interested by the innovation of the automobile. The company undertook a study on the evolution of the automobile during the 1920s and 1930s. It concluded that half a dozen of people, mostly European, were at the core of the development of the automobile.
Then we began collecting cars designed by these creators.

Since the construction of the Polypack plant in 1995, a room was envisaged to showcase collected cars.
Two entries were built, one for the firm and another one for the exhibition room.
In 2005, on the date of inauguration of the "Tampa Bay Automobile Museum", we crossed the stage somewhat confident, as cars were being seen mainly by customers of the company, in an opening for the general public.

This event represented a true challenge because we had to explain details about 30 or 40 different cars at the time of the opening of the museum, and we were particularly curious to see the reaction of the visitors.

“The Tampa Bay Automobile Museum” follows a central theme: the idea of linking machines with men, to establish a connection between the engineer and the innovation.
The presentation of these automobiles is therefore organized chronologically, and it includes a technical account for each of the corresponding innovations.

-  More than the automobile itself, it seems like your interest is focused on innovation…

Alain Cerf: Innovation is indispensable but it is generally unwelcome in whatever area it arises. Behind Polypack, a firm specialized in industrial packing, technology is omnipresent.
It is always necessary to develop new ideas leading to the creation of new machines, knowing that very few projects will manage to effectively come to reality.

This automobile museum defends the innovation, audacity and genius of inventors whose work it showcases, including Jean-Albert Grégoire, Doctor of Law, great specialist in champignons and polytechnic engineer at the onset of mass production of the Panhard Dyna X; and also Hans Ledwinka who first worked at Tatra as a simple mechanic and who would later design the first streamlined car for the same company.

These two men are the two forces of the museum represented by the logo chosen to illustrate “the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum”, symbolizing the two opposing forces that complement each other.

The Museum also highlights the perils of innovation, the three quarters of inventions that led to ruin.

-  What is this « Chariot of Fire» that you are presenting Saturday, April 9 near Tampa?

Alain Cerf: In 2004, when I was at the Musée des Arts et Metiers in Paris, a conference of Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot was held to commemorate the anniversary of his disappearance. The speaker addressed his genius but also the difficulties he had encountered, his inventions were partly resented.

From this instant on, I was interested in its "dray" endowed with a fantastic engineering. The model of 1771 displayed in the museum is an ancient monument, impossible to observe or to make it turn…

So I chose to build a replica that would expose its mechanism and technicality.

Building it demanded 3 to 4 research years, and 2 to 3 years more were necessary for its manufacturing process, as well as the intervention of numerous professionals.

It was the French who were in charge of the development of the wooden parts. Using the manufacturing methods of the 18th century, they have carved wheels and frames of ash and oak in this fabulous vehicle that is 5-6 meters long. About the copper boiler, it was done in Tampa, Florida.

It was the Duke of Choiseul, Minister of Foreign Affairs, of the war and of the navy, willing to develop the artillery which had supported Cugnot’s project, the idea was to be able to fire cannons at the pace of the French artillery, horses could not move a load of more than 2 tons and a half.
The French engineer invented in 1770, the first steam engine at high pressure and a steering rack, he also invented the rotary motion and reverse, in short, he had created the first automobile.

And it works! The replica passed the test. This « Chariot of fire » had already worked in Paris on the occasion of "Retromobile", an annual exhibit of cars collection in Porte de Versailles. During 5 days, it turned at the speed of 4 km per hour and attracted not less than 85, 000 visitors.

To see the « Chariot of Fire » (and the whole collection) on Saturday, April 9, 2011 in Pinellas Park:
Tampa Bay Automobile Museum, 3301 Gateway Centre blvd
Pinellas Park, FL 33782
Tel: 727 579 8226

Last modified on 22/06/2012

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