Car: Citroën Petite Rosalie, 1933

These days, with rigorous prototype testing and computer-aided manufacturing, we take our cars’ reliability for granted. Carmakers have every confidence their products will last.

1933 Citroën Petite Rosalie
Citroën’s “Petite Rosalie” at Montlhéry during its 133-day record run, to prove the stamina the firm put into its 8CV model.

It was very different in the early 1930s, when human error meant that few cars—and roads—could be entirely depended upon. In this environment, Citroën decided to prove the longevity of its products.

Its smart new 8CV Rosalie model made its debut at the 1932 Paris motor show, with an up-tothe-minute unitary-construction body and a 89ci (1,452cc) engine, advertised as “floating power.”

1933 Citroën Petite Rosalie

Citroën arrived at the Montlhéry race track in 1933 with a special 8CV. It was called “Petite Rosalie” thanks to its cut-down, skimpy two-seater body. The idea was to see how far the car could be driven, non-stop, with a team of drivers.

The model of the car Citroën Petite Rosalie ran for 133 days and nights, and only stopped when it had covered over 186,000 miles (300,000km). This incredible total—120,000 laps at an average speed of 58mph (93kph) brought Citroën enormous publicity. Petite Rosalie also broke or established 300 other records. Before long, the name Rosalie became a byword for dependability.

“It has been said that publicity makes people buy once, but credibility makes them buy twice.”

André Citroën

Video model of the car Citroën Petite Rosalie

Specification model of the car Citroën Petite Rosalie

  • YEAR REVEALED: 1933
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Paris, France
  • HISTORICAL STATUS: speed record car
  • ENGINE: four-cylinder, 89ci (1,452cc)
  • MAXIMUM POWER: 32bhp
  • LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
  • BODYWORK: two-seater roadster
  • TOP SPEED: 70mph (113kph)
  • NUMBER BUILT: one