Tour de France Caravan Paper Hat, Singer


Tour de France Caravan Paper Hat

The Tour de France Caravan handed out these beautiful, delicate paper hats to eager fans in the post-WWII era. Printed on lightweight paper, it is incredible some have survived. The colors, shapes, and wild designs are still delightful today.

La Caravan Du Tour is a spectacle of unparalleled scale and grandeur. It spans the entire 3,360-kilometer race course, passing by millions of fans and showering them with thousands of pieces of swag, all courtesy of race sponsors who pay generously for the privilege.

The caravan was dreamed up by race founder Henri Desgrange in 1930 when he wanted to move riders away from company sponsorships to racing on national teams. Each rider was given the same bicycle, and race costs were covered by sponsors joining the caravan. France’s most prominent companies clamored to join. The idea was a huge hit and is still popular today.

Today, the caravan rolls out roughly two hours before the peloton, loaded with trinkets and music blasting. The passing extravaganza of fanciful floats tosses out hats, t-shirts, keychains, and other goodies to a frenzy of excited fans. Timing is tricky. The caravan must move fast enough not to be caught by the race but slow enough to keep the fans who have often been waiting since dawn entertained. The current Tour de France caravan is roughly 12 kilometers long with 170 vehicles and takes 45 minutes to pass the waiting crowds.

The caravan is as much a part of the roadside racing experience as the peloton. If you blink after hours on the roadside, you might miss the fast-moving peloton, while the caravan is a slow-moving party that fans adore.

Size: 12 1/4 x 6 inches (31 x 15.5 cm)

This item is one of a kind; please look carefully at the photos to determine the condition.


Only 1 left in stock

SKU: HAT 016 Category: Tag:


TDF History: La Caravane

From Pez Cycling News

There are many ways to follow le Tour de France, but unless you’re a rider, you’ll want a more stylish mode of transpo than bike, and nothing fits the bill better than one of the colourful caravan vehicles that precede each day’s stage, branding the Tour’s sponsors into the hearts of the roadside fans… PEZ looks at the history of the famous Tour Caravan.

– This Tour Special Report prepared for PEZ by Pascal Orsini – an actual French authority on the Caravan.

Seeing the Tour de France live is a thrill for any true fan, as you join the legions of TDF fatithful on a road in the French countryside, sometimes waiting for hours for just a few seconds glimpse of the speeding peloton. With upwards of a million spectators lining the routes, the smell of ‘le opportunity’ was stronger than unrefridgerated camembert, and savvy TDF organisers long ago devised one of the most colorful and cacophonic marketing mediums to ever smack a consumer in ‘la tкte’. Of course we speak of the famous Tour de Frace «Caravane» !

Tour 1990: Watch out for that giant… advertisement!

My own first experience with the caravan was on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez in 1990. The valley around Bourg d’Oisans was a furnace that day, making my pack of salamis, wine and cheese even heavier as I pedalled up the famous climb. The heat and fumes from my lunch got the best of me, forcing me to seek refuge several turns before the top. But as I settled in with the hundreds of fans who arrived before me, I stood in awe as my first ‘caravan’ trundled past – in a hail-storm of cheap trinkets – watching fans young and old risk life and limb to pick up said junk from the smoldering pavement before getting squashed by a giant seneaker… You never forget your first ‘caravan’ experience…

But I digress – let’s turn it over to Pascal…

The Tour de France was created in 1903 by the newspaper “L’Auto” as a way to sell more papers. During the 1920s, the interest for the Tour decreased because of agreements between the small number of powerful teams. Teams were sponsored by the bicycle manufacturers and the winner was not so important as long as he was riding the best bike! Added to that, between 1919 and 1929 only one Frenchman won the race, which gave French fans even less reason to follow the race. In fact some bike makers (like Alcyon) were too powerful with respect to the organizers.

In 1929 Latil Trucks are used by The Tour de France Organisation – Photo:Collection P.O

In 1930, Henri Desgranges, director of the race decided to replace the sponsored teams by national teams but had to find new ways to finance the organisation (bikes, hotels, food…). Helped by Paul Thйvenin, the marketing director of Menier Chocolates, he had the idea to create the Caravan composed of cars praising their products. The Menier chocolate was already following the race in 1929 with a Latil truck equipped with a loud speaker praising the good taste of the chocolates. But the small caravan was so long after the race that sometimes nobody was there to see it… !

In 1930, the caravan was moderately appreciated by the press but people along the road already loved it. Joining the Menier vehicles, a 2 meter wide Bayard alarm-clocks rangs every two minutes, and a giant Black Lion proposed better polishing to the frightened spectators.

For that first year, besides the three Hotchkiss and four Latil trucks of the organizers, nearly 40 vehicles were in the caravan promoting food, alcohol drinks, clothes… All had been seen by nearly 10 million people and French Author Tristan Bernard summarized it writing that the “Tour de France puts France in the doorway”.

In 1935 the light truck and small car from the QUINTONINE beverage: “The smallest car of the world to the service of the best tonic beverage” Postcard collection P.O.

At the same time, the number of radio and press cars increased too. In 1939, there were around 100 cars for journalists and 50 in the promotional caravan. After WWII, the next Tour was held in 1947 but gasoline was still rationed and kept the size of teh caravan small. But as the economy improved the caravan also grew.

In 1948 the numbers of vehicles was:
– Official and organizers: 49 vehicles (included 12 trucks)
– Press: 100 cars
– Promotional caravan: 45 trucks and 50 cars to sell the newspapers.
– Motorbikes: 50 for shuttles, journalists and security

Waterman ink promotional truck was participating to the 1952 Tour de France. They carried inside the truck a small De-Rovin car shaped like an ink pot. Photo: Collection P.O.

Most of official cars were still the luxurious and robust Hotchkiss, and a large quantity of US Jeeps were used for the teams or for reporters. In the next years appeared the 3 big success of French automotive industry on the Tour: The Renault 4cv, The Citroen 2cv and the Peugeot 203…
The golden age of the caravan was about to arrive.

The promotional caravan was growing each year with the global economy running well. So all the sponsors wanted to be seen, to have the most decorated, and the most ingenious truck. They were working with great designers as Fйlix Aublet or Gйo Ham and with the best car body builders (Pourtout, Currus…). Their investment was not only for the Tour but their promotional cars were also participating at other races like Paris-Roubaix, the Giro, the Dauphine Criterium. They were also used for regional promotional fairs and competing at the “Publicitй qui Roule” contest (a contest of best idea and more beautiful advertising vehicles).

A Renault truck modified by Currus carrosserie celebrates the sposnors hair cream. Photo:Coll P.O.

In the Tour, the show was not only during the race but largely before. During the day sponsors distributed millions of drinks, cheese (Ah! the famous Vache qui Rit!), sweets, caps and flags. All the big ones had their own star singing or playing music (Annie Cordy, Tino Rossi, Robert Trabucco and Yvette Horner for example). At night entertainment took place on podium-trucks: large audiences listened to music, played games & quizzes. Some games were also more physical and people could compete on home trainers against other spectators or sometimes against professional riders.

Yvette Horner, a French accordionist has participated to 11 Tours de France. In 1995 she’s playing for Suze Apйritif. In towns she was playing on the top of the roof of the Citroen traction. Between towns, a dummy figure took her place. Some years later the system has been improved, Yvette was behind a glass to protect her from the insects. Photo: Collection P.O.

In the 1970’s, people with televisions grew from 15% to more than 60%. In the same time colour TV appeared and great sport competitions were broadcasted in several countries across Europe. As advertising mediums grew from the late 1960’s and 1980’s, most sponsors were trying to get the major benefit from television. It became more important to have a very well placed banner than a big and amazing truck in the caravan! The caravan was less attractive but remained (unlike the Giro or the Dauphine). At night Pernod or Butagaz shows were replaced by Europe 1 or Merlin ones with the new performers of that time.

A Butagaz promotional vehicle used in 1962. The photo was taken last February at Paris Rйtromobile show. If you follow the Tour this year, you may see it around Rennes or Lorient. It belongs to a French guy collecting cars from the Tour de France Caravan who leaves in Saint-Brieuc. Photo: P.O.

In the 60’s the CINZANO (Still an aperitif!) team did acrobatics on their bikes. Some were driving this way more than 5 hours! In the 70’s Ultra-Brite made nearly the same show. Now you can appreciate such a performance made by the “Garde Rйpublicaine” (the President guard) but it is only on the Champs-Elysйes in Paris for the last stage. Photo: Collection P.O.

By the end of the 80’s the Tour had a “Worldwide” view of its future and became more international. Money invested in cycling teams and in cycling races sponsoring was increasing as never before. The cost of advertising on TV was exploding and slowly the caravan became more and more attractive for some sponsors. It was for them one of the best ways to reach thousands of people with a moderate investment. It was also a good way for regional companies to increase their brand awareness.

In 1987, the SNCF (French Railway company) promoted of the High Speed Train (TGV which held the speed world record for some years). This is one of the few examples of car body work of this period. Photo: courtesy from S. Di Franco

In 1990, Coca Cola Caravan arrives at the last kilometre banner. Photo: courtesy from S. Di Franco

In the year 2000, after 70 years of roadside publicity, the caravan was made of around:
– 40 brands
– nearly 250 vehicles and 400 people
– a 20 km long show of 1 hour
– and millions of samples distributed…

In 2003, “Coeur de Lion” French cheese brand was sponsoring the combativity Trophy. Photo: P.O.

Since the 1990s different levels of sponsorship correspond to various levels of participation, but also to their exposure to media coverage. Today, sponsors invest less into the body modification helped by new materials, and new ways to cover car body with printed adhesive too. They prefer to concentrate on animations and shows. Awards are given to the best creations, judged according to aesthetics and the respect of the Tour de France’s values.

In 2005 the Crйdit Lyonnais (a bank partner of the Yellow jersey) VW New-Beetle could be seen from far away thanks to its race leader giant structure. Photo: P.O.

It’s a fascinating part of the biggest race on earth and – dare we say it – as essential to the grandeur of Le Tour as the racing itself… stay tuned to PEZ for more Tour tidbits as our countdown continues.

Till then people who have access to the German-French television “ARTE” can have a look at the report made in 2002 in the “Caravan”. 22h50 Paris Time.

About Pascal Orsini : Pascal is a certified nut for anything that is miniature and related to cycling, and is a self-styled authority on the history of the publicty caravan.

By day, he’s a 37 year old French engineer living in the Champagne region (east from Paris) and working for in the automotive industry, but secretly hoping to one day work in cycling.
He’s a fan from way back: “I have always been interested in cycling and my oldest memory is from 1975 Tour de France when Thйvenet overtook Merckx in the Pra-Lou stage for the Yellow Jersey. I was on holiday near the sea, listening to a live radio report, and making my own Tour de France on the sand with cycling miniatures and small balls.”

“In 2000 I found my “old” shoe box with the little toys inside and all my memories came back to me. I decided to increase my collection to add cars and trucks. In order to make some on my own I also looked for old photography and reviews showing the vehicles around the cycling races and especially the Tour. Not finding much available, I decided to make a web-site on cycling miniatures and on the Tour de France cars and trucks and busses.”

Check out his blog here: