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Letourneur & Marchand

Letourneur & Marchand

The Parisian coachbuilding company 'Letourneur & Marchand' was founded in 1905 by two time-served coachbuilders, Jean-Marie Letourneur and Jean-Arthur Marchand. Jean-Arthur Marchand was a boy from a village on the Cote dOr; Jean-Marie Letourneur was from Le Creusot, a city of iron foundries.

Letourneur had arrived in the French capital in the late 1890s to train as a designer; around 1900 he was employed by the great coachbuilder Henri Binder, who had just begun building bodies for the burgeoning automobile industry, where he met Marchand, who had just completed a classic journeyman apprenticeship in the coachbuilding trade.

Both men were ambitious, so they decided to strike out on their own and on 1 April 1905 the two ambitious young coachbuilders went into partnership, taking over the premises of a bankrupt bodybuilding company, Wehrle Godard Desmaret, at 114 boulevard Bineau on the Ile de la Jatte at Neuilly (Seine). In the beginning, they did contract work for other coachbuilders - Labourdette, Franay and their old boss Binder - and supplied a few complete bodies to manufacturers like Darracq. By 1907, the partners were doing a good trade in bodies for private customers and by the outbreak of World War I, when Marchand was mobilized, they had built a total of 1228 bodies, in addition to subcontract work making wings and fuselages for the Morane-Saulnier airplane company.

After the war, they resumed operations and in 1923 were able to secure display space at the Hotel Claridge on the Champs Elysées. But seeing that one-off styles would be an increasingly-difficult business, they started producing some series-customs for automobile manufacturers under the name 'Autobineau'. The first of these was for Delage, a run of 2,000 bodies for the DI chassis. They successfully followed the trend to lower, sleeker lines with the input of Letourneur's son Marcel, who had joined the company in 1928 after completing his design course and working as a designer with an English coachbuilder.

In the late 1930s Letourneur & Marchand built a series of aerodynamic 'coaches profilés' which pushed the pillarless look to its aesthetic limits. Their masterpiece in this regard, the 'Coach JELM', also known as 'Coupe Panoramique', was created by Letourneur's son Marcel. Commonly called the 'Yo-Yo car' from the Art Deco accent line on its body, its hallmark was a sweeping sidelight extending from door into the rear quarter, with overlapping glass and no center pillar. By the time they were forced to shift production away from Paris in an attempt to escape the German Occupation when war was declared.

Although most of their work was devoted to Delage, Letourneur & Marchand clothed many other chassis, among them Buick, Renault, Delahaye, Panhard, Rolls-Royce and Bugatti, the last receiving 19 bodies. 

Jean-Marie Letourneur died in September 1944, only days after the liberation of France, and Jean-Arthur Marchand followed in June 1946.

It was a very changed France in which the company, now in the hands of the second generation, had to do business, for there was little future for the coachbuilt French car in the new era of a state planned and regulated motor industry. Just 67 Letourneur & Marchand coachbuilt bodies were completed between 1947-52, though when Renault launched its Frégate family car in 1952, Marcel Letourneur created a cabriolet version to be sold through the Renault dealer network. Production of Letourneur & Marchand coachwork ceased after the company's last appearance at the Paris Salon in 1959.

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