Designer Of The Day is a segment that looks at car manufacturers and how they’ve contributed to the industry. Georges Paulin is an interesting example because he did more than design cars. He was also a dentist and a war hero, fighting for the French Resistance during WW2. Paulin was an expert in aerodynamics and applied his knowledge to the cars he created.
Car design career
Paulin is known for creating the retractable hardtop in collaboration with French coachbuilder Marcel Pourtout and Emile Darl’mat, but he patented it in 1932. The design appeared on the Peugeot 601 D Eclipse at the 1934 Paris Auto Show. However, due to losing royalty lawsuits against Peugeot, Paulin could only be a part-time car designer.
Between 1934 and 1938, Paulin was the designer for Pourtout and his most prominent designs included a Panhard coupe, a Delage D8, a Unic cabriolet and the ‘water drop’ Talbot-Lago.
In 1937, Paulin was commissioned by Rolls-Royce to design a Bentley for a Greek banker called Andre Embiricos. The 1938 Embiricos featured a 4 ¼-litre chassis and competed in the Montlhery circuit near Paris.
Richard Adatto, the author of a book called From Passion to Perfection: The Story of French Streamlined Styling 1930-1939, praised Paulin’s work. “Paulin became the leading French stylist of the time…Everything he touched was designed with aerodynamics in mind. He was very conscious of fuel efficiencies and the aerodynamic efficiencies that could be created by the lines of the car. You could go faster, which meant you could put a smaller engine in the car and it could go faster even though it was a small car.”
While working as an engineer at Avions Kellner-Bechereau, Paulin was approached by a member of British Intelligence in 1940. He worked with a Resistance network codenamed Alibi, scouting the city of Vichy and drawing armaments. When another Resistance member came to his dental practice, he’d give them the drawings.
Unfortunately, his mentor at the office turned out to be a double agent and Paulin was arrested by the Gestapo. He was condemned to death by a German military tribunal, and even though an escape plan was arranged by the British, Paulin didn’t use it. Instead, he sacrificed himself to protect his team and was executed in 1942.
After his death, Paulin was awarded with the Croix de Guerre medal by the French government. Paulin’s bravery is commendable and his talent as a car designer is undeniable.