One photo, one story

The day that… Roland Garros sold a car to an Olympic medallist

The day that… Roland Garros sold a car to an Olympic medallist.

Winter 1909, Paris. A dapper gentleman, wearing a bowler hat, proudly poses at the wheel of his new car. In the shadow of the shop’s doorway, with a smile playing on his lips, a moustachioed salesman observes the scene.

Roland Garros opened his own car dealership

This young, shy-looking man is Roland Garros. Freshly-graduated from the Paris School of Management, he opened his own car dealership, “Roland Garros automobiles-voiturettes de sport” on 6 avenue de la Grande Armée, a stone’s throw away from the Arc de Triomphe. Inspired by the spirit of the time, he invested everything he had in this budding industry, which was about to boom, by selling cars from the manufacturer Grégoire.

In 1909, 800 cars from this new “bargain” manufacturer left the factories in Poissy and were immediately snapped up. Journalists, artists, industrialists, the big-wigs of the time all drove racing cars or tourers. And that includes athletes…

A snapshot taken over a century ago

Among them was 27-year-old Max Decugis. This great tennis champion from the early 20th century had just bought a car from Roland Garros, and struck a pose to record the moment for posterity. In 1909, the French and Olympic tennis champion (at the Athens Intercalated Games) was at the peak of his career. The first internationally-ranked French player, he won more than 28 titles between 1903 and 1920.

This snapshot was taken over a century ago. It perfectly illustrates the link – which, until now, seemed rather tenuous – between future flying ace Roland Garros, after whom the stadium was named, and French tennis, embodied by Max Decugis.