A little over two years ago, the WM Historique association, with its 14 volunteers and ten partners (see this post) launched the crazy programme to revive a car that has now disappeared: the WM P70, born in 1970. Gérard Welter (47 years with Peugeot design) and Michel Meunier designed this highly innovative sports coupé with its square tube frame integrated into a self-supporting monocoque made of epoxy fibreglass and structural boxes.
Today, the programme is entering its final stretch and the association hopes to be present at the 2023 Le Mans Classic, in static form, with the aim of driving before the end of the year. However, there is still some important work to be done, as Pierre Rémond, the association’s president, points out: “The year 2022 allowed us to take an important step in the concretisation of the project with the completion of the bodywork mould, the front block lining, the doors and the tank box, the preparation of the engine/gearbox base and the gearbox control. The next steps are already planned with the fitting of the chassis, the moulding and assembly of the bodywork, the machining and assembly of the train parts. In order to be able to present the car to you at the end of June at Le Mans Classic, additional help will be necessary, in particular to finance or take charge of the production of the windows, the preparation of the engine and the machining of the rims.”
THE ASSOCIATION’S PARTNERS :
To support the association and allow this project to reach its final stages, please use this email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Below, the TV team of the AUTO-MOTO show follows the different stages of production of the new WM P70.
Below, the tests during the implementation of the cockpit. The association worked with period documents, unfortunately rather rare on the car’s interior. However, each part is intended to be an exact reproduction of the original, even if this proves complicated, as when it was necessary to find the closing cap of the fuel chute in the aviation world! Everyone in the association has their own area of expertise, from 3D modelling to engineering.
The association also relies on the (very) good will of these volunteers, like Delphine who opened (wide) the doors of her garage to make the moulds of the future bodywork parts on the master model!
Below, the chassis made by Olivier Maturi’s team at ACSA in Conflans. The whole was first digitised according to the plans and archives of the original WM P70.
The engine (below) has been rebuilt from three recovered 304 S blocks and with the addition of many new parts. The gearbox will initially be a four-speed, but everything is programmed to adopt the fifth gear that was on the original car.
To support the association and allow this project to take its final steps, use this email: email@example.com
For those who are new to this fantastic work of rebirth of an innovative sports car with incredible dimensions at only 86 cm high (the same height as the Bertone Stratos Zero concept car born the same year!) here is the story rewound from the beginning, to read below.
Once upon a time…
It is above all a human adventure that has been launched by WMH: Welter Meunier Historique. This association, created by former members of the WM and WR stables, is committed to rebuilding the WM70, one of the first competition berlinettes designed by Gérard Welter and Michel Meunier.
Gérard Welter, who died on 31 January 2018 after more than 40 years with Peugeot, is known for having created, with his colleague Michel Meunier, the WM structure that we saw at the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1976.
On the mythical circuit, the WM and then WR have achieved some notable feats, such as fourth place overall in 1980 (below), pole position in 1995 or the record of 405 km/h before the chicanes on the Hunaudières straight.
But before the Le Mans adventure, there were the great beginnings of the Welter-Meunier duo. A duo which, half a century ago, unveiled the WM P70 prototype on 21 June 1970 at Montlhéry. If today the WMH association has chosen it as its first project for the rehabilitation of the French automobile heritage, it is for its ultimate technical character and its precursory, with its composite monocoque concept and its minimal weight of 505 kg, as well as for its exceptional design which prefigures certain lines of the Peugeots of the 1980’s, well before Gérard Welter became the Director of Style of the lion brand.
Despite the absence of the original car, WMH members reverse engineered the prototype from period documents and started its production with the help of partners. At the time, the WM P70 prototype was a Group 6 “sport prototype” in the 1150 – 1300 cc class 7. Before taking its first turns, it was presented by Gérard Welter and Michel Meunier on the terrace of the design office at La Garenne. Paul Bouvot, then head of Peugeot’s styling department, is shown, and Welter will succeed him a few years later.
While the WM P70’s length of 3.37 metres remains within the norm, its height of just 86 centimetres is a real feat for a vehicle on the road and, what’s more, in competition. It should be remembered that in the same year, 1970, Marcello Gandini unveiled the Stratos Zero, a concept car known to be the lowest ever designed. However, it was no better than the WM P70!
The structure of the WM P70 was unprecedented for its time, with a square tube frame containing all the mechanical anchor points as well as the safety hoops and fixings, integrated into a sandwich of polystyrene foam reinforced with laminate. Carbon was not known at the time, but this solution was avant-garde.
The engine is in a central position. It is a 4-cylinder in-line engine derived from the Peugeot 304 S, placed in a transverse position and overhanging the rear axle.
With 1288 cm3, the power was 120 hp DIN at 7,300 rpm. But the association hopes, with new camshafts, pistons and valves, to reach 100 hp DIN per litre.
It is not only a question of rebuilding the WM P70, it is a question, for all the team of volunteers who followed WM (then WR) in particular at the time of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, of paying a supported homage to Michel Meunier and Gérard Welter. The latter, only a few hours before his death, was already talking about this project.
There are partners, patrons and enthusiasts who have – also – a heart beyond their mere car passion. If you are one of them, the contact for information or to help rebuild the WM P70 is here: persoWMH@gmail.com.
BONUS: the first car designed by Gérard Welter
Long before the first WMs were produced, Gérard had the idea of producing his own car. Not even twenty years old and already with a head full of projects. This very first car conceived, designed and produced individually by Gérard Welter dates from his early years at Peugeot.
“I was earning a pittance at Peugeot, it wasn’t much but I didn’t care. I was happy, I wanted to build my car in such an atmosphere. So I went for it: drawings, tube chassis, everything was done with my own hands. This car (above) had some very interesting features. Technically, it inherited the rear axle and engine from the Renault Dauphine, which I had reversed to benefit from a mid-engine architecture. The front axle was also taken from the Renault. I had fitted a double overhead cylinder head which I was proud of. As for the polyester bodywork, it was moulded on a plaster form in my parents’ garden.”