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129 days to build a car

On May 27, 1960, Turkey was the scene of a military coup d'état organized by a group of Turkish army officers, against the democratically elected Democratic Party government. The instigators of this coup established General Cemal Gürsel as head of state, prime minister and minister of defense. The military junta returned power to civilians 17 months later, in October 1961.

Our story takes place between this period. The man at the head of state, President Cemal Gürsel, decides to show his people the power of the government to develop Turkish industry. For this he expressed on May 15, 1961 his desire to create a Turkish domestic automobile during the meeting of the Association of Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen (TÜSİAD) and that this automobile must imperatively be presented on the day of the Republic Day of October 29, 1961 (which commemorates the proclamation of the Turkish Republic on October 29, 1923). It will thus be the first car developed and manufactured entirely in Türkiye.

To do this, he formed a group of 24 of the best Turkish engineers from different companies. Mission imperative:

The vehicle must be designed and produced in 129 days

As a symbol, the brand will be called “Devrim” which means “Revolution” in Turkish and the model “Tecrübe” which means “Experience”.

Work begins immediately. The State Railways Traction Workshop in Eskişehir is chosen as the workplace.

In addition to the 24 engineers, nearly 200 workers participated in the project. Two different prototypes were created so that the basic and technical characteristics of the vehicle were not similar to those of another vehicle, each had a specific engine.

Time is running out as Republic Day approaches. The engineers redouble their efforts and succeed, in what seems like the impossible, in moving from the study stage to the implementation stage of a project which normally takes years to complete.

They produced a total of four prototypes: one black and three cream-colored. However, that two of the cars were sent to Ankara for the Republic Day celebrations, the black one and a cream one. The delivery time was so short that the black car was painted during the train journey to Ankara. None of the vehicles had any gas in their tanks as a precaution and they were filled with just enough gas to maneuver them.

On the day of the celebration, when one of the cars was ready for the parade around the Turkish parliament, President Cemal Gürsel considered that the cream color was not solemn enough and requested that it be replaced by black.

After driving 100 meters, the car runs out of fuel!

The president then asked what happened, the driver (engineer) Rifat Serdaroghlu replied: Paşam, benzin bitdi (Pasam, the gasoline is finished).

President Jemal Gursel had to get out of the black car and get back into the cream car which had enough gasoline on board to finish the parade to the Anıtkabir (Atatürk Mausoleum).

On the morning of October 30, this unfortunate event created unpleasant jokes about the car of the revolution, the tabloids headlined "100 meters and it broke." However, no mention was made of the passage of the second vehicle to the racecourse on the first day or of the fact that Cemal Gürsel went to Anıtkabir with another Devrim. In fact, all the news and speeches on the agenda were saying that this project was a big financial loss, 1,400,000 liras were allocated to the project. Moreover, it completely cast a shadow on the success of Turkish national engineers.

The "Devrim" were not mass-produced despite being considered "remarkable prototypes" due to obscure policies. Under pressure from American car manufacturers, also called the Big Three, the Turkish government is forced to abandon Devrim production. Since that day, a feeling of injustice towards Devrim has reigned among the Turkish population.

But six years later, in 1966, Otosan (joint venture with the American Ford and the Turkish Koç Holding) launched the first series of passenger vehicles under the “Anadol” brand. Oddly, the entrepreneurs of "Anadol" claimed that it was not possible to produce automobiles in Turkey, before the appearance of "Devrim".

The two prototypes that did not make the trip were destroyed while the cream car of the trip was shown to the public on Istiklal Street in Istanbul and then exhibited at the TÜLOMSAŞ factory in Eskişehir where they were built. However we do not know what happened to the black car which ran out of fuel, it was for a time exposed at Ankara station then no more news of it, it was not found despite all the work and the research carried out.

Anyway, no one thought that the Turks could build their own cars with engines. Despite all the negative thoughts, the Devrim project was indeed completed in 129 days.

This story remains so extraordinary and controversial in Turkish history that a film recounting this epic was released in cinemas in 2008: 'Devrim Arabaları', directed by Tolga Örnek and produced by Türker Korkma.

We share this film with you in the original version below.


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