Mont Ventoux in Provence in southeast France reaches to 1912m (6273 ft) and is a regular feature of the Tour de France cycling race. Inevitably, it is also a regular feature on the tourist trail in what is a superb area of Europe. We took one of the three roads that go straight to the top in a FIAT 500 Twin Air (courtesy of Avis France) a couple summers ago.
The roads at the top get pretty busy, in the summer at least, where the temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius (86F), despite the wind. Mind you, it was over 40 degrees Celsius (104F) at the foot of the mountain.
I have spent many excellent summer holidays in France over the last 25 or so years, first going in 1987. Back then, seeing a Citroen GS or the GSA derivative was a fairly regular occurrence, as it was Citroen’s main mid-market until car until 1983 and production only ceased in 1986. But now they are rare, and it is always refreshing to see one.
The GS dated from 1970, and was a combination of the various distinctive technologies and solutions Citroen offered–it was front wheel drive, had hydropneumatic suspension like the DS or the SM, and an air cooled engine boxer engine like the 2Cv and its Dyane and Ami derivatives, albeit in four-cylinder format. The styling was a forerunner of the later Citroen CX, and despite Citroen’s protestations, it is always associated with Pininfarina’s studies for BMC for aerodynamically styled versions of the ADO16 and ADO17.
Its not often you see a 100″ wheelbase, five passenger car with only 1220 cc or even 1015cc (as in earlier versions). The GS is a clear symbol that before Peugeot took control, Citroen was well prepared let convention look after itself. They produced some great cars, obviously, but did go bankrupt in 1974, during the first oil crisis. To see a GS at the top on Mont Ventoux is especially unusual.
The Renault 4CV was the first post war Renault, and clearly shows the influence of the VW Beetle and Ferdinand Porsche, however much Renault might contest this. The rear engine Renaults continued until the early 1970s, concluding with the Renault 10 (CC here). That car could trace itself back to the 4CV, which like the GS is now a very rare sight on the roads of France, though easily seen at a car show or a museum.
As an aside, it is interesting to compare and contrast how various nations addressed the question of the configuration of the modern family car after WW2–was it to be rear engine, air cooled (VW from Germany); rear engine, water cooled (the French Renault 4CV); air cooled front engine, long travel suspension, very simple body (Citroen 2CV); or front engine with a emphasis on thorough chassis design (UK’s Morris Minor)?
The 4CV had monocoque construction with suicide doors and a 760cc engine, incidentally known as the Ventoux engine, and was the first French car to sell a million. Production lasted until 1961, although its successor, the Renault Dauphine, was available from 1957.
And the Twin Air? Well, it made a great noise, even if the fuel consumption was nothing like that advertised.
And it looked huge alongside the 4CV!