Car Show Classics: 10th Salon Autos-Motos Anciennes à Bazas (July 2023) – Part 1: Domestic Cars (Peugeot & Renault)

I attended only a single car show this summer, but it was a whopper. It was in Bazas, a small town about a half hour east of Bordeaux, and this was the tenth edition of this particular event. The whole town was basically invaded by hundreds of classics, so much so that latecomers had no access to the town centre, where the actual show was. I didn’t even bother with the show part and just wandered about the place, blissfully clicking away.

There were literally hundreds on classics, of which perhaps half were French, like this heavily period-accessorized Peugeot 203 (1948-60). Well, that’s no real surprise, is it? What was a little more arresting was the paucity of prewar cars. When I used to go to more of these events back in the old country, 15-20 years ago, there were always quite a few about.

Some classics were for sale, as is somewhat usual in these events. I don’t know how much a 1951 Peugeot D3 van goes for, but if you’re in the market for one, take a time machine and head out to last July.

We started with the Pugs, so let’s carry on, shall we? Plenty of ‘50s era aftermarket trinkets on this 403 wagon, too. It still sports it original hand-painted license plate – a now very rare feature. So what comes after 403? Hmmm… now, gimme a minute… Don’t tell me…

Oh the 404, riiiiight! This is a very late model saloon, circa 1973-75…

This 1967-68 Super-Luxe was even nicer though. Make that a lot nicer. I only saw saloons, 404-wise. But this being a summer gig and all, there were a few drop-top Pugs bearing other three-digit codes.

Such as this scrumptious little 304 cabrio, made between 1970 and 1975. Never understood why they reverted to a horizontal speedo that looks like it came off a late ‘50s Eastern Bloc truck on these cars. The 204 dashes looked a lot better.

The 504 C (i.e Coupé or Cabriolet) is a bona fide masterpiece of Pininfarina goodness, especially early cars (1969-74) like this one. Rust has claimed many, but thankfully not all.

Third series cars (1979-83) lost the plot with their plastic bumpers, but the mid-‘70s ones like this example still looked gorgeous. Plus they traded their 2-litre 4-cyl. for the PRV V6.

No 504 wagons or saloons to report, but there was this absolutely pristine pickup. These were the last to be added to the 504 family (in late 1979) and logically outlasted every other model, at least in France, by several years and were made in this for until 1996.

There was even a 604! I thought they had all turned to dust about 20 years ago – it’s been probably that long since I’ve seen one. These hold a special place in my heart, as we used to have one back in the mid-‘80s. Proustian memories of the electric sunroof, the beige cloth upholstery and the (awful) smell of petrol that made us kids sick in the back of it came flooding back, and I felt the urge to excuse myself to the nearest restroom.

But I regained my composure and pressed on. The swansong of RWD Pugs came with the 505 (1979-91), this being a later model with the PRV engine.

The last Peugeot of this post will be this time-capsule of a 305 saloon – a very early car from 1979, one year after the model’s debut. No idea how this car (and its interior especially) made it through the decades in this condition.

Onwards to the Renaults with the one that really got things going after the war, the indomitable 4CV (1947-61). This is a great and expertly-restored early example (pre 1954), with the thin chrome bars on the front and the famous “speedo with ears” dash.

Here’s a post-facelift car for comparison. They made that German WW2 desert camo paint last a long time on those wheels, didn’t they?

Though it obviously used the 4CV to guide its front-end styling, the Colorale could not be more different. Made between 1950 and 1958, these 2-litre RWD vehicles were sold with as a Suburban-like 4-door wagon or a 2-door van. Some were even fitted with a 4WD drivetrain.

Unfortunately for Renault, few French buyers thought these were necessary at the time, as they were deemed a bit too big. Some were shipped over to sunnier climes (as intended, the name “Colorale” being a portmanteau of coloniale and rurale), but many of the wagons were chopped up and turned into cheap pickup trucks in the ‘60s, as was probably the case with this one.

Looks like a Dauphine, but this is the short-lived (1961-63) upmarket model called Ondine, featuring a nicer cabin and a 4-speed gearbox.

Give the Dauphine to an Italian designer an what do you get? A rather beautiful result. Early cars (1958-63) were named Floride, but they became the Caravelle when fitted with a bigger 1100cc engine. I caught another one of these Frua-designed beauties while at this show; it will have its own CC sometime.

The Dauphine’s successor definitely had fewer curves, but it was a far more comfortable car. This is the higher trimmed 1964-65 Major variant of the R8, with the Caravelle’s 1.1 litre engine.

It can’t be a French car show if there isn’t a Renault 4 somewhere. Love the colour on this late ‘60s example.

The little 5 is slowly emerging from the depths of banger-dom. Even relatively unremarkable ones like this later TX are starting to turn heads.

Of course, the likes of the R5 Alpine or the Turbo have been sought after for some time now.

And let’s not even go there with the fire-breathing, mid-engined 160hp monster that was the Turbo 2 (1983-85).

The Super5, for its part, is still rather ubiquitous. It really takes a special one, like this GT Turbo, to be worthy of a quick photo. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Let us step back into the ‘70s with a fine (if a little modded) R17 hardtop.

In the big Renault section, a quick gander at one that has almost completely disappeared from today’s roads: the 1975-84 Renault 20. Just look at those wheels!

The R25 (1984-92) was a true staple of the Mitterrand years. Designed by Robert Orpon, stuffed with (unreliable) electronic gadgets and supremely comfortable, it was one of the last big Renaults to sell well.

Gen 1 Clios (1990-99) are pretty common still, but this is quite a different animal, as well as an absolute legend. The 1993-96 Clio Williams was a real hot hatch, sporting a 150hp 2-litre DOHC 16-valve engine enabling it to reach 100kph from a standstill in under 8 seconds – pretty good for the times. Renault initially made 4500 units, but given how fast they sold them, they ended up building 12,000.

There were a lot of Alpines parked about. This absolutely original 1968 A110 was the real gem amongst the bunch.

I love me an A310, but I tend to prefer the early ‘70s cars, with the 4-cyl. engine. This late ‘70s model is V6-powered, which may have been good in terms of performance (but not handling, apparently), but it also lost the original design’s purity.

The last of the original Alpine line was the A610 (1991-96). Although a very good GT in many ways, the design was clearly a re-hash of the A310 made chunkier, and therefore even less attractive. Just over 800 were made and the Alpine marque was mothballed – thankfully not forever.

I guess that’ll do for this first instalment; see you tomorrow for more fabulous Froggies!