Car Show Classics: 10th Salon Autos-Motos Anciennes à Bazas (July 2023) – Part 2: More Domestic Cars (Citroën, Simca, etc.)

Bienvenue, chers amis, to ze second partie of ze tour. We kick things off with a very neat early ‘60s 2CV van, but fair warning: the turnout was pretty limited, Citroën-wise. By which I mean that there were quite a few about, but many were just plain old 2CV saloons, and I wasn’t about to take pictures of tin snails all day, lovely though they may be.

So here’s the 2CV’s unloved flat-twin sister, the 1967-83 Dyane – the only one I saw there, incidentally.

Far more interesting was this late model Ami 6 (1961-69). Flaminio Bertoni, designer of the Traction Avant, the DS and the 2CV, really ended his career on a strange note.

The Ami 8 (1969-78) was the facelifted version of the Ami 6, featuring a slightly tamer front end and abandoning the reverse-canted backlight. This is the wagon version anyway, which was pretty much unchanged in the rear from the Ami 6.

The Citroën LN (1976-78) and LNA (1979-86) are justly despised by fans of the double-chevron as a poor excuse for a city car-sized Cit, being merely a Peugeot 104 three-door with an air-cooled flat-twin under the hood. This grotesque green gaffe in an LNA, sporting the Visa’s larger 650cc engine.

Not sure what a Visa is? It’s this – Citroën’s own design, as weird and idiosyncratic as it should be, also based on the Peugeot 104 platform. They were made from 1978 to 1988 and available with either an air-cooled 2-cyl. or a water-cooled 4-cyl. This is the ultra-rare (circa 2300 made) 1983-85 Découvrable version by coachbuilder Heuliez.

It wasn’t all small fry Citroëns, though. One notable Traction Avant: a superb 1952 (but pre-facelift) 6-cylinder car with an original interior and less than 40,000kms on the odometer.

It might be legally mandated that any classic car meet in France must contain at least one DS, I’m not sure. Just in case, here’s one.

This pristine GS (1970-79) was far more interesting to me. Perhaps is was the sleek, unadorned flanks. Or the quirky interior. Or the fact that this was a (now rather rare) semi-automatic 3-speed car. That’s it for the Citroëns – no SM to be seen, sadly. There were CXs, but none that really caught my attention. Because of all the other stuff on display…

I mean, there was a Ford Vedette Découvrable! Couldn’t pass that up, could I? French Fords, made between 1935 and 1955, were an odd proposition. The postwar Vedette was somewhat successful, but not quite up to Dearborn’s expectations. Thus the whole operation was sold off to…

Simca! The new Vedette, still sporting the old flathead V8-60, carried on through to 1961.

There were a lot of Simcas – a really nice surprise! Almost made up for the lack of Panhards. This superb Aronde Grand Large (1953-58), perhaps the first series-made French hardtop, was just the tip of a substantial iceberg.

If the saloon-derived hardtop was too common for you, the racier Facel-built Plein Ciel (1957-62) could be ordered instead – for a hefty premium.

The Aronde had a long career (1951-64) and several facelifts. The final and most extensive one came for MY 1959 and was known as the P60. Nice way to go on a father-son outing…

The combination of a nicely laid-out dash and a simpler front end design makes these the most desirable four-door of the species, in my opinion.

The Aronde was replaced by the 1300, launched in early 1963. This was the last car Simca founder H-T Pigozzi saw to completion, and the last before Chrysler took full control over from Fiat. This is an early car (1963-66) – a real well-preserved one, too!

The 1300’s more luxurious and powerful stablemate was the 1500. Both of these über-classic saloons got a slightly bigger tail in 1967 and carried on until 1976.

The 1300/1500 were also available as wagons – one of the best-looking long roof French cars of the ‘60s/‘70s. This is a late model, circa 1973-75, displaying the carmaker’s typical plastiwood interior décor for that era.

Few Simcas are truly rare and fewer still were real sports cars. The Italian-made Abarth-Simca 1300 manages to tick both boxes. Only the chassis, which came from the Simca 1000, could be said to be of French origin, but everything else, engine included, was made or substantially modified by Abarth. Extremely expensive when new, very few of these exotics were made.

On the other hand, Simca churned out 1100s like sausages for eons (i.e. from 1967 to 1981). The TI seen here was a sort of hot hatch before those were a thing.

In a similar way, the Matra-Simca Rancho was arguably the first CUV, though only FWD and based on the 1100 van’s capable underpinnings. On a sunny day, that interior must be quite the greenhouse though.

Chrysler on the front and Simca on the back: the 1307/1308/1309 summed up the Chrysler Europe’s confused brand management strategies – if indeed there was a strategy, which remains up for debate. I believe this is a ’79, so Talbot badges were about to be applied as well.

Similarly, this seems like a very late model Bagheera S (1973-80), sporting the 1307/1308’s taillights there.

Seeing a Talbot Tagora (1981-83) is always a special event, given how few were made. This was a Diesel car, as are most survivors nowadays.

We’re almost done for the day, just a couple of lovely Facels before we go, starting with this Volvo-engined 1963-64 Facel III drop-top. Too bad the company took over two years to switch to reliable Swedish power instead of trying to make their own (highly flawed) motors – a fatal misstep. But what a beauty.

Last but certainly not least, the 1962-64 Facel II, the final iteration of the big Mopar V8-powered coupés that made Facel-Véga a legend. Perhaps the most impressive car of the whole show…

That’s it for the domestics – same time tomorrow for a few imports, ok?