The fifteenth of August is a public holiday in France, to mark Assumption Day, and each year the Peugeot Enthusiasts’ Club in the department of Lot and Garonne organises a car show, with a slight difference. There is the opportunity to have your car blessed by the local Priest (in the presence of the Mayor) before a good French lunch and then an afternoon surveying the car show and an evening concours competition. All entry is free and unbooked, and the public are made more than welcome to join in throughout the day.
If the Morris Minor is a sign of a complete car show in the UK, then perhaps a French show cannot be fully complete without a Citroen 2CV, and this one was no exception with a good range of ages and variations on show. Starting with the datum – an early 2CV distinguished by the grille and the lack of rear quarter windows. There’s something very 2CV, as in practical, durable, farm equipment like almost, about the paint scheme on this car also.
If your tastes are more affluent, how about an Ami, in this case an Ami 6? The Ami was the most upscale derivative of the 2CV, if that term can be applied to a air cooled, twin cylinder Citroen saloon, with the distinctive rear window profile clearly visible.
Also available as an estate, of course.
Still, to me, a characterful and appealing car, for certain occasions at least.
If you’re feeling a bit more laid back, how about a lowered Citroen Dyane with a tandem on the roof?
For the true 2CV aficionado, perhaps the ultimate is a 2CV Sahara Bi-Motor, with a second engine driving the rear wheels.
The interior of the Bi-Motor shows a conventional looking gear shift in place of the usual umbrella handle through the dash associated with these cars. Quite a sight, and sound!
Other Citroens were present as well of course, including this very attractive 1930 Citroen Torpedo AC4.
This provides some evidence that although Citroens have a great history for ingenuity and challenging convention, the company built its initial reputation on more conventional cars…..
…..with more conventional interiors.
Just six years after the Torpedo was launched, Citroen were offering the car that made their reputation for technical innovation, and which also bankrupted the company.
The Traction Avant was present, in both pre-war and post-war varieties.
Robert Kim gave us a great overview of Traction Avant a while ago; I cannot do better than guide you to that. In reality, there are few cars that were more technically innovative for their time than the Traction Avant.
But one that was, was the Traction Avant’s successor, just 20 years later. The Citroen DS and its de-contented sister the ID were once the kings of the autoroute but are now rarely seen on the roads, even in the dry south of France. Thankfully, two owners were seeking blessings for their cars, a D-Special, a low specification version of the DS, and an ID21.
My thoughts about these cars are well established on CC, and there was little delay in running across the field to get up close. After all, it was only 37 degrees, Celsius.
CC’s recent Peugeot Fest has shown us many great cars, and many were present at this show.
A 203 – the first postwar Peugeot and the car that set the template for the Peugeot saloon for many years, except that it had American inspired rather than Pininfarina styling.
The 104 was Peugeot’s first supermini, coming in 1972 and serving to 1988, albeit with a limited range. One quick look shows that the long travel suspension was there, as always.
The 104 gave way to the slightly larger 205 from 1983 onwards. The pinnacle of the 205 range was the 1.9 GTi, a car that took the fight to the Golf GTi. It may not sound much now, but 130bhp from a 1.9 litre, 4 cylinder hot hatch was impressive in 1986.
A 304 Cabriolet, as covered by Perry Shoar here.
The 404 was present of course, as a saloon, a cabriolet and as an estate, seen here leaving early, to explore Africa presumably, and this rather lovely Convertible
Of all the European convertibles directed linked to a a saloon style, this is perhaps the most elegant.
The 404 Cabriolet has Pininfarina styling, that if it weren’t for the 504 Cabriolet could qualify it as my favourite 1960s convertible.
During Peugeot Fest, there was debate about the relative aesthetic appeal of these cars.
My vote goes to the Cabriolet every time, but what do you think?
My vote for the best Peugeot saloon probably goes to the 604, a derivative of the 504 using the Peugeot-Renault-Volvo Douvrin V6, perhaps being the car best suited to that engine. Always rare even when new, and now almost unseen on the road anywhere.
So while this example is clearly well cared for, it is also very easy to declare it the best example I have seen for perhaps 20 years. Truly, a good and underrated car and one that could tempt me from a Rover SD1 3500 or a Mercedes 280E W123.
The 504 was followed by the 505, which never achieved its predecessor’s level of greatness but which deserves its enduring popularity as a capable, solid and dependable car. Think of it as the French SAAB 900, perhaps.
France’s other main manufacturer Renault was well represented, with a couple of true rarities being among the stars of the show for me.
The Renault 14 was Renault’s contemporary take on the Golf format, of a five seat, five door hatchback with Renault’s first transverse engine, which it shared with the Peugeot 104, and which consequently led to a car that never really looked at home in the Renault range. Conceptually, also close to the Simca 1100, then one of France’s bestsellers.
Like so many French cars, long wheel travel and three wheels studs were there. This was the car that showed Renault were beginning to conform more closely the European market datum points in size and format, rather than diverge as they had been doing previously, but also one that perhaps didn’t convince Renault to do so.
With the combination of modern styling and format, smart interior and comfortable ride, it was a fully credible if rust prone Golf rival, that knocked the Austin Allegro into the proverbial top hat. Rust has taken most of them from us, though.
The other Renault rarity was this Renault 7, a saloon version of the Renault 5 (Le Car) built in Spain from 1974 to 1984 for sale in southern Europe only. Considering the size of the car and the limitations of the conversion, this is a pretty neat little car.
The doors were shared with the five door version of the regular hatchback, which was also there.
The Renault 15 is another of my favourites, though other than the styling and interior I‘m not clear why. Still, a nice piece of 1970s alternative thinking, and a nice example of another rare car.
Earlier Renaults were less conformist than the 1970s cars, such as the 14 and 15.
The rear engined Renault 8 and 10 saloons were present, including an 8 Gordini, with the 50bhp 1.1 litre engine, wider tyres and the inevitable additional lights.
The larger 10, albeit only in length but not cabin, could be seen as Renault’s Super Beetle. It had the same centre section as the earlier 8, and was fitted with the same 1108cc engine under the longer rear and a larger boot under the longer front. The first cars were marketed as Renault 10 Major, a designation used on some Renault 8 variants as well. Later cars, identified by the rectangular lamps, were known as just Renault 10, or as 10-1300 when fitted with the 1289cc used in the later Renault 12.
The 10 was effectively replaced by the Renault 12 in 1969, with the same mounted longitudinally at the front with the gearbox ahead of it. This car was a conventional three box saloon with a distinctive spiky profile, or a five door estate, and there was a Gordini version as well. If the Renault 14 was Renault’s Allegro, then perhaps the 12 could be viewed as the Renault take on the Morris Marina, built using major elements of an older model, modelled as a conservative saloon, and styled to impact
But perhaps the most epochal Renault of the 1960s was the Renault 16. Undeniably, this is one of the most influential and enduring cars of the 1960s, and truly a landmark product. Through the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s, if you couldn’t get to a DS, then this was an undeniable master of the autoroute and N road. Another car now very rare on the road, sadly.
As I commented earlier, the Simca 1100 was France’s bestseller for several years. There is something about yellow spot lamps added to a grille that only appeals in France….
Earlier Simcas were present, as well.
A Simca Aronde Grande Lago Coupe may be best considered as France’s Sunbeam Rapier…..
….and a 1960 Aronde P60 saloon as France’s Hillman Minx.
France has several now defunct brands, some absorbed into the remaining organisations. Perhaps the best known of these was Panhard, descended from the pioneering Panhard et Levassor concern.
Panhard’s post war cars were among the most distinctive and innovative in Europe, with this 1948-54 Dyna X for example featuring air cooled two cylinder engine, with just 610cc initially, powering the front wheels through a four cylinder gearbox.
The later PL24 encapsulates all Panhard knew, and after the company was absorbed by Citroen the spirit of the company continued to be apparent, in cars like the Citroen GS with its air-cooled engine for example. Quite a change for a company that before 1939 had been a manufacturer of large, expensive cars.
Other parts of Europe and elsewhere were represented.
A late 1960s Porsche 911, with Fuchs wheels?
A highlight for me was this Lancia Fulvia Sport Zagato, a car which I have not seen since, well, I can’t remember. One of the recent highlights for me on CC was JohnH875’s review of a Lancia show in Australia and whilst this car did not feature in the report, it was great to see Lancia on CC. This car produced from 1965; this example is a 1968-69 Sport S with a 92bhp 1.3 litre engine. This was one of the last generation of Lancias produced prior to the company’s integration into Fiat.
Power came from Lancia’s famous narrow angle V4, from 1.2 to 1.6 litres and the car was closely based on the Fulvia saloon, a car that could be compared most closely to an Alfa Romeo Giulia, albeit with front wheel drive.
Styling was by Zagato, with a distinctive profile and attractive window line adding to it. Its successor was nominally the Lancia Beta Coupe and HPE, but somehow they don’t quite have the same full Lancia DNA. A true highlight of the day, for me.
The other star from outside France was this Alfa Romeo 2600 Spyder, looking even more like junior Ferrari than may be even Alfa expected.
This car was the big brother for the more popular Alfa Spyder (or Graduate) and shared a platform with the 2600 saloon and Coupe.
Another rare car that was a surprise, at a predominantly French show.
Two other surprises to close with – a 1963 Buick Skylark convertible and a 1964 Dodge Dart saloon.
France has long had a different relationship to American cars than that of Britain, with them providing some Hollywood glamour at a more affordable cost than a prestige British or German brand, and some aspects of the cars themselves, such as soft ride, fitting well with French tastes.
Something this 1963 Buick Skylark fits in with well. There were a few other truly special cars there, and these will come onto CC on their own way over the next few months.
And next summer’s holiday planning is already in hand.
After all, I only had time for a quick check on the Citroen H vans!