Travelling has not been easy over the last few months but we managed to get to France for a brief break. Fixing the logistics got complex given the limits airlines and car hire companies have had to operate under, but we made it, and saw some classic French summer sights.
Sadly, our favourite French Classic Car gathering was cancelled, so we had to rely on the streets of south west France instead. Never mind, there are worse places for a Curbivore to enjoy himself.
The first sighting was actually before we made it to our accommodation, although the photos were actually taken a couple of days later. A Jaguar XJ-C 4.2, from 1975-78. Unusually, this car had a manual gearbox, very much a minority choice, as by far the more popular option was the Borg Warner 3 speed automatic.
I suspect it is on record on CC that one of these is in my Fantasy Garage on an almost permanent basis, although with a V12 and in dark red or British racing green with a black top.
This car was outside a local specialist British car garagiste operation, where sightings of elderly Jaguars and Rovers are not unusual. But an XJ-C is unusual just about anywhere, even in the UK (only 10,000 were built in 4 years) so this was quite a sight.
Especially, as just a few metres away, there was this one as well. Also nominally a 4.2 litre but in this case with an automatic gearbox, and I suspect no engine given its stance. Still, either would be worth getting up to a road worthy standard.
Rather more French, but still a rare find was this Talbot-Matra Murena.
The Murena was Matra’s second generation of the idea – a transverse engine and gearbox from a regular car mounted behind the driver, covered with a composite body and galvanised chassis with the donor regular car’s suspension being used as well. The donor vehicle was the Talbot Alpine/Simca 1507 hatchback.
The Murena’s novelty, or USP, was an interior with three seats in a row, similar to the preceding Bagheera which was based on the Simca 1100.
Power came from either 1.6 or 2.2 litre Talbot-Simca engine. It was produced from 1980 to 1983, with a total run of 10,000, all left hand drive.
Perhaps surprisingly, given its origins and the weak engines, LJK Setright was a fan.
But I suspect Setright was not a fan of this Talbot – a Samba convertible, actually built by Pininfarina.
Tatra87 has given us as good a history of the Samba as you’ll find, so I won’t try to repeat that, other than to remind you that it was developed from the short wheelbase version of my Mum’s Peugeot 104 after Peugeot bought Chrysler Europe.
The Convertible was a Talbot only derivative – there were not Peugeot or Citroen convertibles and this was Talbot’s only ever piece of glamour.
Power was from a 1360cc 72 or 80 bhp engine, and production lasted until Talbot’s demise in 1986, reaching a total of 13,000. Very rare in all forms everywhere now, including France or the UK, its two home markets.
Of course, this was France, so there were a few cars that had to be recorded. This was perhaps the best 2CV I had seen for sometime. An attractive colour scheme, with matched wheels, roof and coach lines and lacking the usual French patina of use. That in itself is unusual.
The registration plate suggests the existing owner has held the car since 2009 or earlier. And it shows.
And of course the Goddess or, as the authorities call it, the Citroen DS.
This example is a DS21, actually right hand drive but French registered, built between 1967 and 1973, based on the headlamp design.
CC has covered the DS before. It is truly one of the great cars of the post war years, may be all time great.
This example had a nice looking, if empty, roof rack.
Watching it drive away up the street in the sunshine was well worth delaying lunch for.
And an oddball Citroen, even by Citroen standards. A Citroen Mehari, seen here on summer duty outside a defunct shoe shop on market day. Basically, a Citroen 2CV with a plastic buggy body on it. Ideal for life on the Camargue or the vineyards of Languedoc.
Renault had a take on the Mehari – the Rodeo, based on the Renault 4 van and often fitted with the larger engine from the Renault 6.
This example is actually formally parked for France; when it’s nearly 40 degC a bit of shade is worth having.
And some wheels that look like that they belong to a Renault 5 Alpine or Gordini to me.
Have you been missing a regular Beetle fix on CC? Well, how about this one?
You can see the condition of the car – a credit to the owner indeed and a very period presentation somehow.
I’m not Beetle expert (or really a fan to be honest) but you have to admire them and VW’s efforts, so I’m asking the CC Commentariat to tell me about it.
My searching suggests 1954, or thereabouts, but I’m happy to be corrected.
And I suspect I will be.
More to my taste is the other VW find of the trip – a Mk1 Golf Cabriolet sporting the later (1988 on) bigger bumper covers.
Like the Beetle, this Golf was in a very well cared for condition. Production of this car continued until 1994, ten years after the introduction of the Golf Mk2, and was always built by Karmann.
When presented like this, the attraction is obvious.
And last, but not least, the MPM Erelis, developed from the Russian Tagaz Aquila project, which collapsed financially in 2014. This has a composite body over a steel spaceframe, and is powered by a 1.2 litre Peugeot engine driving a six speed gearbox.
Assembly is completed in the suburbs of Paris, although the financial state of the company is not exactly clear. Production was suspended a year ago, with the company reporting that it was concentrating on development of future models. Including an SUV.
Perhaps, I’ll see that one next year? Maybe, but we’ll definitely be able to get some more Merlot.