CC Vintage: Brussels Street Scenes In The 1980s

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CC reader Maarten sent me a link to a treasure trove of 1980s street scenes from Brussels, Belgium by Michel Huhardeaux.. The whole collection of over 200 pictures is here, but let’s sample just a few of them to give you a taste. This one includes a wide range of cars, including a camper mounted on a Simca or Talbot. Wow! What are the odds of that?  But the biggest surprise in viewing the whole collection? How many Japanese cars there are. There’s two here, and one or more in just about every shot.

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This shot includes a black Citroen TA, among others.

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This whole collection really speaks to me, as it reminds me so much of our trip to Austria in 1980, in terms of the cars. Minis were still quite the hot item, among young folks. No less than two Hondas in the frame.

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Another Civic, a Mazda RX7, a Matra Rancho, and an Alfa Spider are parked in a row.

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This shot grabbed me because that’s a Peugeot 304 Coupe in front on the left. And I’m 99% certain that there’s a Peugeot 504 Coupe two cars behind. Both were always quite uncommon.

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The other thing that surprised me was the almost total absence of American cars, except for this Mercury Zephyr coupe. Given that Mercuries were hardly ever sold in Europe, this may be an American ex-pat’s car or a private import. If this was in the Netherlands, Switzerland or Sweden, there undoubtedly would be more. It may have to do with the specific tax situation in some countries that made them prohibitive. of course, generally speaking American cars had been falling out of favor for several decades, with those few exceptions.

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There’s also one American truck, a Dodge delivering beer, I assume. I know Chrysler had a factory in Rotterdam, NL, until 1960, but I’m not sure they built these trucks there. Johannes Dutch will tell us all the particulars.

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And the police were still riding Harleys. I suspect that would soon change.

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Here’s another typical street scene, and a few not so typical cars. I’ll let you ID them.

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Two more Japanese cars shoe-horning themselves into the shot.

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The red car is a Skoda coupe, so I had to include it. Datsuns were obviously very popular in Brussels then.

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No less than three Citroen 2CVs in this shot.

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Here’s a car that was already a CC in the early eighties, a Ford 17M. This design by Uwe Bahnsen was the first home-grown design by Ford Germany, as all the previous cars had been designed with lots of input from Dearborn. It was pretty radical in 1960, and it influenced the 1961 Continental’s design considerably, as Elwood Engel saw it in the Cologne Ford studios when he made a trip there. The 17M’s unique front end, peaked fenders and slab sides all are very much accounted for in the ’61 Continental. The headlights and grille also found their way unto the ’61 Thunderbird. A very influential design.

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Real cars and imagined cars.

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A Simca 1000, Mitsubishi Galant Lambda (Plymouth Sapporo) and Autobianchi A112 are among the more unusual cars here.

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An Alfasud, Renault 16 and a Fiat 600 (in front of Prelude).

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An Opel Ascona passing a rolling billboard pulled by a VW buggy.

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In another shot, it’s advertising the release of the movie “The Shining”. That movie’s exteriors were shot at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, so that brings us back home. I always love going back to Europe (we’re going this coming August), but I’m never sorry to be coming back home to Oregon.


Please do visit this remarkable collection of photographs here. They’re not just cars, but an effort to document Brussels and its inhabitants at the time.