CC Road Trip: Reliving the ’90s on a Paris Weekend, Part 1

Twingos mating Paris

The above shot of twin Renault Twingos goes some way toward explaining why one doesn’t see too many older cars in Grey Paree. Although I somehow managed to end up resident there from 1990 to ’98, unfortunately I didn’t take many shots of vehicles from that period, so have tried to make up for that oversight during a couple of recent business trips (the latest of which ended the day after the horrific terrorist attacks of November 13). With only a few spare-time hours to go CC hunting, I nevertheless believe I managed a reasonable degree of success. Interestingly, the best pickings seemed to be found within a couple blocks of my former residence on the Rue Chateau-Landon. This time we’ll focus (ha ha) on French makes that would have been common on the streets  when I was living there; a future post will look at some foreigners and oddities of the same period.

Citroen 2CV Pont Neuf 20151108

Of course, one of the icons of French motoring is the Citroen 2CV (1948-1989). Production wound up a couple years before I first arrived, and although not that common in the bruising urban environment, they could still be seen frequently. Nowadays, I’d say they are about as often sighted in the city as, say, a Ford Model A would be in downtown Chicago, so I considered it fortunate to have caught two on the same weekend. The blue, square-headlight ’70s model above was spotted near Saint-Michel…

Citroen 2CV Marche d'Aligre 20151107

…while the tan number was rather casually parked adjacent to the Marche d’Aligré, near a restaurant owned by a long-time friend.

1991-98 Citroen AX Canal St Martin 20151111

Looking a bit like an origami egg, Citroen’s AX was not, I guess, a direct successor to the 2CV, and was not as long-lived (1986-98) but shared the same general themes of very low mass and general simplicity. Badging indicates this one has a 1.5 l diesel and the white front signal lamps say it’s a post ’91 model. Three lugs per wheel should be enough for anyone, eh?


1991-98 Citroen ZX Marche d'Aligre 20151107

Sticking with Citroen, here’s a typically battered example of a ZX (1991-98), their Escort-class car of the period. Sometimes criticized as not being ‘real’ Citroens, since they shared their platform with the Peugeot 306, and frankly rather homely little machines, they were outsold by the 306 when new.  They seem to have had the last laugh, however, as the tooling went on to have a lengthy second life in China.

1991-98 Citroen ZX Wagon Parc des Expos 20151108

Considerably less common was the ZX wagon variant offered from ’93 onward. This fairly decent example was resting comfortably near the Parc des Expositions in the suburb of Villepinte. I quite liked the look and size of the wagon versus the hatchback version.

1995-2001 Citroen Xantia Wagon Rue Chateau-Landon 20151108

A couple years later in the design cycle than the ZX (although sharing some general visual themes) and considerably bigger and more sophisticated, was the Xantia (1993-2002). This one was spotted cruising near Gare de l’Est, again in the relatively uncommon wagon format. I pretty much guarantee this one is regularly garaged somewhere.

1983-98 Peugeot 205 Bir-Hakeim 20131116

No Paris street scene in the ’90s would have lacked a few base-model Peugeot 205s (1983-98). The two-door example, gathering parking tickets like leaves, was shot near the Bir-Hakeim metro stop. Back in the day, I drove one of these as a rental and even with a tiny 1.1-liter engine, performance was sprightly and handling very pleasant. Amazing, however, how the jaunty look of the coupe…

1983-98 Peugeot 205 Notre Dame 20151107

…almost entirely disappears when one adds two more doors. Maybe it’s the beige paint as well, but that looks like a schoolteacher’s car if there ever was one. With that said, there seem to be more 205s remaining on the street than any contemporaries in the same class, so Peugeot must have built them reasonably well.

1993-97 Peugeot 306 sedan Gare d L'Est 20151111

Although this Peugeot 306 (1993-2002) carries entirely different sheet metal than its sister Citroen ZX, I think one can see a bit of family resemblance, particularly in the greenhouse area. Back in the day, three- and five-door hatchback versions ruled, so it was kind of unusual to find a sedan on my wanders about town.

1987-97 Peugeot 405 Rue Chateau-Landon 20151108

Moving up another size gets one a true classic. The lovely and timeless Peugeot 405 (1987-96) was, to these eyes, the best-styled French sedan of the period, so it was great to see this one in reasonably good condition on the Rue Chateau-Landon, more or less directly across the street from the building I once lived in. If I had ever had a car of my own in Paris (and the off-street space to keep it), this would have been on my short list. Make mine the 2 liter, 155 HP Mi16 (which this is not), thanks. They were available for a few years in the States as well.

Lastly, Renault. Their supermini of the period was of course the second-gen R5 or ‘Supercinq‘ (1984-96), and these things were everywhere during the ’90s.

1984-96 Renault 5 Marche d'Aligre 20140420

Somewhat prone to rust, they don’t seem to have fared as well as the small Peugeots, but they still turn up here and there…

1984-96 Renault 5 Pont Neuf 20151108

…including this shockingly well-preserved example in ‘Saga’ trim, seen near the Pont des Arts.

1990-98 Renault Clio Rue Chateau-Landon 20151108

The Renault Clio (1990-98) that gradually replaced the Five was first introduced about the time I moved to Paris, and came off as something of a Great Leap Forward in both overall quality and content. These became a hit in the domestic market and decent first-gen examples, like the one seen here just off Rue Lafayette, can still be spotted frequently.

1992-96 Renault 19 Gare du Nord 20151111

We close out with this example of a Renault 19 (1988-96), seen here in the guise of its post-’92 facelift. Although highly practical, they were remarkably plain and generic-looking vehicles, despite (apparently) the shape being credited to Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign. Also available as a notchback sedan, known as ‘Chamade’, these seem to have pretty much vanished from French roads.

What’s missing? Well, the Renault 21 and 25 come to mind, as well as some of the bigger Citroens. Oh, well, maybe next trip. Hope you enjoyed this brief diversion down, er, la voie de la mémoire; more in a week or so.

Further Reading:

Paul N. on the Citroen 2CV

James Pembroke Tenneson discusses the Peugeot 205

Peugeot 205 vs. Renault 5, by Jim Klein

Tom Klockau and the Peugeot 405