Bonjour, chers amis. I’m not a Parisian, but I’ll try and walk you through this iconic city and its infamous traffic jams. As per previous editions, you really ought to click on the pics to get the most bangue for your bucque, as the French definitely don’t say. Allons-y!
Alésia (14th arr., south), 1950. Mostly prewar stock, obviously.
Place de l’Opéra, 1950. Traction Avants aplenty — they will be with us for a lot of this post…
“Le baiser de la Place de la Concorde” by Robert Doisneau, 1950. The happy couple is in front of a 1934 Mathis Emy-4.
Place de la Concorde, mid-’50s
Champs-Élysées, mid’50s. The tiny gray convertible on the right is a Panhard Junior.
Place de la Concorde, 1955. The prewar taxi on the left is a Renault Vivaquatre. These were bought by the G7 taxi company in 1933-34 and used for over 20 years. Old Renaults were tough as nails.
Not sure where this photo was taken, but it was in September 1956.
A famous café in Saint-Germain in the late ’50s, overrun by Triumphs.
Speaking of triumph, here’s that Arc de Triomphe again, in 1957. That 2CV has an aftermarket bootlid — a somewhat popular accessory since Citroen hadn’t seen fit to give their car one from the factory.
Traffic jam at the Porte d’Orléans, 1958
The Louvre palace, back in 1958, was part museum, part Ministry of Finance and part parking garage.
The rear of the department store La Samaritaine, rue du Pont Neuf, 1960.
Austerlitz train station, 1960.
Champs-Élysées, 1960. I’m counting four Peugeot 403s, six Citroen ID/DSs and seven Simca Ariane/Vedettes in here. And a black ’56 Chevy all the way at the back.
Place de l’Étoile again, in the early ’60s. Your Fleetwood 75 awaits…
Out in the suburbs: Saint-Denis, in the north, in 1963.
The Champs-Élysées yet again, now in the mid-’60s. The Peugeot 404 has taken hold, and will not let go. The Jaguar Mark 2 seems to have foreign plates, but it’s a most welcome sight.
Place de la Concorde again, circa 1965.
The Champs-Élysées roundabout in the middle of the rush hour and of the ’60s.
There’s that Chevy again. The first bits of the Boulevard Périphérique (the ring road) already in heavy use by 1967.
Rue Royale, with the obelisk and the National Assembly (i.e. Parliament) in the background, late ’60s.
Three Panhard 24s in a traffic jam, circa 1968.
The Champs-Élysées in the rain, 1969.
Austin, Autobianchi, DAF, Fiat, Opel, Princess, Triumph — it wasn’t all French cars any more by 1969.
Don’t know where, don’t know when, but I’m sure we’ll meet again… About 1970, given the 504s…
Place de la Bourse, 1970. Cool little Alfa.
One of the twelve streets that leads to the Arc de Triomphe, early ’70s. Nice early model Peugeot 304, too.
Quai des Tuileries, right next to the Louvre, in 1970.
The last section of the ring road is opened in 1973.
You know where, with the you know what in the background — in 1975.
Someone took a CC Pic(k) of the Day back in 1976, but we’re only publishing it now. Crazy, eh?
Grandad’s gone on a bar crawl again, 1976.
Palais de Justice, on the Ile de la Cité, 1978. And that’s where we get off, ladies and gents. Hope you enjoyed the tour and you still have enough lung capacity to smoke a Gauloise without a filter. As for me, I’ll see you wherever we got next.
Now I seriously long for a café au lait et un croissant.
Must have been a TR club that met at that cafe.
These are wonderful. My biggest take-away: the relative paucity of 2CVs. It really was targeted at more of the rural population, and city folks seem to have shunned it somewhat. It was probably its “poor farmer image”. I suspect it got popular when the young kids adopted it as their preferred car in the late ’60s.
My father spent a year in Paris in 1951, in an advanced neurological training. There’s a number of snapshots of him at various locations with cars in the background.
For reason or reasons unknown to me, TR’s have always been very popular in France. Especially the TR4 and 4A were more popular then MG’s.
The French always had something mysterious with English cars.
…and almost complete absence of Amis, bearing in mind they were supposed to be a bit less agricultural
As per special request..
The 2CVs are almost everywhere in these pics, but less so than the Renault 4CVs. Those were more popular in 50s Paris, it seems. Probably for the reasons you mention, but also because it took Citroën a very long time to ramp up 2CV production and meet demand.
Hitching across France in 1969, I got a ride into the center of town in a Peugeot 404. Once there, the girlfriend I was visiting, took me around in her parent’s Renault R-8. I don’t remember getting into any of the jams T87 so graphically exhibits.
As always, Merci beaucoup for your work, Mr. Tatra.
Really enjoying these photo archives from around the world. Keep them coming. In the Arc de Triomphe, early ’70s picture, I see a BMW 2000CS on the right and parked further down between the Mini and the Capri, is that a Honda 600?
With congestion like this, no wonder carmakers like Fiat and Renault had a 20-30 year leg up on refining small car efficiency ahead of the North American makers. If only the domestics had tapped their European branches much sooner, and more actively, for advanced small car engineering.
Wonderful images! I can stare at these for hours. Ive enjoyed the entire city series. Interesting to see up until 1960 how aligned the Parisian car colour palette was with what we see today, with soft grey, white, black and charcoal predominating.
The green Renault 4, the red 2CV and the 2 Peugeot 504’s with the subway viaduct in the back is probably Blvd Barbès in the 18th arrondisement, at the edge of Monmartre.
Yes – that is certainly possible.
The image also reminds me of where Le Metro runs above ground along Boulevard de Grenelle on the south east side of la Seine adjacent to Pont Bir-Hakeim between Quai Branley and Rue Saint-Saëns.
Sporting around Paris in a chauffeured ’63 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 limousine: ne plus ultra! If I recall my high school French class correctly, Helen Kelley would be proud….
The only thing missing is a picture from early 1976 of a Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 with a camera bolted to the front hurtling down a backstreet just after dawn.
Missing a color evening photo with yellow headlights…
The Triumphs, the Jag, 2 MG’s and four Minis is all I spied amongst a heaving mass of Frenchery, not great representation of the world’s second biggest car industry less than 300 miles away. I can only presume there were tariffs, either that or the French patriotically chose their own brand of dubious electrics and cul-de-sac engineering over the British versions.
Very enjoyable. Gave up the Gaulloise a while ago, though. I’ll have to settle for glass of pinot. Maybe two.
I can explain, Britain joined the European Community (the earlier and better version of the European Union) in 1973, British cars suffered from import duties before that time.
Why should you buy an Austin Cambridge or Morris Oxford in France, the Peugeot 404 was far superior to its British cousins .
Why should you buy a Mini in France when the Renault 4 was cheaper and more practical with its hatchback.
Why should you buy a Austin Maxi when you could get an R16 or R16 TS?
Mini’s were all around in Paris like the Smartcar is today. You could easily park a Mini in the smallest spaces, the downside was that Parisians use bumpers for what they are made for, it was very common to bump your way into a parking space, Mini’s with their low fitted bumpers were always beaten and battered, 9 out of ten Parisian Mini’s had bullbars installed front and rear.
I mean the first car with integrated ‘plastic’ bumpers was the Renault 5, for a reason !
Looks like you missed the Ford in the 10th picture and the Rover in the 13th one. But what did you expect, exactly? The Trocadero overrun with Hillmans and Morris Minors? Why?
British cars are not underrepresented in this sampling of Parisian pics, I feel. If I had found more photos of the 16th arrondissement, maybe a Rolls or two would have also been in there as well. Those had no French equivalent by the mid ’50s.
I think there is indeed a Roller (a Cloud?) in the middle of the 12th photo traffic jam.
My point was slightly ironic. As Rammstein says, things like a 404 were in another world to a Farina Austin, and small French cars of the period are (to me) greatly nicer than their English equivalents, Mini excluded – though, as hinted, no more or less trusty to provide constant service. As Ramstein also reminds me, tariffs: a huge consideration I’d forgotten. I do know from reading that a 404 in England was impractically expensive due to tariffs the other way.
I did overlook the Ford, because I lazily assumed that in France, there was a Ford plant making LHD Zephyrs, etc.
My love for Paris can be explained in one trip, Dad, who imported French REELA transistor radio’s in the sixties to the lowlands took me to Paris on a business trip.
In our 404 Diesel.
We arrived late at night, the highway/autobahn ended in Breda the Netherlands and Belgium was more or less a highway with level crossings and traffic lights where the most horrific accidents would happen.
You’d have to cross Antwerp and Brussels as there were no ring roads.
So we ended up in Monmartre, the Moulin Rouge area where dad knew a Restaurant which was opened at 10 in the evening.
I was flabbergasted, the crowded streets, the restaurant and I got a steak frites at 10 in the evening ! Rotterdam was so provincial.
A lot of African men entered the place each one carrying a different instrument case and within ten minutes the place was buzzing with jazzzzzz music.
After a while we left and the 404 Diesel refused to come alive.
Dad opened the hood and was puzzled, the car had ran without any problems uintil we had parked it there on the boulevard.
At the boulevard there was a small fair and like in the famous movie Irma Douce where Nestor escapes the prison within minutes the poor Peugeot was surrounded by French guys figuring our what was wrong with the car. Like in the movie a guy pushed a teddy bear in my hands (no machine gun then ) and started to dismantle the fuel pump. Where the tools came from, I have no idea till this day, heated discussions were held over what was wrong with the car, the thing I remember was him spitting out Diesel from the pump and holding a screw driver and pliers in the air discussing with other ‘experts’ that the Diesel pump had gone to heaven so to speak.
The next morning our 404 was towed away by a 403 pick up tow truck ( quite normal in those days) and was brought to the Neubauer Peugeot dealer for repairs. (they still exist today)
Dad and I took the train back a few days later, but Paris, the traffic the buzz of the city it made a huge impression on a 12 year old kid !
Here’s a picture from a Peugeot brochure which always reminds me of this trip.
Happy new year to everyone !
That was a great story. Very vividly told.
I’m a bit of a Francophile and this urban group is my favorite so far, although my favorite car spotted is German; a NSU Ro-80 in the sixth from last pic taken along the Seine next to The Louvre.
There is a circa 1965 video on YouTube of The Supremes performing “Where did our love go” skipping along The Champs-Elysees clearly without any permits. It’s Motown meets Paris with two Detroit beauties; a ‘57 Cadillac and a ‘62 Buick Skylark driving by the three Detroit beauties jay-walking (my iPad is wonky, otherwise I’ld Post the link).
We have forgotten what Paris was truly like in the coal burning years. A recent trip through some historic photos brought this one up and I can’t stop thinking about it.
My Dad had no French relatives, but he came to love France…starting in the mid-60’s he made several trips to Corbeil-Essonnes for business, and that was probably the start of it…after his ’59 Beetle was totalled in front of our house, he ended up buying a ’68 Renault R10 new at Almartin Motors in South Burlington, VT, and I’m sure his trips to France had a lot to do with his choice (certainly few others in the US chose this car).
He made other trips to France for pleasure later on, including to Normandy which as someone who grew up in WWII and later serving in the Army, D-Day was a big deal to him. I got to take him and my Mother on a trip through eastern France, we started in Alsace and made our way south to Saintes Maries de la Mer, and back up to Paris. He found an apartment across from Arènes de Lutèce on Rue Mongue where we stayed a week…ditched our rental car in Montparnasse station, and we used the Carte Orange to get around on trains and subway. We happened to be there on Armistice day in 2000, and got to see the parade (we hadn’t planned it, but lucked into it timing wise). Though my Dad had trouble walking, and our apartment up the 3rd floor didn’t have an elevator, he was a trooper and took his time going up the stairs…it ended being his last trip overseas, but we were glad he was able to go with us before his mobility got further impaired..so he had relatively recent memories of his trips there before he passed away.
In the 2nd photo (Alésia, 1950) I’ll have the 402 break in the foreground, merci beaucoup!