The Curbside Classics of Antibes-Juan-Les-Pins, France


With it being below freezing outside my window right now with snow all over the place, I thought it the perfect time to remember the walk I took around Antibes-Juan-Les-Pins in the South of France this summer while my family was at the beach.  I was sunburned enough so decided to get some exercise.

The first car I saw after finally finding a parking space was this delightful Citroen AX (above), with apparently a 1.0 liter engine.  Note the trailer hitch, I guarantee this guy hauls more stuff than the average F-150 back in the States…


Next up is a first-generation Opel Corsa, the hatchback version of what I believe Perry recently called the saddest-looking sedan in the world.  The Southern French sun has not been kind to the paint aft of the front clip.  Nothing like fender blisters to try to convey sporting intent, a la Audi Quattro and later the E30 BMW M3.


I’m no Land Rover expert, all I know is that this one looked magnificent in its desert khaki color.  It was fairly immaculate but I have no idea if it is a recent version or an older one.  I’m sure some of you out there can educate us on how to tell its age.


This one’s for Paul, a very well kept Ford Transit chassis with full motorhome on the back.  It’s got a very American look to it, the Europeans tend to do the trailer thing more than the motorhome concept.  What do these things usually have engine-wise, something like a 2-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder?


Here’s a delightful side by side shot of a late-model 190E right next to its successor, an early C-Class in the same color, no less.  The 190 even has alloys, the C-class has lost its hubcaps and looks all the sadder for it.  While I don’t dislike the lines of the C-Class, the 190 is the more “classic” shape with tons more character.


And just around the corner is this attractive Citroen Xantia.  I remember when these debuted, I thought the shape quite fetching and I think it has aged very well.  I’m not sure if the cranberry metallic color is doing it any favors but it beats white or silver I suppose. Wikipedia considers this a “large” car, I think the only Americans that would consider this “large” are the ones that are in charge of car-rental companies and are tasked with assigning the car to a size class that never seems to match up to reality.


Ooh, what do we have here?  A magnificent whale among the minnows of the roads around here!  I did not expect to see any W126 chassis around here and was excited to see this.  I love the smaller European bumpers, the headlights and of course that oh-so-80’s touch, the headlight wipers.  Let’s walk around the back and see which engine it appears to have if it isn’t debadged…but first take note of the creative parking across the street, that’s going to be tough to get back out of.


Ooh-la-la, it is the grande fromage, the 560SEL in all its gasoline powered V8 splendor.  With a thirst to match, it’s not surprising I saw this several times over the week we were there, always in the same spot, never having moved.  Basically all you do in the summer in the South of France is idle in constant traffic forever, at around $10/gallon for gasoline, there are much more efficient ways to get around than this.


I couldn’t believe I found an Isuzu Amigo and then realized I hadn’t, this is an Opel Frontera Sport, basically the same thing as the Amigo with new badges, one of GM’s attempts to use its relationships to fill out gaps in the local offerings.  Our Amigo only came with a cloth rear top as far as I know, this halfshell is interesting.  Sadly, this is about as far off-road as it is likely to go.


Here’s a great example of Europe’s version of the pickup truck, the white van.  In this case a Ford Transit of a more recent vintage than the one we saw fronting the motorhome a few blocks away.  Large windows, a tall roof, and an aerodynamic design makes anyone who has seen these be amazed at the antiquated offerings that were on sale in the U.S. until recently.


Here it is from the rear, look at that very squared off back end.  I’m sure it would have no problem carrying the metric equivalent of our 4×8 sheet of plywood, once all the seats are taken out of course.  I didn’t look but believe it seats 8 or perhaps 10, and am fairly certain there were longer wheelbase versions available as well.


And then we have this bit of teal green zoom-zoom.  Yes it is a Mazda 121, the successor to the older version that we in the States know as the Ford Festiva.


Finally, an Alfa!  And not just any Alfa, but an Alfa Romeo 159 WAGON!  Apparently on holiday from its Belgian home, this thing is simply gorgeous.


You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging without a frontal shot, did you? The picture makes the front look a little longer than it really is, but I love the way the grille forces you to put the plate to the side.  Form over function.  I have also always liked the way there appear to be three headlights on either side but believe the inside one is the turn signal.  Looks great, though.


Well, hello, here is a third generation Ford Fiesta in lovely (if dirty) condition.  Like the Golf, the Fiesta has generally stayed very recognizable over its generations with very evolutionary styling.


My favorite part of the whole design is the way in which the rear taillight is integrated with A) the hatch cutline and B) the character line along the flank.  Very nice bit of design in my opinion.


While this looks similar to a Renault Espace, it isn’t.  Instead it is the Citroen Evasion, a competitor with, if anything, an even better name.  With Czech registration, the large driving lights suggest long drives late at night across Europe to get to the beach.  I have no idea what the deal is with the shark or whatever fish it is sticker on the front, that appears to be another owner-installed accessory.  Europe had more than just the Espace to choose from in regards to minivans, the Evasion was built in conjunction with the Peugeot 806, Lancia Zeta and Fiat Ulysse, all of which were produced in the same factory.


Minivans are just more fun in red.  I think the only red (really red, not dark red metallic) minivan ever on sale in the U.S. were the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan, right?  I do not recall the Japanese ever offering one.


Somehow the CC effect struck while I was on my walk.  I never expected to see ANOTHER Opel Frontera, also in black.  That is quite the extension on the hitch to clear the spare tire. It has the same rear topper as the other one, is the rear hatch side-hinged or is the handle on the right only due to the spare? I can’t quite work out how the back opens with the spare and the apparently frameless rear glass along with the side-mounted handle.


I believe this is the same as what our own KiwiBryce drives, no?  A Citroen Xsara.  Or do I have that wrong?  According to him, these are apparently one of the best-handling cars available anywhere.  I’m sure it rides very well also, that wheelbase looks quite long relative to the length of the car.


Yes, the French got these too, the Chevrolet Aveo.  Actually I saw them in surprising quantity and was baffled.  They are pretty much universally derided and with France pretty much being Super-Mini heaven, how do these get sold there?   Not really a CC, I know, but an unexpected find.  In front of it is the car I really should have photographed, it’s a Dacia Sandero.


Oui, monsieur, un Citroen XM avec V6!  In black!  Straight out of Ronin, this is about as French as it gets.


The front (as opposed to the side) view is much more conventional looking, bordering on boring, really.


The rear is definitely more interesting than the front.  Note the rear sunshades, there is a lot of glass on this car, along with it being black, I’m sure it’s quite an oven in there.  Parked right in front is an early Audi A3 3-door.


Hey, a Renault Medallion!  Oops, no, over here in France that’s a Renault 21 Wagon.  It’s certainly seen better days, and probably a lot of rough nights.


He’s certainly using a lot of padlocks on his safety chains (3 visible).  But the chain is hanging way too low.  Also, what’s the deal with that shock-looking thing in front of the trailer wheel? I don’t get it.  That’s a nice little locking trailer though.


This here is one of my all-time favorite Ford designs.  A Ford Escort XR3i, I think it’s an early one judging by the wheels.  It looks so right.  Close to the American version, but better executed.  I think it’s the black trim that I like.  And maybe the tight little bumpers.


Look at that rear!  The lights look great, and that is a fairly large rear rubber spoiler, one of Ford’s larger ones until that huge double-decker debuted on the Sierra XR4i a few years later.  The white paint really shows off the contract to full effect and the font on the logo stickers is very well done as well.


Oh look, the spoiler kind of IS a double-decker as well!  These were all over the place in the 80’s, along with the Golf GTI and the Peugeot 205GTI, they kind of formed the hot hatch triumvirate.


Yes, I’m kind of dwelling on this one.  It’s my walk, it’s very hot outside, I don’t have a drink with me, and I’m geeking out over this car.  The one thing it is missing that I always associate with XR3’s are the large round driving lights mounted above the bumper (Kind of like on the Citroen van we saw earlier).  I thought they were part of the package but maybe not or they were removed at some point over the last thirty years.


Hey, a Renault 5, the supercinq! Very similar to the one I saw for sale at the supermarket.


You don’t see many of the black plates in France anymore, especially on cars this (relatively) new.  Another hitch for towing a camper or utility trailer…


Of course as soon as I say something about the black plates, here is another one…This time on an early Renault Trafic van.  This one sports the high roof but looks to be a short wheelbase version.  Well used, but probably lots of life left in it.


Not very pretty, is it?  Very utilitarian and still somehow very French.  That whole front end is a bit of a dog’s breakfast, very much function over form.


Oh, a Honda Prelude, the only one I saw on the entire vacation.  Come to think of it, I rarely see them at home anymore either.  This is a post-facelift version, and as with most Hondas, I severely dislike the “improvements” that come with the mid-cycle refresh.  Visually the pre-facelift version works much better for me.  There is one other thing about this that makes it even more rare…


Yes, it is one of the quite rare 4-wheel-steering versions.


And then I stumbled on this, an early Rav4 2-door.  Like the Rodeo (Frontera) I believe in the U.S. we only got a cloth top and back end, but here it is a solid roof with a fiberglass (or plastic) rear topper. Those wheels mark it as a top of the line model, but wow, that thing has a short wheelbase.  I suppose for running around town here it’s fine but I wouldn’t want to drive it for a long trip to Paris.


Towards the end of the walk I stumbled on this Ford Sierra.  I think the large rear side window marks it as a later model.  It looks fairly plain and these are somewhat rare as 2-doors but I know NZSkyliner will like it…


Hey, it’s actually an XR4i!  I didn’t realize these looked a bit more watered down as the model run went on.  When I think XR4i I think of the larger spoiler, bigger wheels and contrasting body/bumper paint with a stripe, more like our Merkur XR4Ti.

Well, that concludes my walk, time to go back to the beach to pick up the family.  I hope you enjoyed the sunshine and the sights!