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Thread: Seven French cars best forgotten

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Seven French cars best forgotten


    If you want a car that's beautiful to look at, but may not work very well - see the Italians. For a car that works beautifully but might not be so pretty to look at - go see the Germans. But to get a machine that's neither beautifully engineered nor beautiful to view, you've got to go French.

    No one builds consistently oddball, low-powered weirdness as masterfully as Renault, Citroen and Puegeot - France's "Big Three" automakers. Thankfully, we've had better success ejecting their wares from our shores than the French have had warding off the relentless juggernaut of Disney, McDonald's and Britney Spears.

    Here are seven very good reasons why:

    * Renault Le Car -

    A sad little box that could give a Yugo self-esteem lessons. The Le Car (also known as the Renault 5 in Europe) was launched in 1972 with the slogan, "Hello, I'm the Renault 5, in town and on the road . . . .They also call me Supercar" -- an audacious claim given the 850 cc, 36-hp engine that powered the original. (A middling decent lawn tractor has about 12-hp.) Later models were offered with a noxious 1.6 liter diesel that smelled worse than the car itself looked. The Le Car sold through 1985 - and actually sold fairly well. Some three million were built, all told. Luckily, only a few remain roadworthy - and they're easy enough to catch and smash, if you come across a survivor.

    * Renault Alliance-

    This 60-hp K-car wanna-be was sold from 1983 to 1988 in the United States under the desperate partnership formed by liver-spotted, on life-support American Motors Corp. (AMC) and Renault. In a move whose astutnesss rivaled that of Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana "Purchase" - whereby America got most of the land West of St. Louis for pennies on the acre -- AMC finagled the froggies into dishing out a heady $350 million in early 1980s dollars to acquire a 46.4 percent stake in the company that brought the world such exemplars of style and engineering as the Pacer X with genuine Levi jeans seat covers, Gremlin, and Matador. Even though AMC was on the ropes, the French were sold on the idea of exploiting AMC's still-large dealer network to hock their Pepe Le Pew chariots. But things didn't turn out so well for AMC - which went belly up within the decade. Or for Renault - which eventually fled the U.S. market, never to return.

    * Renault Fuego -

    Built from 1980 through 1993, the two-door Fuego is about as hot-roddy as French-made sports cars get - 64-hp engine, 99-mph top speed and all. A "high performance" turbocharged version was added to the mix later on that produced a mighty 107-hp, and gave the car a top speed approaching 120-mph flat out, right there with a new Hyundai Elantra - but without the Hyundai's build quality. There are still a few die-hards left who lovingly preserve the few Fuegos that rust - and sledgehammer-wielding first owners - didn't claim.

    * Renault Rodeo 6 -

    Convertibles are fun because you can feel the wind through your hair - but the Rodeo 6's 75-mph top speed makes it hard to get up much of a breeze. On the upside, the 38-hp, 845 cc engine did get good gas mileage, though. Basically a Le Car with a Jeep-like body, the Rodeo 6 is still in favor as a beach-mobile on the French Riviera and similar locales, where its open-to-the-outdoors cabin is ideally suited to the leisure lifestyle. Strap on your speedo and climb aboard!

    * Peugeot 505 diesel -

    The Peugeot boys began making coffee grinders and sewing machines more than 100 years ago - and the company that bears the family name ended up building a car with an engine that sounded very much like a sick coffee grinder only slightly more powerful than a high-end sewing machine. The Peugeot 505 sedan was actually not such a bad car - if you exclude the breakdown-prone 2.5 liter, 64-hp diesel engine and sketchy electronics. Straining like Marlon Brando running up a flight of stairs after a full plate of fettuccini Alfredo, the 505 diesel eventually struggles to a top speed of 90-mph. Getting to 60-mph requires the better part of half-a-minute (20 seconds), though later turbocharged models can cut that down to a sizzling 17 seconds.

    The 505 lingered like Limburger until the mid-1990s - though thankfully not in the United States.

    * Citroen 2CV -

    Imagine a moped without the sex appeal or the power and you've got a handle on the 2CV. It started life in the mind of company founder Pierre Boulanger, who wanted to creat a car that "would carry two peasants and 100-pounds of potatoes. . ." The result was the TPV - Toute Petit Voiture" - the early prototype of the 2CV that would appear after World War II. Unfortunately, it was not a casualty of that conflict.

    The original 1948 2CV - "Deux Chevaux" - featured a 9-hp air-cooled engine, canvass roof, no door locks or ignition key - and a pull-start system that made it easy for anyone to jump in and steal the thing. (Not that it ever crossed anyone's mind to steal a 2CV - since it would be faster - as well as more reliable - to get away on foot.) The 2CV became ubiquitous in postwar Europe, where the unlucky losers of the Big One weren't in much of a position to motor around in Series 62 Caddies or 283 Power Pack '57 Chevys - and had to make do with this well-named "peasant's car."

    * Citroen DS -

    French president and national icon Charles Degaulle escaped an assassination attempt while riding in one of these bug-eyed machines - though it's possible the assassins were shooting at the car, not de Gaulle. Citroen fans credit the getaway to the DS's self-leveling "hydro-pneumatic" suspension system - which enabled the car to keep going even with two tires shot out. Fortunately for de Gaulle, he didn't need a fast ride to the hospital - because the DS needed 15 agonizing seconds to reach 60-mph - and could barely get into the three digits on top (106-mph screaming at redline). Still, the car had a presence - in the same way a Pontiac Aztek does today. People stand transfixed when one passes by, unable to avert their eyes - as if a crew of Mafiosi just dumped a body in the middle of the road.

    The DS was built for almost 20 years, from 1955 through the mid-1970s. It remains perhaps the most obviously "French-looking" car to most people - and the one you'd most want to disassemble and then rebuild inside the cramped office of your least favorite college professor.

    END


  2. #2
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric

    If you want a car that's beautiful to look at, but may not work very well - see the Italians. For a car that works beautifully but might not be so pretty to look at - go see the Germans. But to get a machine that's neither beautifully engineered nor beautiful to view, you've got to go French.
    Your command of hyperbole is unmatched, but you've damned two without evidence and omitted a third.


    * Citroen 2CV -
    The original 1948 2CV - "Deux Chevaux" - featured a 9-hp air-cooled engine, canvass roof, no door locks or ignition key - and a pull-start system that made it easy for anyone to jump in and steal the thing. (Not that it ever crossed anyone's mind to steal a 2CV - since it would be faster - as well as more reliable - to get away on foot.) The 2CV became ubiquitous in postwar Europe, where the unlucky losers of the Big One weren't in much of a position to motor around in Series 62 Caddies or 283 Power Pack '57 Chevys - and had to make do with this well-named "peasant's car."
    Who can forget the 2CV ads, filmed at 16,000 feet in the Andes, showing how it could start and run well at that altitude? Who can forget the 2CVs at Pomona in the 60s, competing in the "under-under" class, cornering with the inside rear wheel a full 18 inches off the ground? Who can forget disassembling a 2CV without tools of any kind? Who can forget the windshield wiper driven by the speedo cable?

    * Citroen DS -

    French president and national icon Charles Degaulle escaped an assassination attempt while riding in one of these bug-eyed machines - though it's possible the assassins were shooting at the car, not de Gaulle. Citroen fans credit the getaway to the DS's self-leveling "hydro-pneumatic" suspension system - which enabled the car to keep going even with two tires shot out. Fortunately for de Gaulle, he didn't need a fast ride to the hospital - because the DS needed 15 agonizing seconds to reach 60-mph - and could barely get into the three digits on top (106-mph screaming at redline). Still, the car had a presence - in the same way a Pontiac Aztek does today.
    A myriad of European salespeople would take you to task for that, as it was by far the most common company car in Europe in the 60s - probably due to the comfort of the driver. And as for speed, more that once I had a DS19 following me for hours at 95mph on the autobahn, crusing 10 car-lengths back uphill and down.

    * Renault 4

    The Quattro has been exported by the tens of thousands to south America, when it's become the transportation for most middle-class families. With its cramped interior and harsh ride it ensures that occupants remain uncomrfortably awake during the trip, amused by the efforts of the driver to find the proper gear with that odd handle sticking out of the dash.

  3. #3
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    You are completely out to lunch about the 2CV and DS.

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You are completely out to lunch about the 2CV and DS.
    Maybe!

    French cars, for me, are like '60s-era Detroit iron is for you.... ;D

  5. #5
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    I thought the 2CV was designed by Dr. Eng. Porsche?

    The story I heard was that he had been captured after the war, and in reparations for creating the Tiger tank, the French made him design a car for them. He wasn't too happy about this, and the result was the 2CV -- with 3 lug-nuts holding the wheels on, the canvas roll-top that leaked, and the passenger headlight as an optional feature.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by chiph
    I thought the 2CV was designed by Dr. Eng. Porsche?

    The story I heard was that he had been captured after the war, and in reparations for creating the Tiger tank, the French made him design a car for them. He wasn't too happy about this, and the result was the 2CV -- with 3 lug-nuts holding the wheels on, the canvas roll-top that leaked, and the passenger headlight as an optional feature.

    Chip H.
    If so, he got his revenge!


  7. #7
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by chiph
    I thought the 2CV was designed by Dr. Eng. Porsche?

    The story I heard was that he had been captured after the war, and in reparations for creating the Tiger tank, the French made him design a car for them. He wasn't too happy about this, and the result was the 2CV -- with 3 lug-nuts holding the wheels on, the canvas roll-top that leaked, and the passenger headlight as an optional feature.

    Chip H.
    Nope, not even close. The first 2CV prototypes were built in 1938. The car was the brainchild of one Pierre Boulanger. The idea was the most basic car they could make that would still carry four adults, and it had to accommodate Mr. Citroen's bowler hat. One of the design critera was that a farmer could drive over unpaved fields and take his eggs to the market without breaking any.

    The prototypes were ordered to be destroyed when Germany conquered France, to keep the design away from the Nazis. But a number of them (6? 8?) were secreted away from the factory and hidden in barns. I think a couple of them weren't rediscovered 'til the 1960s.

    Before you ridicule the car's lack of amenities, keep in mind that it cost half as much as a VW Beetle, and remained in production until 1990.

    After the war

  8. #8
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You are completely out to lunch about the 2CV and DS.
    Maybe!

    French cars, for me, are like '60s-era Detroit iron is for you.... ;D
    French cars are irrelevant to the US. There's no need to put up with their limitations here.

    But in the context of their homeland, some of them were interesting and clever. And some of them are fascinating just because they were so horribly cheap.

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You are completely out to lunch about the 2CV and DS.
    Maybe!

    French cars, for me, are like '60s-era Detroit iron is for you.... ;D
    French cars are irrelevant to the US. There's no need to put up with their limitations here.

    But in the context of their homeland, some of them were interesting and clever. And some of them are fascinating just because they were so horribly cheap.
    And aesthetically speaking, fascinatingly horrible!

  10. #10
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You are completely out to lunch about the 2CV and DS.
    Maybe!

    French cars, for me, are like '60s-era Detroit iron is for you.... ;D
    French cars are irrelevant to the US. There's no need to put up with their limitations here.

    But in the context of their homeland, some of them were interesting and clever. And some of them are fascinating just because they were so horribly cheap.
    And aesthetically speaking, fascinatingly horrible!
    You want aggressively ugly? No one can beat the French. Check out the Citroen Ami 6:


  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You are completely out to lunch about the 2CV and DS.
    Maybe!

    French cars, for me, are like '60s-era Detroit iron is for you.... ;D
    French cars are irrelevant to the US. There's no need to put up with their limitations here.

    But in the context of their homeland, some of them were interesting and clever. And some of them are fascinating just because they were so horribly cheap.
    And aesthetically speaking, fascinatingly horrible!
    You want aggressively ugly? No one can beat the French. Check out the Citroen Ami 6:

    Now that is ugly... might be the ugliest thing on two wheels I have ever seen! Gawd!

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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Just to redress the balance, the best car I've ever had was my Peugeot 405SRi. Nothing before or since has come close on ride & handling - great, neutral handling & a superb ride. Apart from routine replacements, the only problem I had in ten years & 80,000 miles was a failed camshaft oil seal.

    A good looker, too (maybe because it was deigned by Pininfarina!):


  13. #13
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric


    Now that is ugly... might be the ugliest thing on two wheels I have ever seen! Gawd!
    I think that prize has been awarded, uncontested, to the 1957 Aurora:


  14. #14
    MikeHalloran
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You are completely out to lunch about the 2CV and DS.
    Maybe!
    No, you really are out to lunch.

    The 2CV met all of its design goals, which did not include physical beauty or speed.

    The DS could keep up with traffic on smooth roads, and could pass _anything_ on twisty, hilly, two-lanes, especially the ones with aging pavement, which the hydropneumatic suspension made completely irrelevant. The sponge rubber seats helped to make it a great long-distance car, too. You'd have loved it.



  15. #15
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran
    The DS could keep up with traffic on smooth roads, and could pass _anything_ on twisty, hilly, two-lanes, especially the ones with aging pavement, which the hydropneumatic suspension made completely irrelevant. The sponge rubber seats helped to make it a great long-distance car, too. You'd have loved it.
    Quite correct, Mike, but a small exception. The DS19 couldn't overtake a Morgan Plus 4 - but I bet the ride was smoother(g).


  16. #16
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel

    You want aggressively ugly? No one can beat the French. Check out the Citroen Ami 6:

    It looks like the car that Mr. Incredible drove.


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  17. #17
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    You are completely out to lunch about the 2CV and DS.
    Maybe!
    No, you really are out to lunch.

    The 2CV met all of its design goals, which did not include physical beauty or speed.

    The DS could keep up with traffic on smooth roads, and could pass _anything_ on twisty, hilly, two-lanes, especially the ones with aging pavement, which the hydropneumatic suspension made completely irrelevant. The sponge rubber seats helped to make it a great long-distance car, too. You'd have loved it.


    They're not fast, or pretty, but that doesn't make them cars that are best forgotten. They're both undeniable classics, and in their own way, both are capable of being fun. The ID/DS was unnecessarily complex, but the 2CV was simple and reliable.

  18. #18
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Just posted this article on the main page:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...4&Itemid=10854


  19. #19
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Quote Originally Posted by chiph


    It looks like the car that Mr. Incredible drove.

    Well, they're both small and blue, otherwise I fail to see any similarity.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Seven French cars best forgotten

    Peugeot 505 diesel -

    Never had experience with the diesel, but y late stepfatehr had a petrol version. THere were a very comfortable car...sure no V8 power but who needs that for regular use.


    * Citroen 2CV -

    More FUN to drive..you have to drive them ... than a Caddy ...the lean around corners is something to behold, and the early models that had the equivalent of a bicyle speedometer strapped to the steering column. I drove one around the streets of Cleremont-Ferrand and tghe suspension just to all the rough roads in it's stried.



    * Citroen DS -

    More streamlined that anything else on the road when first released... and that ride Hydropneumatic suspension is great
    Commonly known as the Goddess.


    Am I biased....hmmm.... well I have ownd a couple of Citroens and a Peugeot.
    All good cars

    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

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