The French Car Thread.

Discussion in 'Non-Audio' started by Prime Minister, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Prime Minister

    Prime Minister Site Owner Staff Member

    Among other ruminations today, I was chewing over the wonders that are French cars. Not necessarily from a reliability perspective, or those attributes and qualities that appeal to the Consumer Reports types. Rather, the French imbued their cars, at least the great ones, with true class and style. On top of that, they actually understood luxury. If people were honest with themselves, most would actually prefer the luxury of a Citreon or Peugeot, over the hard edge of a BMW or Mercedes.

    So what do I think of when I think French cars? While the DS, the Goddess, is so incredibly obvious, and the 2CV is a joy, the ultimate for me, is the SM. One of the most spectacular cars ever made. The best of French design and engineering, mated to a Maserati V6. Maybe the best Grand Tourer ever?


    What a fantastic (fantastique?) interior! Perfection.

  2. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator Staff Member

    Absolutely agree that the SM is "one of those cars".....

    Actually got to drive one back in 1973-1974 when I was selling audio gear and one of my customers was driving his 1972 (IIRC) SM when he stopped by to see what was new.

    Just fell in love with that SM......

    Would sure love to own one to this day. :)
  3. airdronian

    airdronian Junior Member

    Before we were married my wife bought her Grandma's car when she (Granny) stopped driving. The mighty Renault 5 "Le Car" !!!

    This pic is from the interweb, but this is just like it. Base model, manual trans. It actually ran OK, used to take it from Victoria to the Okanagan, and we brought it with us to central BC when we moved to Prince George for a time. Quite a handy little thing, I used to put the back seat down, line it with a tarp and haul yard waste to the dump. The looks I would get from all the guys with their 4x4's !

    Had to get the clutch done once, the mechanic said if the black box went it would cost more than the car was worth. We sold it after a few years.
  4. MikeT.

    MikeT. Senior Member

    And on the other end of the spectrum, this car came with an automatic, push-button transmission. I owned a white one during my time in the US Army in Germany.
    Great little car.
  5. mfrench

    mfrench Senior Member

    I'd post my Dodge Cummins 2500 pickup, but, the only thing that makes it French is my last name.
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  6. BruceK

    BruceK Junior Member

    Well, I can't help weighing in. I've owned four Citroëns: 1972 DS21, 1969.5 DS21, 1976 2CV6, and 1976 H-van diesel pickup. At present I have only the truck. I've driven a fair number of others: SM, GS, and CX Citroens, various Peugeot sedans and wagons, Renault 4L, R5, R8, and even Simcas. For me the absolute pinnacle is the DS. Once when I was visiting my friend Dave Burnham in upstate NY (he's the go-to mechanic for all things Cit) we went off for lunch and I got to drive his SM on back roads. It was astonishingly fast. Dave has been a successful ice-racer in NY for decades, fielding a shortened DS body with a Maserati 4-banger from an SM. I have to say, though, I far prefer the looks of the DS.
  7. BruceK

    BruceK Junior Member


    My 1972 DS21 with turning headlights and the 1976 HY-IN2 pickup with home-made «ridelles» on the back, fabricated by the original owner from welded square tubing and oak floorboards. Here's a side shot of the DS. Most slippery shape of any car in wind-tunnel tests for many years.

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  8. Prime Minister

    Prime Minister Site Owner Staff Member

    I was wondering when you'd show up. :)
  9. JimPA

    JimPA Junior Member

    I wouldn't mind driving around in a Bentley with my rescue dog Holly next to me on the front seat.
    One problem is the price of a Bentley and that I require an extended cab pickup truck for my occupation.
  10. billfort

    billfort Administrator Staff Member

    That Citroen SM; weird, unique, just beautiful.
  11. fiddlefye

    fiddlefye Senior Member

    Back in the early 80s I came close to buying a DS a couple of times. Parts cost and availability vs. income talked me out of it in the end, but I sure wish I could have managed it!
  12. BruceK

    BruceK Junior Member

    The DS is a very tough car and does not deserve the reputation it's acquired in North America for "unreliability" — that's usually due to cars that are not given proper (and regular) attention, and not driven regularly. After all, the DS won the Paris-to-Dakar rally a number of times. Here in the States, when they began to set up their sale network in the 50s, the company chose the wrong dealers. My friend George grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the local Chevrolet dealer took on the Citroën line but the mechanics were not sufficiently trained on the subtleties of adjustment, and also people learned that you could substitute cheap auto trans fluid for the much pricier LHM (mineral-oil-based hydraulic fluid) so they started using ATF. Well, the trouble with that is that ATF was suggested by Citroën **only** for an emergency, when you had a loss of fluid and needed to get the car to someplace that could make a repair. The ATF has as a constituent ingredient some friction-making stuff, and over time this enlarged the passages and seals through which the fluid had to travel as it made its way around the hydraulic system (which powered not only the suspension, but also the steering, brakes, and gear change). After a while the pump, which was was supposed to run only every couple of minutes, would have to run every few seconds due to leakage past seals. The whole car was engineered with amazing precision and in the North American market, with its huge distances between communities, and the lack of knowledge in the dealerships that sold the cars, a lot of cars were neglected.
  13. From wood horns and ancient tube amplifiers to French cars...Whatever next? Perhaps a trip to the Mullin museum in Oxnard California should be in order. Seems there is a right way, a wrong way, and a French way to design and build cars...especially in the earlier days. The only French car I have ever owned is my Bugatti Type-35 that I bought as a pile of scrap that sat behind a barn in Argentina for more than forty years and had been used a a parts car before that. Every year during third week of August, I am in Carmel California for "Car Week". The Grand Finale -- the Pebble Beach Concours deElegance -- and I am always drawn to the French cars on display. I do not think there have ever been more beautiful cars ever built than those rare French cars of the thirties and forties such as the Talbot Legos, Delahayes, and Bugattis.
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  14. BruceK

    BruceK Junior Member

    WE555, I salute you for rescuing that pile of scrap. What a gorgeous shape that Type 35 has.

    You must have known Andy Rheault. His brother Charlie was a dear and close friend of mine since the 1980s, and Andy and I sometimes bunked together at Charlie's place in Massachusetts.

    Is there any truth to the observation that EB had his workers drive the screws home so that the slots lined up with 2:00 and 8:00? Or is that an urban myth? My architect dad always put in his spec to electricians that the screw slots in outlet- and switch-plates should be lined up with 12:00 and 6:00. Although one rarely sees that anywhere, if I do come across an instance of it, I know instantly that the person who did the work was very proud of what she/she did.
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  15. Ernie

    Ernie Activated

    Bruce, I drive a bus that goes to the local community college, and, yesterday, one of my regular students, a young lady, who is graduating from the program that leads to a job as an apprentice electrician, was bemoaning what she called the laziness of some of her classmates, who didn't see any reason for being attentive to the 'small details'. I asked her how she did in her class. "All right, I guess." "Do you have any job offers?" said I. "Three custom homebuilders, here in town, and six electrical contractors, here, and in Windsor."

    That's why one pays attention to the small details. Those, who matter, notice such things.
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  16. fiddlefye

    fiddlefye Senior Member

    Once you get past the basic concepts it is certainly the details that count. On the topic of the electrical program at St. Clair - I've been trying for ages to talk them into doing an advanced apprenticeship in retrofit electrical. The few who once knew how to do that work are retiring or dying off and most of those coming into the trade are both too clueless and too lazy (or something) to do it successfully (or at all).
  17. Ernie

    Ernie Activated

    The 'Electrical Techniques' program is actually a pre-apprentice program. Providing apprenticeships falls to the industry. I agree that there should be a priority for preserving the knowledge, especially given the shenanigans that went on, in our fair city, in the '70s and '80s, relative to all the code 'variances' that politically-well-connected builders received. It should have been a crime, but, no.
  18. guiller

    guiller Active Member

    My first car was a (by then) 10 year old Citroën 2CV model 1968. It never failed until I sold it 7 years later. My second French brand car was a Renault 5 model 1989 IIRC. With that car I toured Europe during three years! Both really great cars.

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