Le Bourget is the place to head to in the Autumn if you are near Paris and looking for some classic cars. Automedon is the name of the show and it is a very worthwhile effort, focussed on the clubs and enthusiasts who are steadily being priced out of the really big events, such as Retromobile.
Cutting off the base of the classic car movement in pursuit of profit is not a wholly French trend, I heard similar mutterings at the NEC last week, it really must stop. If not then the big events will suffer too in time.
However rather than preach to the choir I will instead have a quick look back at the show, which was truly delightful. One of Automedon’s great attractions is the authentic Gallic flavour of the show. At present the French Car industry is in the doldrums, however there is still much to celebrate from the past.
Typical of the flair traditionally found in French automobiles is this Citroën DS19H Le Paris, only one of nine built the Carrossier, Henri Chapron.
Chapron’s creations are much in demand, adding style to the already iconic DS range, this is the kind of confident approach that is lacking in today’s French motor industry.
This Simca 8 Deho Sport, dating from 1938, is an example of pre-war co-operation between car companies as it was built on license from Fiat. Once again the French attitude gives it an art deco feel with form as important an element as substance.
A Citroën SM may not be an obvious choice for motor sport but this very car ran in the 1974 Spa 24 Hours with factory backing and was entered by Guy Ligier.
It did not finish the race as Guy Chasseuil crashed out at Les Combes.
There was a particular tribute to Panhard and D.B. at Automedon with an impressive collection on display. I will prepare a separate piece on the Le Mans’ cars that were at the show. D.B. was the imaginative name that the alliance of pioneering aerodynamicist Charles Deutsch and René Bonnet, a racing driver and constructor of some repute, gave to their business.
One strange car that did catch my eye was D.B. Formule 1 from 1955. This was one of those ideas from a brain-storming session that should have been dismissed at once, instead of escaping to the drawing board and then into the real world. Front wheel drive and half the weight of the more conventional racers. It was powered, if that is the right expression, by a 750cc supercharged engine derived from a Panhard twin. This unit produced a reported 85bhp, which was about a third of that available to drivers of a Maserati 250F, and the engine was hung out over the front axle.
This whole project had the hallmark of a cunning plan drawn up by Baldrick and in the one time that the cars raced, the 1955 Pau Grand Prix, the results demonstrated the madness of the scheme. Starting from the rear of the grid, Claude Storez retired but his team mate Paul Armagnac managed to trundle round to the finish, some 18 laps down on Jean Behra, in, of all things, a Maserati 250F.
Another weird creation that came from the D.B. stable was this D.B. Racer, aimed at the growing 500cc Formula 3 category in the early 50’s. A Panhard engine powering the front wheels, the car enjoyed success in the French arena till more conventional designs from the likes of Cooper relegated it to the sidelines.
A much better racing record for this Snobeck Racing Services Alfa Romeo Alfetta 2.5 GTV 6 which raced very successfully in the early 80’s in the French Touring Car Championship.
In 1982 Danny Snobeck finished third in the Drivers’ Championship, the following year he went one better, only beaten by his team mate Alain Cudini. Their twelve victories across the two seasons were racked up against quality opposition such as Jean-Louis Schlesser and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, as well as saloon aces such as René Metge and Claude Ballot-Léna.
Automedon was much more than motor sport, it afforded an opportunity to stretch the imagination of the exhibitors, like Garage DSMP, whose Citroën DS21 pick up truck had me expressing doubts initially.
However the more I considered it I grew to approve, it would a seriously cool car to take to the seaside whether Saint-Tropez or Santa Monica. Le Beach Boys, anyone?
I am not entirely convinced about the though processes that led to this diorama or why anyone would attempt to bring the spirit of Daktari to Automedon.
At least the image of the Great White Hunter was dented by the lioness smugly about the feast on the poor unfortunate’s right forearm.
Another strange scene from the wilds of Quebec is this Simca 8 Estate, sorry Station Wagon.
It would appear to have been modified to do duty as a chainsaw, cue “The Lumberjack Song”, take it away Mr Palin.
When in doubt chuck a bale of straw on the car and Hey Presto it is a barn find.
Another prominent feature of shows such as Automedon are the stalls selling, well selling anything………..
Models of course
And for those who have a sweet tooth.
There is a strong motorcycle presence
And the Custom Car fans are catered for
Before and after Restoration, Sir. Well that’s what they would like you to believe.
Outside the car parks have all manner of goodies to enjoy, a very British pair of Rovers.
A brace of Maigret Citroëns aka Traction Avant.
A beautiful Panhard CD, named after its designer, Charles Deutsch, sits alongside a VW camper van, which was considerably more popular than the French sportscar.
René Bonnet’s side of the business, Automobiles René Bonnet, was eventually acquired by Jean-Luc Lagardère’s Matra empire, the first car designed and produced in house was this 530.
More Matra style was seen outside Automedon, continuing the mid-engined trend these Murenas.
Automedon is a charming, and thoroughly French, classic car show. For those of us on the good side of the English Channel it is just a trains from London, then a suburban service from Gare du Nord, if you have the time in 2015, go, you won’t regret it.
John Brooks, November 2014