Tag Archives: Citroën 2CV

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Drive to Arras

40th ARRAS BOURSE D’ECHANGES

With the centennial commemorations of the Battle of Arras just three weeks away, the organisers of the city’s annual classic car event must have felt they were fighting a new battle as gale force winds and lashing rain poured down during the run-up. Fortunately the rain at least had abated by the day itself and Club Ravera will have heaved a collective sigh of relief as the 500-space outdoor parking once again filled-up with classics of every sort, whilst indoors the large autojumble thronged with those anxiously seeking that vital component.

Fighting a battle of their own must have been Ray and Kathleen Brogan as they had journeyed over from Kent to display their ex-London County Council 1952 Reliant Regent three-wheeler van. With open sides and a top speed of 40mph it would have been quite a journey – their first problem was convincing Eurotunnel that the vehicle actually existed! They are regular visitors to the show, more usually with a Sunbeam Talbot, but this was the first time with the Reliant.

And they were not the only Brits to take part, with others bringing vehicles ranging from a stunning fabric-bodied Austin Seven saloon to a Ferrari 328 GTS. Morris Minor owners from Kent were also in attendance. They are in the main repeat visitors, knowing that they will get a very warm welcome from the organisers and show visitors alike.

The indoor display represented good variety, ranging from pre-war machinery such as a Chenard Walcker, Panhard and Peugeot, through to familiar cars and ‘bikes from more recent times. There was variety a-plenty too, from a Fiat Dino Spider to a 1941 Gnome-Rhone motor-cycle and sidecar that was used in large numbers on the Russian Front. Many were imaginatively displayed too, such as the Peugeot 404 and caravan in holiday mode. Amongst the clubs, the Matra Simca Rancho owners were celebrating the cars’ 40th anniversary, and in true French style the members were tucking into some very creamy chocolate cake!

Outside there was the inevitable plethora of Citroen 2CV’s and Traction Avante’s, including one rare LHD Slough-assembled 1950 Light 15, one of just 304 built between 1949-54, it was delivered new to Casablanca in 1951. There was even a couple of Lomax’s, one three-wheeled, the other with four wheels. The British-built kit car is based on 2CV components, but now with the relentlessly upward trajectory in 2CV values in recent times it must be becoming increasingly hard to source donor vehicles.

Otherwise there was the full spectrum from rat-look VW 1500 to a superb Aston Martin DB6 that appeared to have travelled a bit. Although French registered, the RHD car bore a Wales badge on the back and a New York City technical inspection sticker on the windscreen.

It was not the only car present to have crossed the Atlantic as Americana was very much in evidence with several Ford Mustang’s, an enormous Buick LeSabre and Chevrolet El Camino pick-up amongst others. The show was stolen late in the day though, by the arrival of a stunning black 1971 Buick Riviera which quickly had the crowds gathering round.

An extremely enjoyable event that not even the weather could spoil; always held on the third Sunday in March, it’s well worth a quick hop across the Channel.

John Elwin March 2017

Un Siècle de Génie Automobile Français au Grand Palais

2013 Retromobile

Bonhams recent sale in Paris was also the scene of a tribute to ‘A Century of French Automobile Genius’. Held in the majestic location of the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysees, the auction house, with support from Peugeot and Citroën, assembled a collection of around 30 cars that illustrated the major contribution that the French have made to the development of the automobile.

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The setting of the Grand Palais for such an exhibition is of course extremely apposite, given that this was the site of the Paris Salon which was held there for many years until the show outgrew the hall.

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As with any collection of fine automobiles they are all equal, but inevitably some are more equal than others and while I recognise the quality of the very early cars, some dating back to the 19th Century, my own preferences are more modern. Star of the show as far I could see was the two tone Bugatti Type 57 C Coupé Special dating back to 1938.

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About as original as is possible, right down to the wiring loom and electrical components, the car was used by Ettore Bugatti and Jean-Pierre Wimille prior to World War Two. After the Fall of France, Grand Prix ace and Le Mans winner for Bugatti, Robert Benoist, prudently hid the vehicle to ensure its safety. Benoist, recruited into the SOE to organise and support the Resistance, did not survive himself, being captured twice by the Gestapo, eventually he was murdered at Buchenwald in 1944.

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The Type 57 was returned to Bugatti at the end of hostilities and it was subsequently used as a test bed for new ideas and components which explains the Lockheed Hydraulic brakes. It was, and is, utterly beautiful and desirable, well we can all dream.

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From the lofty expression of automotive art that is the Bugatti, I was drawn to the familiar functional shape of the Peugeot 905, this example being the actual car that Geoff Brabham, Eric Hélary and Christophe Bouchut drove to victory in the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hours. The Peugeots swept all before them in that last gasp of the Group C era.

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With power in abundance from a 3.5 litre V10 engine and staggering amounts of downforce these were some of the fastest race cars ever built, at Silverstone in 1992 the Peugeot would have qualified on the second row of the British Grand Prix, and this from a car designed to race for 24 hours.

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It was interesting to compare this thinly disguised Grand Prix car with the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, a diesel powered endurance racer that, in 2009, routed the much vaunted Audi Sport team. This example was the second placed car at Le Mans that year, narrowly beaten by their sister car.

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Much more in touch with the real world was the Citroën 2CV, introduced to an expectant public in 1948 who were clamouring for simple, inexpensive solutions to their motoring needs. With nearly four million examples made in the following decade, this quirky looking car came to symbolise the French automobile industry.

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Another Citroën with a record of success is the World Rally Championship Xsara WRC which racked up win after win in the hands of Sebastian Loeb, cementing the French manufacturer’s domination of top flight rallying in this century.

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Back to the time when the French car industry seemed to be an offshoot of the Louvre, so elegant were the designs, is the Delage D8 Torpédo, built in 1931. The Delage factory at Courbevoie was the most modern of its time and its produce was snapped up by celebrities and Royalty alike, the looks have weathered the test of time.

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From the early days of motoring, the De Dion Tricycle and the Peugeot Type 17 illustrate the birth of the French motor industry. Other absolute classics on hand were a Bugatti Type 54 Grand Prix car, a Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet and two more icons from Citroën, a 1953 Traction Avant and a DS19 Décapotable. The latter was originally an adaptation by Henri Chapron that the factory eventually adopted for their own.

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Only on for two days during the Bonhams Sale, the exhibition flowered brightly and briefly, certainly worth an hour or two in Paris.

John Brooks, February 2013