We’re just back from a sojourn to Paris where Feral Cars participated in the 40th annual Rétromobile conclave. Rétromobile is the vintage car event in Europe, if not the world, a combination trade show, exotic used car lot, movable museum, high stakes auction and grand bazaar of all manner of automobilia, auto-related emphemera but, mainly, cars. Lots of car — over 500, mostly high end European makes spread out over two floors of exhibits. It was, in a word, stupendous, thanks to cadres of professional installers, scenic designers and lighting experts doing their thing. The result is that even the most pedestrian car takes on added aura with glamorous Rétromobile production values imparting that much more “car cred” to just about everything in the show.
La vie en noir
While Rétromobile was stellar, our forays into the greater Paris metroplex juxtaposed us with quite a number of continental cruisers of a certain age. Rétromobile may have brought some of these out of storage but it seemed that some were just les objets trouvés on a certain level.
The future departs
We found a number of noteworthy German, Italian and French veterans that appeared to be in regular service and did our best to capture them for you. This being Paris, let’s start with two Citroëns that had us enthralled. That black sedan is a DS of later vintage (note the faired in headlight configuration). Introduced in 1955, the DS with its air-oil suspension, revolutionary construction and aerodynamic design was truly the car of the future. When it finally went out of production, nearly 20 years and 1.4 million examples later, the DS was still ahead of its time.
Promotion in motion
We’re glad to have seen some rolling examples, at least 40 years old, on the streets of Paris including a station wagon that was used to highlight events sponsored by Citroën Heritage, the forward looking brand’s backward looking promotion department. We’ll forgive the fact that its rear bumper (le bouclier) was un peu cassee.
Le Truckster de la famille
While adhering to a more traditional three box design than Citroën’s aerodynamically advanced line topper, BMW’s 5 series is the embodiment of German sports luxury. This snow white example which we estimate to be an ’86 or ’87 is impressively pristine.
Beamer en blanc
That sunshade in the back is a nice touch, n’est-ce pas?
Unlike the many of the Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis seen at Rétromobile, Italian cars parked on the nicely swept streets of Paris were of the decidedly non-exotic variety but still quite interesting.
Micro muscle car
When was the last time you saw an Autobianchi parked at a curb? The answer is “never,” of course, since this Fiat-derived compact never made it over here. We found two on the same street and both had parking tickets under the wipers so our assumption is they’re owned by the same obsessive person. They’reAutobianchi 112s but the gray one is technically a Lancia A112 as Fiat slapped that badge on the car for sale outside of Italy. We like the “70 HP” notice on the front hood as this is the hot Abarth factory tuner model. We’re pegging this one and the less swanky (only 42 hp) white car to be from the early ’80s.
Abarth = performance
Think that’ll rub right out?
We noted a super clean dark green VW Golf Cabriolet, the choice of high school girls during the ’80s and ’90s, not far from those Italian anomalies. We’re guessing this is a ’90 or ’91 but it’s unimaginable that it’s parked outside on a regular basis. This is one clean machine.
Cabrio for thee-o
On the other end of the tidiness spectrum is this funky Renault Twingo, a car that could very well have been named after a candy bar. The expressive headlights that are flat on the bottom make it seem like you’d be more prone to adopt than own it. The design by Jean-Pierre Ploué debuted in 1993 and the intention was for the front end to resemble a smile. Seems like a tight-lipped one to us but we kind of get it. We’re not sure what those three asymmetrically placed air intakes are supposed to conjure up. Maybe a set of face tattoos like gang members give themselves in prison? Probably not.
Smile, darn you, smile!
This smiling, possibly smirking, Twingo seems to have suffered some abuse as indicated by:
- A huge dent on the rear passenger side
- The “Party Girl” sticker on the hatch
Party out of bounds?
We’ve got a bigger Renault to share but this one is most decidedly not cute. It’s an early ’80s Renault 18i wagon that also wears a parking ticket under its wiper and, more importantly, more than a modicum of rust, especially under the lift gate.
These were actually sold in the US back when Renault controlled American Motors before selling it off to Chrysler. They could have called it Franco American Motors and offered promotional cans of spaghetti with the purchase of every car. No, huh?
How do you say ‘bondo’ in French?
Lastly, we encountered a big Alfa Romeo sedan on that same street in the 15th arrondissement. Its official model designation is Alfa Romeo Alfa 6. Seems as though the Department of Redundancy Department named the car which was Alfa’s top of the line sedan from 1979 – 1983. Yes, it’s a six cylinder car — and had a carburetor for each one of them — and was considered to be in the “executive class” just like that BMW 5 series up top. Coming as it did when the price of gasoline was spiking, this Alfa found few buyers and was never officially imported into the US.
Importata dall’Italia alla Francia
Rétromobile attracts old car nuts from all over but locally based ones use the expo as an excuse to participate in ad hoc street rallies. We had to rub our eyes to make sure we weren’t hallucinating when we shot this video of a mass of Fiat Cinquecentos, led by a an ultra-rare Ferves Ranger, one of only six hundred Cinquento-based mini SUVs like this ever made. Only fifty survive and here’s one in spirited action. No less an authority than Jalopnik named it “The Mostest Cutest Off-Roader Ever.”
And speaking of cute, you must click to see the introductory commercial back when Twingo was launched in 1993.
We found a breathtaking ’72 Citroën DS wagon for sale in nearby San Francisco, CA. for a paltry $40,000 which is only around €35,000 so, dépêchez-vous and buy it maintainant!
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Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes. If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.