(Wikipedia Commons: Herranderssvensson)
(Wikipedia Commons: Herranderssvensson)
Liberty, equality, fraternity… and cars!
France is a country with a long and strong revolutionary tradition, not only because of the revolution that accelerated the fall of the Old Regime in 1789, but also because of the revolutionary periods that followed throughout the 19th century. But it is also a country with a great automobile tradition. Today we review the seven best French cars ever made.
Because the French have made many good cars. And in Spain we can give a very good account of it.
For decades, the Spanish car park was made up of Seat vehicles, mainly, and also to a large extent, French. Above all, Renault models, thanks to FASA-Renault.
We owe the French some technological innovations that revolutionized the automobile sector, such as the front-wheel drive that the Citroën Traction Avant premiered in Europe or the famous hydro-pneumatic suspension of the Citroën DS.
Peugeot 402 Eclipse
Although it is not the best-known French car, it deserves to be among the seven best ever built, because it was the first coupé-cabriolet in history. This vehicle concept that became so fashionable in the early 2000s already existed in 1937 no less.
The Peugeot 402 Eclipse was a variant of the 402 and had a retractable hardtop that was concealed in the rear by a manual mechanism, which later became electric.
Furthermore, the 402 Eclipse was the first vehicle produced in Europe to have an automatic gearbox as an option. It was fitted with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 55 hp.
Citroën Traction Avant
The first road car in history to equip front-wheel drive was in the United States, the Cord 810. The Citroën Traction Avant (front-wheel drive) came later, but has the honor of being the first in Europe with that configuration.
Launched in 1934, it incorporated numerous technical innovations, apart, of course, from its front-wheel drive, which substantially improved safety. Solutions that, later, would end up reaching other production cars and the way of conceiving the car.
It had a monocoque chassis, a steel body, rubber engine mounts, something totally innovative, and independent suspension on the front axle. All this allowed greater torsional rigidity and provided greater comfort for passengers.
Originally, the engine was a 1.3 liter with 32 hp, but it evolved to a 1.9 liter that reached 65 hp. It remained in production until replaced by the Citroën DS in 1957.
Among the seven best French cars ever built, it is impossible that the Citroën 2CV was not there. It was the car that motorized the country and also other European countries. The equivalent of the Beetle in Germany, the Fiat 500 in Italy or our Seat 600.
Conceived in the troubled 1930s to offer the French people a practical and economical vehicle, Citroën engineers had to abandon the TPV project (Toute Petite Voiture, in French) before the advance of the Nazi troops, who invaded France in May 1940 .
It was not until 1948 to officially see the 2CV at the Paris Motor Show, whose production started a year later. Despite initial criticism, its simplicity, its low maintenance cost, its reliability and its suspension convinced the public of several generations.
So much so that it remained on the market until 1990 and 5,118,889 units were sold.
As we have said before, the Traction Avant was replaced by the DS, one of the best cars, not only French but in general in the history of the car.
After the Second World War, France tried to recover little by little. Once the 2CV was launched, the French house got down to work to create a new sedan. The project was entrusted to Pierre Boulanger, André Lefébvre, Flaminio Bertoni and Paul Magès, who was in charge of the suspensions.
Later, Pierre Franchiset and Walter Becchia were included. All a great team to create a great car. In the middle of the creation phase of the car, the death of Pierre Boulanger was surprised, as a result of a traffic accident.
Several years of work later, Citroën presented his great creation at the Paris Motor Show in 1955 under the name DS 19. The number referred to the displacement, 1.9 liters.
Subsequently, new more powerful versions appeared, 20, 21 and 23, with 2, 2.1 and 2.3 liter engines. When it was introduced, the DS 19 was so successful that, in just fifteen minutes, the chevron brand received more than seven hundred orders and, by the end of the first day, it exceeded twelve thousand.
With an innovative and groundbreaking design and an impressive technological display, it was one of the most influential vehicles in the entire history of motorsports.
The DS debuted hydropneumatic suspensions, the work of Paul Magès. It was made up of four spheres, one on each wheel. Each sphere was filled half with oil and the other half with nitrogen, both parts separated by a membrane. When the car was heavily loaded, the oil compressed the nitrogen.
French cars are labeled as comfortable, without sporting aspirations. Vehicles to calmly devour many kilometers. And it is so in many cases, but not in all.
The Alpine A110 is one of the most legendary cars of the 1960s, especially for its participation in the World Rally Championship. The project was carried out by the Italian designer Giovanni Micheletti, who devised a sharp and slender line. It used a tubular chassis, longitudinal rear engine and rear-wheel drive.
Depending on the version, power ranged from 66 hp from the 1.1-litre, coming from the R8 Major, to 140 hp from the 1.6-litre SC.
Just this year marks the 50th anniversary of a true pop icon. Such was the success of the Renault 5 that allowed the diamond brand to lead the sales list in the neighboring country for 14 years. There is nothing.
In 1972, Bernard Hanon, Renault’s project manager, decided to create a completely new vehicle that would satisfy the needs of the younger public who demanded another type of producer.
The result was a 3.5-meter car designed by Michel Boué, with good interior space and some interesting innovations, such as polyester bumpers, instead of metal ones, to better absorb impacts, and the tailgate.
The range was completed over time with different sports variants, in which it is mandatory to highlight the Renault 5 Turbo in the early 1980s.
peugeot 205 gti
The success of the R5 was so resounding that it left the other Gallic manufacturers completely empty in the utility segment. Peugeot was going through a delicate moment, after the acquisition of Citroën and the subsidiaries of Chrysler. In its range it had the 104, a car that did not have much acceptance. Then the M24 project was born in 1977 that would give life to the Peugeot 205.
In 1984 the sportiest variant arrived, the 205 GTI, with a 105 hp 1.6-liter engine. However, while it was a good powerhouse by the standards of the time, it lagged far behind its great rival, the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
In 1985, the French brand launched a PTS (Peugeot-Talbot-Sport) kit which, through modifications to the cylinder head, connecting rods, pistons, camshaft and exhaust manifold, increased power to 125 hp.
But the model that would end up attracting all eyes was the 205 GTI with the 1.9-liter engine and 130 hp, an engine from the Citroën BX GTI.