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Unpopular opinion?

French cars -
why they're actually great!

Who would be daft enough to like French cars? I mean you'd have to be off your rocker to be enthusiastic about French cars, or would you?....

If you agree with the statement above, we're here to show you why you're wrong. 

 

It's no secret most of the team here at Scottish Car Scene have a strong appreciation for French cars, but why do we love them? Not even just the performance stuff like 205 GTI's and Renault Sport Meganes neither, it's things like Citroën 2CV's and Renault Avantimes. 

So why do we love them? and why should you?

 

 

 

 

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The thoughts of a French tat connoisseur....

 

 

 

Written and edited by Paul Young.

25 January 2022

Opinions from french car owners


I asked the question "Tell us one thing you like and one thing you dislike about your French car". over on our Facebook group Scottish Car Scene - Community

The general consesus from the thread is that most french car owners love them for either their handling or their comfort & dislike them for their rattling plastics, electrical gremlins & brakes. All of which I can agree with owning a 16v powered 106 I get the full package - a relatively quick, good handling car with enough electrical gremlins to keep electrical engineers puzzled for an eternity & plenty of interior rattles, but in all honesty as much as they are annoying sometimes, they really do add character - plus the wiring harness is nearly about as basic as it gets so that's a bonus.

 

 

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Peugeot RCZ-R thp 270 -

"Pros; No one really knows it exists. Quickish, good seats and got you looks everywhere it went. Cheap dash, chocolate engine and eye wateringly expensive front brakes that can't handle the rigours of hard driving". - Jamie.

Citroen AX GTi -

"Like: Good handling. lol. Seats are comfy though.

Dislike: brakes, sourcing parts, cheap 80's/90's plastic that breaks when you look at it.

Would I change it... hell no. Love it."

- Andrew.

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Peugeot 306 GTI6 -

"My 306 GTi6 makes me smile everyday, it's my daily driver, I don't like my phase 1 seats and shit back brakes , I actually like the electrical quirks lol" - Jon

Peugeot 605 -

"My 2. Love them both to bits.

 

Dislike parts not being easy to get."

- Jonathan.

reliable or not?


In all honesty most of the french cars I've owned have been the most reliable, maybe just luck of the draw, or is it a case that they're not as bad as they're made out to be? 

I'd lean towards the latter, although I've mentioned electrical gremlins - which lets be honest most manufacturers have them, out of all the French cars I've owned I can only think of one instance where a French car hasn't gotten me home. - When a wishbone mount failed on my Peugeot 106, and that wasn't even the fault of the car, that was the fault of a cheap replacement part.

Although that's not to say it's all been sunshine and rainbows, there was definitely a few times where I've been 'touching cloth' on whether I was driving the car back or not - the most notable being when my ignition switch melted at Strathy Sundays so we did the right thing and hot-wired the car to get home. Three of us in a hot-wired 106 driving back from Strathy on a Sunday night. I think there would've been some explaining to be done if the Police had stopped us that night...

However other than that all of my non-modified French cars have been great, 4 of them doing multiple trips to England and back without even a hiccup, best one I've owned so far was my Peugeot Partner 1.9 non turbo XUD, that thing was indestructible. My mate Craig also used a 1.5 diesel 106 as a workvan, that was absolutely bombproof, amazing on fuel as well - wouldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding right enough.  

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The 00's weren't a great time for French cars in terms of reliability, it seemed like Peugeot, Renault and Citroen all had this stigma they could not shake off, during this time Peugeot was using the first version of their 'N14 Prince' engine created in partnership with BMW - used in the R56 Mini Cooper S , these engines are notorious for timing chains stretching, timing chain tensioners failing, thermostats failing, the early ones really weren't a great unit, although I think to solely blame Peugeot for the failings of it would be slightly unfair.

A reworked version of the PSA Prince engine was introduced to the Cooper S in 2010 with double Vanos and an improved timing chain setup. The N18 version of the Prince engine is a much more reliable unit bringing improved fuel economy.

cheap racecars?

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French cars and motorsport seem to go hand-in-hand with each other, doesn't matter whether it's a Peugeot 405 T16 breaking the record at pikes peak or a 1L Citroën C1 competing in the SMRC C1 Cup, they seem to work so well for the application even though in some cases the cars were not necessarily designed with the handling capabilities being the main feature.

Out of all the poverty spec French cars I've driven I think the one that I was most surprised with was a mk2 1.2 16v Clio. In standard form they're actually a pretty well sorted wee car, very good handling characteristics and they come with bigger brakes than any 106's did as standard. My only criticism of the Clio would be I feel the rear end of it could be a bit snappy in comparison to the 106's I've driven. 

Even the Peugeot Partner van I owned had some hilarious handling features, very good for exploiting a bit of lift off oversteer.

If you're looking for a cheap way of getting into track-days or competitive racing French stuff is pretty highly respected here. 

Photo Credit - Patrician Media

Classic French cars - 
innovation

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When speaking of classic French cars the manufacturer that stands out the most to me is Citroën, 

Citroën up until the late 90's were not scared of challenging the norms of car production. Their Hydropneumatic suspension setups proved just how daring they could be, using LHM fluid and cylinders to control the suspension height and dampening meaning most old Citroen's had height adjusting suspension before it was trendy. 

During the 1930's Citroën were experimenting with the 'TPV' concept, later becoming what we know as the 2CV. During the Nazi occupation of France Citroën actually took great lengths to hide the 2CV concept from the Nazi's as well as sabotaging trucks they were military vehicles they were manufacturing for the Nazi's by putting the notch on the dipsticks in the wrong place so the engines would seize.

Citroen's innovation pioneered many car functions we take for granted in modern cars;
 

  1. Citroen created introduced the first all-steel bodied car in Europe in 1924.

  2. Citroen created the first mass produced front wheel drive car in 1934 (Traction Avant).

  3. Also in 1934 Citroen introduced the first diesel powered commercial passenger vehicle. 

  4. In 1954 they introduced the first car to have Hydropneumatic self levelling suspension.

  5. During 1955 they introduced the revolutionary Citroën DS which was the first car to feature modern disc brakes.

  6. In 1964 they introduced swivelling headlights that moved with the cars steering input so it was easier to see around corners. 

  7. In 1968 Citroën bought Maserati, a purchase that would help them create the Citroën SM & break a land speed record. 

That's just s snippet of Citroen's long and adventurous history. I will revisit Citroën's history in more depth. 

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Photo Credit - Crank Chamber

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Photo Credit - classicdriver

modern french cars - 
exciting TIMES AHEAD?


There's actually been some interesting designs coming out of France in the last couple of years, particularly from Peugeot, their new 508 saloon & estate looks absolutely brilliant as well as the Peugeot eLegend concept. Peugeot have been investing a lot of time and money into Hybrid technology, their new Peugeot Sport Engineered 508 being capable of near 400hp from a 200hp 1.6 Prince engine up front with 2 electric motors in the rear. 



Citroën have been working on the Citreon AMI project, a fully electric innovative solution to short term vehicle transport. Citroën's original idea being that AMI's could be used much in the same way as hire bikes are, as an effective alternative to public transport, I think this a very interesting concept, will be interesting to see how it pans out in reality. The AMI is the most radical design we've had out of Citroën for a long time. Hopefully they may have less financial constraints due to their new parent company Stellantis - a merger of PSA & the Fiat Chrysler group. In a strange twist of fate Fiat also own Maserati, meaning Citroen and Maserati are now under the same ownership once again. Fingers crossed this is a sign Citroën are beginning to be allowed their own creative freedom again. 

Renault have teased photos of an all new electric Renault 5  in their iconic Liquid Yellow & it looks absolutely amazing! There hasn't been very much information released about it other than it is a rebirth of the original Renault 5 packed full of modern goodies, safety equipment and that it'll be 100% electric using technology from the Renault Zoe, we're keen to see the outcome of this one, I reckon one of these would look amazing with a retro styled livery on it. 

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Photo Credit - Peugeot 

Photo Credit - Citroen 

Photo Credit - Renault

The weird, the wonderful
& the out-right mad.

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The French really do come up with some mental car designs, to find that out you'd only have to spend 20 minutes looking through Peugeot concept cars of the 90's and 00's, however there are some of their mad ideas that actually made production - The Renault Avantime being one of my all time favourites of French madness. This is a 3 door, 4 seater minivan. Other than an absolutely bat shit crazy design, the Avantime also features an engine choice of Renault's 2L F4RT engine also seen in the Megane RS, a 3.0L 'ES9' engine - a joint venture with Peugeot, also found in the Peugeot 406, or a 2.2 DCI engine.

The Citroen BX 4TC, a car that mad Citroen tried to buy back all the remaining examples and destroy them due to the cars lack of success in Group B. This car comes from a time when Citroen were the underdogs on the Rally stage. The biggest issue facing Citroen at the time was budget restraints and unfortunately the BX 4TC suffered as a result of this. The car was heavy and severely under-powered when compared the the competition, this resulted in the car under-performing. The humiliation drove Citroen to attempt to buy back all the remaining cars and destroy them after the project ended. It may not have been particularly good, but let's be serious, it looks epic.

 

 

Another fine example of French madness is the Talbot Matra Ranchero, it is unbelievable just how far ahead of it's time this car was, although only being ever sold with Front wheel drive, the car is an off-road styled vehicle big enough to hold a full family and plenty of luggage whilst giving plenty of ground clearance. The Ranchero was released in 1977, which to me is nuts considering if this was released today it generally wouldn't look too out of place, although I think Land Rover may have taken some styling inspiration from this Talbot. 

Photo Credit - Renault

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Photo Credit - Drivetribe

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Photo Credit - Wikipedia 

The new stuff coming out of France definitely looks exciting, I'm loving the retro styling a lot of car manufacturers are going back to, I think it's something car enthusiasts have been waiting on for a long time. It looks like it is a new era for French production cars, will they be leading the way in innovation once again? We will have to wait and see..

Let us know what your thoughts are on French cars, and if you enjoyed reading this write up I've listed a few sources below where I gathered information from, so be sure to check them out for more information on anything mentioned in this article. 

French cars....

Probably not as bad as you think they are. 

SOURCES & INSPIRATIONS...

To read more about Citroen's history check out OSV's article - 

Citroën history: A French automobile manufacturer’s timeline of innovation

 

Check out this write-up on DriveTribe for more on The absolutely bonkers Citroen BX 4TC -

A car that Citroen had to buy back, meet the BX 4TC

For more information on the Citroen 2CV/TPV story make sure you give carsguide's article a read -

Citroen 2CVs hidden in WWII

Ari Vatanen using his hand a sun visor whilst breaking the Pike Peak record? -

Peaks Peak Peugeot 405 T16 

For more on the Talbot Matra Ranchero - 

Talbot Matra Ranchero Wiki

For more informaton on the Peugeot eLegend concept -

Peugeot eLegend Concept

To find out more about the Renault Avantime - 

Renault Avantime

Check out Renault Uk for more information about the new R5 Concept - 

Renault 5 Prototype

For more media or information on photoshoots from Patrician Media get in touch via - 

Patrician Media Facebook

For more media or information on photoshoots from Crank Chamber get in touch via -

Crank Chamber Facebook Page

Written and edited by Paul Young.

25 January 2022