You need to prepare a little for this blog entry. A deep breath is a good idea and maybe a big pinch of salt. I need you to try and forget any prejudice you might have, loose any brand loyalty and blot out what you consider beautiful. Done that? Got your pinch of salt? Tongue firmly in your cheek? Good because today we are going to talk about ‘France’ and ‘interesting’. I want to talk about what makes a car interesting and why.
I have been looking at a Citroen 2CV, and have to report this is one of the most interesting and clever cars I have come across. For years, like you I have seen them as a hilarious mode of transport for hippies and French peasants, laughed at their bicycle like tyres and tiny 600cc engine, but if you have the smallest interest in cars and how they work, and view your car as something other than a means to lug your subwoofer about you will take my advice and have a peek at this amazing little car. I will put some links at the end for further reading, I have neither the space or the authority to talk in detail but I have picked up some interesting titbits. Did you know there was a production model with twin engines and four wheel drive? The suspension has always been soft enough to drive over a ploughed field and not break the eggs but do you know how it does it? It has independent suspension to all four wheels but only uses two coil springs, the front and rear suspension are connected and work together. This gives a smooth ride and, despite its tiny tyres, decent handling. There are so many clever things designed into this car, things that keep it simple and practical, the entire body shell can be lifted from the chassis if you fancy it, and the engine is so small it can be picked up with just the use of a few burly peasants. Its economical too, it will give you 60mpg and trot along at 50mph all day long, and when the sun shines its canvas roof rolls back to let the rays in.All of the above must seem like an advert for 2CV’s, but its not.
I am trying to draw attention to cars that you might have missed out on because it wont do 0-60 in under 4 seconds and wont make girls (or guys) swoon with envy as you swish by. I really believe there are cars out there that don’t need to be fast and powerful to be interesting. Have a look at the Citroen DS, it was just slopping over with innovation, headlights that turn as you turn a corner? WOW! It only took Vauxhall a decade or two to copy it. Peugeot 504, Renault Alpine, Renault R8 are all examples of a long list that I’m sure you could add to. The thing you will notice is that there are no modern day cars that I have listed as interesting, this is a fault of mine and despite what I said at the beginning I cannot shake off the feeling that modern day cars are ‘white goods’ a bit like washing machines, useful and clever in their own way but oh so utilitarian in their conception. Its left up to the French again to save the new generation as they give us the 106 Rallye and the Megane loony machine for the speed freaks and the oh so sexy Citroen C6 and the interestingly styled 406 Coupe from Peugeot.
Regular readers will know of my love of Japanese cars, but the land of the rising sun has done nothing to peak our interest lately, with the exception of the R35 Skyline and the 350/370Z all from Nissan, owned by Renault.If you own a utilitarian car and are reading this, it must mean that you have some petrol slopping about in your blood somewhere otherwise you would be reading a DIY or worse a gardening blog, so do yourself a favour and get on Ebay and find something interesting to play with over the winter. Take it to bits, marvel at how its made, annoy your spouse by dismantling the valve gear on the kitchen table while it belts down in rain outside. And next spring, when its all mended, take it for a drive but make sure you listen to some Matt Monroe as you swoop through a sun speckled lane toward a secluded café for lunch, and leave the brown 4 wheeled box for the weekday grind
Further reading, all from Wikipedia I’m afraid, but if there is a particular car that gets you interested, get Googling and find an owners club.
Citroen 2CV (Check out the Safari one!)