Affordable French Classic Cars
Often laughed at and even more frequently underestimated, entry-level classics from France usually only fascinate students and Francophile enthusiasts. Get to know some of those French classic cars that are still affordable.
French manufacturers have brought timeless classics and extravagant curiosities onto the road throughout automotive history. In addition to large saloons such as the Traction Avant and the DS, not to mention sporty Alpine models, they are still the affordable, everyday entry-level classics.
Citroën 2CV – the greatest of french classic cars?
No article about good value classics from France could do without the Citroën 2CV, often known as the “ugly duckling”. This nickname from Germany and England goes back to the saying of a Dutch author. In Italy and Spain, on the other hand, the respective translation for “two horses” prevailed, while in Vietnam the car was offered as a Dalat.
It is often wrongly assumed that the naming designation 2CV refers to the performance of the car in bhp, but in fact it is a model code from the French vehicle taxation system at that time. The naming system also included the 4CV and the Traction Avant versions 7CV, 11CV and 15CV.
Citroën’s 2CV was presented in October 1948, and it quickly became clear that Citroën director Pierre-Jules Boulanger had succeeded in creating a car according the key criteria of “being able to transport four people, 50 kilograms of potatoes or a small barrel”. The requirement for the suspension of this vehicle, which had to be as cheap and robust as possible, was that a basket of eggs had to survive the journey across a cultivated field.
Despite – or perhaps because of – its minimalism and simple technology, the 2CV became a bestseller. When production ended in 1990, nearly four million cars and a further 1.2 million delivery vans (also known as “box ducks”) had left the assembly line. Today the 2CV is surely the French classic that most influences European streets. For vehicles in good condition, prices can easily lie beyond the five-figure range.
Renault 4 – french classic cars alternative
The success story of the Renault 4, also known as the R4, begins with its presentation at the IAA in September 1961 where 200 white R4s passed the Paris Eiffel Tower in a highly publicised marketing coup. As the first Renault car with front-wheel drive and one of its first mass-production vehicles, the small car quickly enjoyed great popularity because it was exceptionally practical, cheap, versatile and fuel-efficient.
The R4 was suitable as an everyday means of transportation, as a commercial vehicle for working people and as trusty vacation transportation for the whole family. Its diversity is also evident from the versions on offer: station wagon, panel van, buggy and pick-up. With over eight million units produced, chances are good that you’ll be able to find a solid R4 of your own. Although many Renault 4s fell victim to scrapping incentives across Europe, there are still plenty around.
If you are looking for a charming classic made in France – which can be used as a daily driver – the R4 could be a good choice, especially since the entry prices are still below the ones for a 2CV. For a medium to high four-figure amount, you can acquire one of there entry-level classics from France.
Peugeot 504 – the toughest of french classic cars
A French car with Italian lines from Pininfarina – it is no surprise the Peugeot 504 sedan was named “Car of the Year” in 1969. This design came from the pen of Aldo Brovarone, with the Cabriolet and Coupé coming from Pininfarina. Later, the product range of the 504 was expanded to include a pick-up version in order to offer a commercial vehicle with proven robust mechanics.
With over 3.5 million examples produced, the 504 is one of the manufacturer’s most successful models. In fact, licensed production in Nigeria was only discontinued in 2005! The prices are around R4 and 2CV levels, and for that you get a fully-fledged saloon.
Those who want a little savoir-vivre on their driveway without having to dig deep into their pockets are well advised to have a look at these three classics. Many common repairs can easily be carried out without professional help, in addition, all three candidates are quite solid and reliable. However, the topic of rust should not be underestimated, though at least with the 2CV new replacement chassis and body panels are widely available.
Text Jan Fröhlich Photos Automobiles Citroën, Automobiles Peugeot, Renault Communication
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