Showing posts with label French Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French Cars. Show all posts

Citroën DS

Citroen DS 1950s French classic car

From an engineering perspective, the Citroën DS must be one of the most exciting roadsters ever built. Its 4-cylinder engine powered a hydraulic system - which found its way into just about every part of the car. The motor itself was straightforward - dating back to the '34 'Traction-avant'. But, the hydraulic set-up it sparked into life was revolutionary. Most notable was the suspension. Instead of springs, the 'DS' was fitted with 'self-levelling hydropneumatic struts'. As a result, the car was able to raise and lower itself in a way that had never been seen - or felt - before. Potholes and bumps were easy pickings for the DS. When stationary - with the engine switched off - the Citroën sank serenely down. The power steering, disc brakes, and 'clutchless' gearbox were all hydraulically-operated. In each case, performance was substantially improved.

At its Paris début - in '55 - the DS' avant-garde styling went down a storm! The fluid lines of the bodywork were - and are - unique. They were functional, too - cleaving cleanly through French air. Front-wheel-drive, the DS handled well. But, to custom coach-builders - like Henri Chapron - the standard car was just a jumping-off point. They created coupés and stretched limos - taking DS aesthetics to the next level.

The DS set a trend for Citroëns. The ID19, and D Super became stalwarts of the Paris taxi scene. Sprawling Safari Estates ferried many from 'A to B'. The convertible version looked stunning - and had a price tag to match. The last of the high-end derivatives was the DS23. With a 5-speed 'box - and fuel injection - it delivered 117mph. In the end, almost 1.5m DSs were sold ... a fittingly high figure for a fine product.

Delahaye 145

Delahaye 145 1930s French classic car

The Delahaye 145 was launched in 1946. The mastermind behind it was Henri Chapron. Born in 1886, he had been on the steel-crafting scene since he was a kid. Come the close of the First World War, he began his own company - in Neuilly, France. Its core business was importing Ford T ambulances from America - and refactoring them into saloon cars! The custom bodies Chapron created were impressive. So impressive, in fact, that he was recruited by Delage.

Chapron's entrée to motoring greatness, though, came by way of Delahaye. In the mid-'40s, streamlining was all the rage. Which was tickety-boo - until the end of the Second World War. By then, even some upper-crust belts were starting to tighten. Streamlining - and automotive haute couture in general - came at a price. If the hooray Henrys could not afford it, sure as heckers like no one else could!

The 145 comprised Chapron bodywork on a Delahaye chassis. Plus, A V12 engine. The resulting coupé was bespoke to its core. Its luscious exterior was matched only by its luxurious interior. It went without saying that leather and walnut abounded. Of course, that fell foul of the current commercial climate. Chapron, though, was tossed a lifeline. This time, Citroën came calling - with the offer of design work. Chapron's first brief was a cabriolet - the DS 19. Subsequently, he turned his hand to developing the Citroën SM ... always a good career move in France. Indeed, at one point, Chapron was made coachbuilder to the President. Along the way, he helped turn some of Phillipe Charbonneaux's dream-laden drafts into roadgoing reality. Chapron's last legacy to Citroën's oeuvre was the DS 23 Prestige. Always classy, then - never outré - Henri Chapron nailed it as a designer. From young apprentice - to superstar stylist - he was never less than a credit to his profession. The Delahaye 145 was proof of that - alongside many others!

Facel Vega Facel II

Facel Vega Facel II 1960s French classic car

You know when a car has cracked it. Celebrities and royals are first in line. So it was with the Facel Vega Facel II. Among them was a certain Ringo Starr - drummer in a band called The Beatles, apparently. Along with racing drivers, too, of course. Stirling Moss and Rob Walker both owned a Facel II.

The Facel II fared well at the track, as well as on road. It was, after all, powered by a tractable V8 engine. And its top speed was 140mph. A 4-speed manual Pont a' Mousson gearbox was hooked up to the 390bhp Chrysler 300 block.

Not that the Facel II's V8 motor did not have its work cut out for it. With four passengers - and a full tank of fuel - the car weighed in at almost two tons. Thoughtfully, Facel Vega had fitted Armstrong Selecta-Ride rear dampers. A full set of Dunlop brake discs did the stopping honours. The Facel II came with power steering, leather seats and electric windows - all as standard. Design-wise, the car's cockpit instrumentation was on an aeronautical theme. This particular Facel Vega, then, was fast, comfortable - and supremely stylish. Saying that, it cost as much as several comparable cars put together. So, just 160 Facel IIs were built ... in true exclusive French style!