What February’s Retromobile show in Paris is to priceless Bugattis, Delages and Ferraris, so Auto Medon – held at Le Bourget near Paris each October – is to regular, more affordable popular classics, such as the Citroen DS, Renault 16, Peugeot 404, Ford Mustang, Fiat 500 and Mini.
Although French marques dominate, Auto Medon also attracts a huge variety of other classic cars and motorcycles, including a huge selection of rare-in-Europe American cars, plus plenty of classics and ‘young timers’ from British, Italian and German manufacturers. Here are just five cars from the hundreds on hand that caught our attention last weekend…
1952 Hotchkiss Anjou Saint Tropez
Like its French ‘grande marques’ rivals, Bugatti, Delahaye, Delage, Salmson et al, the post-war passenger car and commercial vehicle production of the once-prestigious Hotchkiss was struggling to find new customers by the early 1950s, due primarily to crippling local taxation on domestic large-engined cars, plus a slightly lack-lustre product offering. The early 1950’s Anjou was a dignified and ultra-conservative offering for the successful businessman in period, which enjoyed some notable success in rallying, but failed to capture the new car buyer’s imagination. This convertible ‘Saint Tropez’ model is an extremely rare Anjou derivative, and the first and only one we have ever seen in the metal.
1963 CD Panhard ‘Coach’
This ultra-slippery CD ‘Coach’ (coach being a French term for coupe) has an astonishingly low drag co-efficient of 0.19 Cd, a figure only equalled almost 30 years later by the Vauxhall Calibra! This air-cooled, Panhard-powered CD was the first, and only, road-going production model by the leading French aerodynamicist Charles Deutsch. Deutsch was the D in the famed 1950s French maker of sports cars and racers DB, with a variety of low-drag Panhard, DKW and Peugeot-engined Le Mans 24 Heures ‘index of performance’ racers to his name, following his split with engineering partner Rene Bonnet in the early 1960s. Charles Deutsch abandoned motor racing in 1967 to concentrate on his other successful and more profitable careers as a motor circuit designer (he created the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans) and the French Minister of Transport in the late 1960s. Although sold through the extensive French Panhard dealer network in the early-to-mid 1960s, just a couple of hundred examples of the advanced but expensive CD Coach models were sold.
1967 OSI 24m Taunus Coupe
Despite its rakish Italian looks, the basis of the OSI 24m Coupe is nothing more exciting than the humble Cologne-built mid-1960s Ford Taunus 24m. Using the V6 engine from the German Ford, the short-lived Turin-based coachbuilder OSI clothed the car with this stylish two-door coupe bodywork. OSI also used another very familiar Ford as the basis for its smaller Torino model, the British Anglia. In addition to Fords, OSI coachbuilt a number of attractive four-door saloons based on the Alfa Romeo 2600 before going under in 1969, plus some distinctive one-offs, including a strange twin-boom Alpine A110 – as displayed on the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ lawn some years ago – and a DAF 44 City Car with large sliding doors, popularised as a Corgi toy in the 1970s.
1967 WM Peugeot 204 Coupe:
There’s no denying that the Pininfarina-styled Peugeot 204 Coupe was an appealing machine, but it was certainly no performance car. It was therefore a curious choice for French engineers Welter et Meunier (WM) to choose as the basis of its successful 204 rally car. They tuned to Peugeot’s standard 1130cc, 53 bhp engine to 1,300 cc, to produce 130 bhp, launching the 204 at speeds over 190 km/h (117 mph), aided by triple carbs, a stiffened chassis and a wider track, with bold extended wheel arches. Following some rally success, WM moved on to the 204’s larger sister model – the 304 Coupe – as the base for its next effective rally weapon, with the engineering duo remaining loyal to Peugeot power when it entered a variety of aerodynamic WM prototypes into the Le Mans 24 Heures race on a number of occasions in the late 1970s to early 1980s.
1973 Ligier JS2:
Powered by a shortened 3-litre Maserati V6, as used in the Citroen SM, the mid-engined Ligier JS2 was the closest thing the French had to a supercar in the 1970s. Conceived by the ex-French rugby player and racing driver – Guy Ligier, who passed away just a few weeks ago – the JS2 enjoyed some limited success in endurance racing, including regular appearances in the Le Mans 24 Heures. The ‘JS’ prefix of the Ligier model’s name was in tribute to Guy Ligier’s close friend and cohort, racing driver Jo Schlesser, who was killed in the 1968 French Grand Prix. Ligier itself went on to compete with mixed result in Grand Prix racing, and the Company is still involved today in single-seater race car production, in addition to building small engine-capacity microcars, which are particularly popular in France, where a driving licence is not required for these ‘voitures sans permis’.