Weird and Wonky French Cars Sep 26, 2016 by Ian (Driver Weekly)
1963 Panhard CD
The Panhard CD is rare and strange, with a unique style and construction. Panhard is an automaker with a storied history: founded in 1887, it sold some of the first automobiles in the world. Today the company is owned by Citroen and manufactures military vehicles. They stopped car production in 1967 and their remaining models are hard to find—none more so than the incredibly rare Panhard CD, one of their last production cars. The CD was the result of a collaboration between the company and aerodynamics engineer Charles Deutsch, known for his lightweight racecars. Deutsch had had worked with driver and coachbuilder Rene Bonnet since the 1930s and they had cooperated with Panhard in the past, tuning their engines for use in their legendary DB racecars. But after decades of collaboration, the two men had different ideas about what to do next. Deutsch wanted to work more closely with Panhard while Bonnet left to work on his own cars. Now on his own, Deutsche took his lightweight design to the next level and built a fiberglass vehicle with a curb weight of only 1,350lbs and a drag coefficient of 0.22, fitted with the 851cc “Tigre” that delivered 60hp and a top speed of 110mph. It was the culmination of Deutsche’s unique style and vision—no wonder it was sold as the “CD,” or Charles Deutsche. Panhard produced just 179 of these bold little coupes between 1962 and 1965.
1984 Renault 5 Turbo
The notorious Renault 5 Turbo was an ugly little turbocharged rally car that, at the time, was the most powerful production car made by the French. This strange creation was a version of the diminutive Renault 5, a small hatchback first sold in 1972 and marketed in the United States as “Le Car” during Renault’s brief foray into the American market. Prior to the launch of the second generation, Renault decided to develop a rallying version of the popular economy car to stoke interest in the redoubtable vehicle. The result was a completely different car. While the Renault 5 had the engine at the front and front-wheel drive, the Turbo mounted the engine in the middle and swapped in rear-wheel drive for burning rubber on the tarmac. The new look and wide intakes took a bland car and gave it a squat and bowlegged appearance, but no one could deny the results.
Under the hood was the 1.4L Cleon boosted by a turbocharger that deliver 158bhp. At the time, the turbocharged hatchback was the fastest production rally car in the world and the most powerful production car in France. After an initial run of homologation models, a street model Turbo II was released with more conventional sheet metal from the Renault 5 but a lot more grunt. The Turbo inspired the more accessible second-generation 1985 Renault 5 GT Turbo—weighing just 1,874lbs, the GT was notoriously hard to control. In the hands of racers and daredevils, these odd little cars became legends.