Weird and Wonky French Cars

Sep 26, 2016 by Ian (Driver Weekly)

The French are renowned for their sense of style and sophistication—but not when it comes to cars. In terms of automotive style and engineering the French are better known for junk than “joie de vivre.” In all fairness to connoisseurs of fine French automobiles there are a variety of beautiful and luxurious French cars that can compete with anything the world has to offer. But even the most elegant car can have a strange story. Ranging from the unique to the unusual, here are twenty weird cars that could only come from France.

1970 Citroen SM


Classic Driver

The Citroen SM was a fusion of technology and style: a sports coupe with an aerodynamic body floating on Citroen’s luxurious hydro-pneumatic suspension and powered by a Maserati V6. The car had an impressive self-leveling hydro-pneumatic suspension taken from the Citroen DS, later found in luxury sedans from Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz. Reviewers were stunned by the silky drive and relaxing cruise even when the car was racing along at 120mph for hours. Maintaining this level of relaxation required steering that could compensate for a car with high horsepower and front wheel drive. Fast and sensitive power steering kept the car heading in the right direction and mitigated the effects of bumpy roads. Under the hood, Citroen loaded the car with a 2.7L Maserati V6 that delivered 170bhp and a top speed of 140mph. While wonderful on paper, in practice the car required regular servicing from two different specialists to maintain the car’s advanced systems, an added cost that didn't appeal to the broader market. The demanding car was discontinued in 1975, but it remains one of the stranger manifestations of a French luxury car. Slick but surreal, the Citroen SM offered an uncanny combination of style, speed, handling, and comfort.

2004 Peugeot 1007


Parkers

The Peugeot 1007 was an overambitious gamble: that the public would want an economy car built around a minivan-body with sliding doors. The 1007 was a “Mini MPV” or Multi-Purpose Vehicle, the European designation for a minivan based on a flexible interior layout and a tall, boxy shape. The miniature version is a shortened minivan in style and function, turned into an economy car. Peugeot just took the next logical step and added two electric sliding doors to access the four seats. On the inside, owners that wanted to customize the interior could also purchase the “Cameleo” interior trim, a set of swappable interior panels.

But drivers had to manage a relatively rare semi-automatic transmission. The style was uninspired and the car was overpriced for its unremarkable gimmick. Peugeot had hoped to set a new trend in supermini design, but they ended up selling 1007s at a steep discount just to move the limited inventory. To be fair, the automaker had shopped the idea around at various motor shows, where attendees and critics had been intrigued by the unusual concept. But Peugeot had overestimated broader interest in a car based almost entirely on sliding doors. In this case, weird was worse than boring.

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