Friday, May 17, 2013


Every year since 1976, the gardens of the Colbert Castle in Maulévrier get raided by a bunch of cars from every era. Rare, original and iconic models compete in a informal concours d'élégance, where the biggest prize is a  bottle of champagne.

And like the 37 previous editions, a wide variety of cars were present  ranging from the exceptional pre-war torpedo, to the 21st century limited run. The Peugeot 504 Coupé above is nothing special on paper: it's just a 2.7L V6 pumping a modest 144bhp. But, while being prone to dramatic rust, the bodywork  is one of the finest  Peugeot ever made. Created by Pininfarina, its design was only topped in the Peugeot offering by the 406 Coupé, nearly thirty years later.

But if I had to choose only one French car, it would be a tough battle between a Facel Vega (the HK 500E we saw last year was sadly not present) and a Citröen SM. Combining an Italian engine with a French bodywork might not be the best idea if you are concerned about the car actually moving at all, but this risky gamble spawned one of the most fantastic car ever made.

The styling is downright gorgeous, completely timeless. A lot of features present in the SM were groundbreaking at the time: hydro-pneumatic suspension, steering, braking, clutch, gearbox and lights (for the self-leveling and directional features) or inboard brakes and composite wheels, to reduce unsprung weight.
It was the epitome of French Luxury car, the road-going version of the Normandie ocean liner, a status that would never be reached again.

Simca may be remembered today for its lineup of affordable people's car. But we should not forget that they were once crafting luxury four-doors saloons. The Simca Chambord was the last French car to feature a French-built V8 engine (as the Facel Vegas sported Chrysler big blocks). While being based on the Ford Flathead block, the engine was adapted and produced in France, and managed to pump only 84bhp out of it's 2.3 liters.

Another impressive car from France was this Amilcar CGSS from 1927. The bodywork was completely rebuild out of aluminium sheets by its owner, and it was simply beautiful.

That's a dashboard I could get used to look at.

The rear end is one awesome piece of bodywork.

Now you may want to take a second look at this car. It may look like it, but it's not a Morgan Three-Wheeler. Rather, it a kit-car mimicking it. Based on a Citroën 2CV, it may only have around 30 bhp, but you have to take into account its weight of only 430 kg.

Fast forward several decades, and you can witness a pretty rare Plymouth Prowler. I've never been a fan of hot rods, so I can hardly find this car beautiful. Still, those guys at Chrysler should take credit for releasing such an original reinterpretation of the classic hot rod.

Yeah, definitely original.

This kind of event always attract some American luxo barges, like this '60 Buick LeSabre.

Or this pink '58 Cadillac. You could fit a whole Mini in that trunk.

And I swear that someday, I will understand that tail fins craziness.

This matte black Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS was more fit to my tastes.

Now this is something that I find fantastic. Why would Pontiac engineers put the tachometer directly on the hood of this Firebird 400, rather that on the dashboard, if it wasn't for the pure cool factor ?

You can never go wrong with a Ferrari 328 GTS.

All the cars presented one after another in front of the castle, while a band featuring Santa himself played some New Orleans background music that fitted the atmosphere perfectly.

The Jaguar Enthusiasts Club was the main sponsor this year, and several members gathered a nice selection of British engineering. Five E Type were present, but I can never get enough of that dramatic hood.

The club had a stand, where they featured a straight-six engine.

I miss the trend of putting metal badges in front of your radiator grille. This  1935 Standard Swallow featured the three most iconic ones: the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the Automobile Club de Monaco, and the Rotary International ones.

This awesome piece of automotive history managed to grab the first place of the concours d'élégance.