UNITED STATES—In light of the unspeakable terrorist attacks in Paris, it is important for Americans to recognize that these senseless acts of violence were perpetrated on a country that fought shoulder to shoulder with our founding fathers to ensure the ideals we live by today were upheld. Whether you learned the slogan, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, or “Liberté, égalité, and fraternité”, you had the privilege of growing up in relative freedom thanks in no small part to the French. Without this freedom, modern society as we know it would not exist.
Forget smartphones. We might not even have telephones today had the French not been instrumental in the birth of our nation. Heck, we might have wound up like the barbaric visions these terrorists are trying to realize, the ones in which women are viewed and treated as property, the ones in which rational thought is considered sacrilege.
As a gesture of solidarity towards our French Allies, let’s celebrate the following examples as some of the most innovative and iconic French cars in history:
Designed to shepherd French farmers into the post war era, the 2CV was an exercise in minimalism. Everything from the low-maintenance, air-cooled engine to the simple yet innovative bellcrank & pull rod suspension enabled farmers to travel to market and back in relative peace of mind. The design brief famously specified that the 2CV be able to transport a carton of eggs across a plowed field without breaking a single shell. Ironically, former OO7 star, Roger Moore considers not the Aston Martin DB5, not the Lotus Esprit Turbo, but the low-tech 2CV his favorite of all the Bond vehicles.
“Was it designed by a kid who just stepped off the PeopleMover at Disney’s Tomorrow Land?” No, but if you didn’t care about keeping up with traffic or current innovations like power windows and automatic transmissions (found in most comparably priced cars of its time), the DS had the appearance of a futuristic automobile. In all fairness, the DS did pioneer the idea of an adjustable hydropneumatic suspension. While that feature alone wasn’t enough to drive a successful US campaign, this French space-shuttle-on-wheels had no equal in Europe. No other car road quite like it. Many Europeans nicknamed it the “Magic Carpet”.
Renault Le Car:
Fans of “hot hatches” will remember the Le Car (Renault 5 outside the US) as one of the greatest performance bargains of the 1980s. In fact, the GT Turbo’s victory in the 1989 Rallye Côte d’Ivoire remains the only overall WRC victory by a group N car. Even safety sticklers appreciated the vehicle’s avant-garde impact absorbing bumpers. But, what remains most remarkable about the Le Car is that US-based marketing executives allowed the vehicle to leave the factory wearing the nameplate “Le Car”. Considering the name isn’t even the correct way to say “car” in French (not even the gender is correct), it’s amazing the French aren’t even ruder to Americans abroad. They probably should be.
Peugeot 205 GTi:
Recognized primarily for its success on the WRC stage during the 80s, the 205 signifies the period of renaissance at the once struggling French car company. In other words, the 205 was not your grandpa’s Peugeot. In fact it was the car that Volkswagen GTI owners feared the most. It offered every bit of the V-Dub’s performance (if not more) and wrapped it in a much more aesthetically pleasing package. After the 205 hit the streets, Peugeot had not trouble bringing in the younger fun-seeking buyers. Peugeot’s once dull and conservative image had been given a much-needed makeover and just in the nick of time. Dr. Kevorkian was just about to pull the plug.
When you are reserved a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest production car ever, you have truly made it. The Bugatti Veyron can reach a top speed of 267.9 mph. Nothing else even comes close. Sure it requires 16 cylinders, four turbo chargers, and over 1,000 horsepower to do so, but it still pollutes less than most of Greenpeace’s fleet. So, just relax, Treehuggers. Besides, the cost to perform a single tire change on this beast is around $25,000. And it can only be done in France. Even a billionaire would baulk at this new definition of “high maintenance”. Given the level of commitment it takes to own a Veyron, it’s a good bet Bruce Wayne would sooner use the Bat Mobile to run errands than this French super car.
There you have it, the most influential cars to be produced by our oldest ally. If you feel this list is missing a crucial example of French ingenuity, please let us know in the comments section. Or, if you have a completely different list and would like to share it, please do so. Vive La France.