Grand Tour #28 Bashing Up Cars in Paris.
So this is Paris. City of Light. All that.
There are so many things about Paris to love. I love the fact that the central area is surprisingly compact, you really can walk anywhere. And we did. With Kids. Kids and walking is a whole subject in itself but the short version is my kids can walk for hours in a city with its lights and shops and constant threat of a sweet tasting treats. They are not so good going up mountains.
We have been wandering down the ordinary streets to get to the extraordinary streets. Past the buildings. Past the dog poo. Past the trashed push bikes. Past the Parked Cars. And more Parked Cars. More and More.
I have always had a soft spot for the curious cars that the french have designed over the last century. The Citroen 2CV and the Renault 4 are two of my favourites. I had a couple of Renault four vans (both F4 variants and both ex-irish post office vehicles.). It was a nostalgic moment to see one on the streets of Paris. All Bashed up and resplendent in Orange.
This one is a F6 which has a longer wheelbase and less rounded box floating on the back. It seems to be a Renault road-side assistance vehicle. The colours are very similar to my first car, an original Irish “Posts & Telegraphs” Renault 4 F4; bright orange with white doors. Maybe that was a standard colour in France, maybe I was driving a much more “chic” banger than I appreciated. I always thought it was a unique livery for the pre-1984 government owned and run service. I crashed mine into the back of a truck somewhere in Norfolk, England. It was a sad day. A little Renault moment;
I didn’t see many Citroen 2CV’s in Paris. You were more likely to see one of these.
This is a shared electric city car made and owned and run by Bolloré. There are about 2400 of them in Paris clocking up an average of 10 trips a day. They are also now in Lyon and Bordeaux. And soon they will be in London and Philadelphia. They have only been in Paris since 2011 and the company (AutoLib) have broken even already. That’s good. They can profit from this. So that’s not impossible despite what multiple sceptics are still telling us. They are also looking very broken in and bashed up in true Parisian style.
Of course tiny cars are not a uniquely French thing. The Italians are probably better at it. I had a 4wd version of the original Fiat Panda. Much like this one. Though I didn’t park it right on top of a cycle path like this chap who was getting his hair cut. (Though I did often have to park it wherever it broke down.)
However it’s the Brits that have made possibly the worlds most famous micro car. The ingenious Issigonis designed classic has ceased to be British but the Parisians appreciate them. I don’t like the newer swollen looking BMW made Minis. The Bolleré may not be fun to drive but the old mini was. Perhaps an electric shared city (original) Mini or Mini Moke would convince the sceptics.
The older, smaller, cheaper, Parisian cars of outer suburbs all seemed to be a little bit bashed up. And they look good with it. You find yourself wondering if it makes any sense to build new cars with new steel and new everything else. Even the so called energy efficient ones which only make up a small fraction of over all sales. (It’s still SUV’s, SUV’s and more SUV’s.) Is it that much better than running an older car for longer? What about all the “Embodied” energy? Do we really need new cars every few years? The fact is that the great profits of the great car manufacturers are dependent on new car sales. That and lies, in Volkswagens case. (Probably more manufacturere too.) They need to sell them. When I look at a 30 year old much loved (and much used) small capacity engine car I wonder why we are buying the marketing fallacy that we need to buy these new cars at all.
I want my old Renault 4 back. Less Fancy. Less Techno-wizardry. Less Consumption. Less Baggage