Funny French women abroad
Shock. It must have been in 1980, I was a kid and we drove around Spain with my parents. I see a funny sedan with three volumes and equipped with metal bumpers. I look at the back of the name of this unknown car: Renault Siete. My father then explains to me that Siete means seven in Spanish and that this car is not sold in France. In fact, as I will learn later, the Iberian market likes cars with separate trunks, even small ones, but its peculiarities do not stop there, even with Renault.
After this “Siete” I was surprised by the number of R12s in circulation, some of which were equipped with a grille with 4 projectors, totally unknown in France, or even R8 with indicators under the front bumper.
In reality, it wasn’t entirely Renault, but rather Fasa-Renault, named after the ex-Régie’s former subsidiary, 85% owned by the Spanish state. The models were adapted to the local market, which also went through specific engines, the R4 for example received 850 cm3 with 32 hp, which we have never seen before.
Just like Renault, Simca had also adjusted its production for Spain. The 1100 was called 1200 and the Simca 1307-1308 simply 150. These models were manufactured by Chrysler España SA, a subsidiary of the Chrysler Europe group, which was acquired by Peugeot in 1978. This resulted in some flaws. On holiday in Spain in 1997, I saw a faded 205 drive by, its engine making a castanet noise. Normal, you will tell me, for this country.
Well, not so much: the Spanish 205s are fitted with side cam Simca blocks, like some 309s here. There was a 205 GTX, for example, powered by the 1.6L 92hp Talbot 1510/Solara, sort of the missing link between the GT and the GTI. Locally, PSA has also produced a diesel Solara equipped with the excellent XUD9 released in France by Horizon. Such a variant would be just as successful with us as perhaps the Chrysler 180 with a Barreiros diesel (Chrysler España SA brand).
Let’s leave Spain for the rainy and exotic lands of Britain. There, too, the French brands offered special cars, some of which would have had some success with us. I am thinking, for example, of the Peugeot 309 SRi, released in 1986, equipped with the block of the 205 GTI 1.6L 115 HP and its triangulated front axle. Exactly what our 309 GT was missing! The GTI badge has also served Peugeot far more across the Channel than in France, having graced the 106, 306 and 207…
For their part, the Citroëns benefited from some name changes. So the CX station wagon was renamed Safari, the Evasion badge that it wore with us had very fiscal connotations across the English Channel… The BX diesel was not called TRD like we do, but DTR, apparently because TRD says “shit.” ” thought. , meaning ‘shit’… A few years earlier, the Simca 1307/1308 were also produced in England, where they were called Chrysler Alpine, a name of the Rootes group, also part of Chrysler Europe.
However, the most interesting French adaptations are older. Indeed Citroën produced cars locally in Slough between 1926 and 1966, of course using British equipment manufacturers such as Lucas. Renamed Twelve, Fifteen or Big Fifteen there, the Traction benefits from a richer color chart than ours or sometimes even leather upholstery. The 2CV also came out with some differences from Slough and was available as a pickup truck for Her Majesty’s Army. Also, let’s not forget about the charming bijou coupe that didn’t find success.
“Made in Slough” DS/IDs were also made, also modified (vertical license plate, leather seats, wooden board, etc.). Unfortunately, many components come from France, they suffered from high import taxes and thus weighed down the price of the cars, which as a result never sold well. Slough closed in 1966.
A similar story happened in Belgium, where Citroën 2CVs differed from ours. Tintin fans will have noticed Dupondt’s funny look in “Les Bijoux de la Castafiore”. They were produced in Forest and in some cases had taillights located on the fenders rather than on either side of the license plate. The Belgian 2CVs were exported to both Germany (which benefited from a special series in 1964) and Switzerland.
In Forest we even produced a 2CV called Azam6, which took over the 602cc of the Ami6 from 1965, when the French had to settle for the 425cc. The Belgian factory, which also made Panhards, DSs and even LNs and even Visa, closed its doors in 1980.
Let’s end our tour of Europe of French women elsewhere in Italy. Surprisingly, Alfa Romeo has teamed up with Renault to produce the Dauphine locally. This one has to undergo many modifications (lighting, transition from 6 volts to 12 volts) and is not called Renault but… Alfa Romeo! It met with some success while, oddly enough, the Régie continued to sell its own Dauphine at La Botte, thus competing with Alfa’s.
Since sales were good, it was decided to produce the R4 at the Italian manufacturer, and the first cars came onto the market in 1962. But nothing was going well between the two partners. The French accuse the Italians of producing the cars poorly, the Italians accuse the French of not supplying all the parts, and on top of that Fiat is starting to put pressure on the Italian government to end this partnership, which is bat wings anyway. It ends in 1966.
French cars were produced in small series in other European countries to avoid customs duties. Since these are no longer available apart from Brexit, interest in local market-specific models has disappeared, which has led to a standardization of production. Traveling abroad is a little less tasty…