By on October 6, 2010

OK, I know there are a lot of American car lovers all over Europe, and finding a Mustang and Corvette is not that big a deal. But seeing American cars out of context never fails to make an impression on me, as it did when I was a kid in Austria: they just look out of place here. This early Corvette looked like it was a 12/10 version, fighting to make progress through a sea of little hatchbacks. I could see the driver sawing at the big wheel, and the burble of the V8 would makes this a ’55. A handsome beast among the natives, and a refreshing change. Unlike the other one:

I guess it was inevitable. Too bad it wasn’t parked in front of a Smart, instead of the delivery van. Someone doesn’t mind paying close to $300 for a fill up.

This Chrysler coupe on the other hand looks almost right at home, at least scale-wise. But then it was designed for a time of high oil prices, which has always defined the difference between the Europeans from the Americans.

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34 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtakes: An American In Paris And The Ugly American...”

  • avatar

    :D That Hummer photo looks like an automotive Matryoshka! with the Micra ready to hop in the back of the Berlingo which could then park in the back of the Hummer.
    Perspective (and an over-active imagination) play a part but it’s a beautiful illustration of just how out of place those behemoths are on urban European streets

  • avatar

    The old ‘vette is eligant in a European way, and the Chyrsler is not “in your face” American, so they both fit in surprisingly well.  The Hummer, on the other, screams “DOUCHE BAG” even louder than it does in suburban New Jersey.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    That first gen Covette was actually an answer to British sports cars that WWII vets had enjoyed while in Europe.  So seeing one there in Paris is somehow fitting.  BTW did you see if the LeBaron was a V6 or turbo 4?

  • avatar

    I had a 1992 LeBaron convertible. Nice car, overall. Even fixed the rear side windows myself! Too bad the Chrysler 2.5L engines couldn’t get me past 148,000 miles before it went kaput. At least my headlight doors never failed.

    The “CC” I wish I had a photo of was of a Morris Minor (gray, of course) on my old USAF base back in the day. The G.I. who owned it put USAF star-and-bar decals on the front doors and fixed a large red 12″ propeller from a gas-powered model plane on the nose of the hood that spun when driven. Cracked me up whenever I saw it!

    • 0 avatar

      When I lived in Georgia I worked with a guy whose Morris was identical to the one in the link below, except his was right-hand drive. I think he too had picked his up when he lived in California.
      He drove it to work most of the time until he blew a head gasket and warped the head, then drove it again after he rebuilt the engine.  He left it at home on the few days that both the weather and his mood inspired him to drive his home-built ‘glass T-bucket roadster with a 10-71 blown high-compression 350.

  • avatar

    I recall seeing a LeBaron when I was stuck in traffic in Zurich, but that wasn’t half as surreal as being tailgated by a Silverado 2500HD in rural Bavaria, equipped with stacks, no less! I’d seen a few Impalas around Frankfurt as well, but I think those were military.
    The weirdest was a early-90s Pontiac Grand Prix (!!!), also in Zurich.  It wasn’t in good shape, either: just your regular, beater-grade GP of which you see a zillion of in southern Ontario. I saw it’s twin (an Opel Zafira, though with diplomatic plates) in Toronto a year or two later.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Darn, that ’55 ‘Vette looks V-good.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Saw this in Amsterdam, think it’s an Oldsmobile of some sort..  Strange..

  • avatar

    If the ’54 Corvette was Detroit’s “answer” to the MG/Triumph invasion, they were responding to the wrong question. It had a dual-carb straight six and two-speed PowerGlide auto transmission on a Chevy sedan chassis, plus a propensity for body-shell cracks. A high school classmate’s father got one and drove it some — when it would start, which was iffy. The Brits were fun because they were nimble and breezy (i.e., heat? We don’t need no steenkin’ heaters!)

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      It was, as a show car, and then when it was popular as a show car, GM was caught flat footed.  They had no intention of building it.  So they cobled it together as best they could.
      As said of the Corvette When the original Chevrolet Corvette was introduced in 1953, it was a somewhat Pyrrhic effort to create something approximating a Jaguar XK120 using a fiberglass body and a lot of off-the-shelf Chevy parts. It had neither scorching performance nor roll-up side windows, and it sold poorly. It was nearly canceled in 1955 before salvation arrived in the form of Chevy’s new V8 engine, which gave its performance a much-needed shot in the arm. The Corvette also acquired a new chief engineer, a bright and mercurial Russian immigrant named Zora Arkus-Duntov, who did his level best to make it into a genuine sports car

    • 0 avatar

      It was, as a show car, and then when it was popular as a show car, GM was caught flat footed.  They had no intention of building it.  So they cobled it together as best they could.

      Wait, were we talking about the Volt?

    • 0 avatar

      That was a 3 carb six.

  • avatar

    While that is far from my favorite Vette, it does look like it fits in nicely in Parisian traffic, especially with the whitewalls.

  • avatar

    I saw a current gen Wrangler in Rome. It was the fist one I’ve seen. Also some of previous generations, from 1st to current.
    The Hummer is completely appropriate and useful, see with the exhaust flow you can blow away a Smart and other insignificances, with the size and weight you can flat them.

  • avatar

    I saw:
    A Dodge Truck BR2500 diesel around Stonehenge, but that wasn’t too unexpected since that’s farm country; 

    A Dodge Challenger in Guardia Piemontese, Italy which is about an hour north of Cozensa … with Michigan license plates!, 

    A Jeep CJ with a Ford emblem in Brazil (Ford used to own the rights to Jeep in Brazil a few decades ago I eventually found out).

    Also, another Dodge in Sao Paulo, Brazil with the top chopped off. It was a home made convertible but well done. Can’t remember too well but it may have been a Dart.

  • avatar

    @E(ot)D: Zora Arkus-Duntov was a Jew, and we’re proud of him. But I thought he was in on the Corvette effort earlier than 1955.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      You know the non-hidden vented headlight covers on the big block Vettes of the 60s?  Last min addition by Zora when he realized there wasn’t enough airflow to keep the big block from overheating.  GM now would leave things as is and blame the customers for failures.

  • avatar

    I was in Europe for my honeymoon last year. Saw a ’60s Mustang tooling around in the back streets of Stockholm — my wife, who’s more of an old Mustang fan than I identified it as a ’68.
    While I’m typically not a fan of GM, I have a soft spot for post-refresh second generation Trans-Ams, and as a result the car-watching event of the trip for me was seeing someone in Munich driving a ’78 special edition gold-with-black-eagle Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am in beautiful condition.

  • avatar

    I wonder–could the driver park the Vette on the street in Paris and not find it stolen upon his return?

  • avatar

    For those who aren’t aware, Chrysler has had something like success in selling cars in the Benelux nations, I would imagine that would have ended with the ‘merger of equals’, though. Regardless, the LeBaron Coupe looks right at home in Paris, as I would imagine it would be a decently sized car in the “Old Country”.
    There’s a fair amount of American metal over in Europe, just surf eBay motors for whatever country you care to choose, plug in an American model and watch the listings. Based on my experiences in Germany & Austria, I would agree that American cars generally seem huge compared to the surrounding local vehicles.

  • avatar

    Re. the Hummer, “Someone doesn’t mind paying close to $300 for a fill up,”, or maybe that is the reason it is PARKED!?

  • avatar

    When I have traveled in Europe, I saw quite a few American cars.  What surprised me was which ones.  Sure, there were Vettes, Camaros, and assorted trucks, but I was surprised at how many pedestrian US cars were present.  Why someone would send their Pontiac G6 to Belgium was beyond me.

    • 0 avatar

      I know that the Impalas I saw in Germany were from a nearby military base.  I assume that’s the case for the G6 you saw as well.
      Either that, or someone is just reveling in being weird.

  • avatar

    In Finland there are quite a few US cars on the streets. Once popular 80’s wood-paneled wagons are mostly gone, but there are lots of older cars, vans and trucks preserved and renovated.
    On the more modern side, Chryslers, Dodges and Korean Chevrolets sold decently here, at least before the recession. Surprisingly you see also Dodge Rams, Hummer H2s and even the occasional Ford Excursion driving around – all of them private imports.

  • avatar

    Recall seeing a Taurus sedan and wagon in Amsterdam circa 2000.  Older Gen I Taurus.  They looked like whales parked next to the usual euro car stock.

  • avatar

    Back in the early 60’s, my Dad, Air Force, got transferred to Germany and eventually to Scotland and when they left Jacksonville Fla in I think 1961 to fly to Germany, they decided to get a newer car to take with them across the Atlantic and bought a gently used 1960 Dodge Dart Seneca, a 2 door coupe if I recall my Mom telling me correctly (At the time they were still driving their 1955 Merc if I recall) and the reason was my Dad thought with 3 little girls, it would be much safer to tool around Europe in that big US car rather than get a car in Europe as they were so small in comparison, heck much smaller than the smallest cars made today over there if I’m not mistaken to a degree.
    Anyway, it did serve my Mom well while in Germany as some of the male drivers over there thought they could cut her off and since she had that HUGE car, well, guess who won? :-) If you guessed my Mom, you’d be more than right as she was not about to let a little German arrogance get between her and her destination, LOL.
    They drove that car up through Switzerland on their way to Scotland a year later and lived on the economy in the little town of Prestwick until being transferred back to Jacksonville in 1964.
    They replaced the Seneca with a ’64 Dodge 330 station wagon (new) for the long drive out here to Washington St where we all still live late that summer.
    But even then, there were a fair amount of American cars plying the roads of Europe for a variety of reasons and I’m sure some of them were military owned fleet cars.

  • avatar

    If you travel to Switzerland, you will see many more American cars there. My family and I visited my aunt in Zürich in 1982: we went to a suburban town outside Zürich for shopping. What astounded me the most was about one out of three cars there were American. Even the Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Cadillac, and Chevrolet models with full ECE compliance (flagpole mirrors, taillamps with amber turn signal indicators, etc.).

    In Paris, I saw several Lincoln Town Car limousines, including the latest model. One of them had taillamps with amber turn signal indicators (which is not OEM from Ford but custom-made).

    The most popular American vehicles in Germany are Ford Mustangs as well as the pick-up trucks with Dodge Ram (Cummins diesel version) as more popular than Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-Series.

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