By on February 10, 2015


Last weekend, I checked out Retromobile in Paris, a huge car show bringing together new car manufacturers, classic car dealers and auction houses, mom-and-pop businesses, and car clubs. Even though I didn’t speak a word of French, sharing a convention floor with tens of thousands of Frenchmen over a span of two days got me to know them much better. Make the jump to see the five species of French car aficionados.

1. The Richie Rich. You recognize this guy from a kilometer away. He is casually, but impeccably, dressed. His blazer, belt, and shoes alone probably cost more than your freshman year tuition (plus room and board) at that state school you attended. He is here for the auctions, probably eyeing that 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder they found in that barn. Surprisingly, his wife is age-appropriate. Classy.


2. The Nostalgic Duo. These two are best friends from high school or college. They have been going to car shows together for ages. In fact, with marriage, careers, and children, they make an effort to go to Retromobile together every year. They can be spotted because one guy will always be pointing at a familiar car to the other guy. The one guy always starts with: Remember when Thierry’s dad let him borrow his Triumph TR4, just like this one? Or: Remember when we fit six people in a Golf just like this one for that ski trip in ’83?


3. The Responsible Father. This is the car enthusiast father who will make it his mission in life to instill and share his love for cars with his children, whether they are boys or girls. This is very sweet.


4. The Gawking Geek. Usually travels alone. He is on the prowl. When he sees that gun metal gray Bugatti EB110, he reminds himself that when he goes home, he needs to log the sighting into his Supercar Sighting Excel Spreadsheet. He hunts for and buys that Porsche 928 S4 owner’s manual, in French, even though he will never own a real life Porsche. You can also find him drooling over 1/43 scale diecasts of stretched Volvo sedans and wagons. Because, why not!


5. The Net-less Wonder. This takes dedication. These are the old timers with the French equivalent of Aol email accounts and businesses with websites hosted by the French equivalent of Angelfire. They have a 1956 Talbot that they are trying to restore but do not know how to go online to find parts. They look forward to an event like Retromobile because it is one of the rare opportunities to meet someone else face-to-face who can help them obtain the rare part they need.


So, all in all, what did I learn? That car enthusiasts are the same everywhere. And though outwardly I had nothing in common with the other attendees, I felt we were all brothers.

Images source: Jim Yu

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13 Comments on “The Five Different Kinds of Car Nuts at Retromobile...”

  • avatar

    Mr Hulot showed up late to the show. Ah French Dinky… Sans en-ligne would know the 504’s doors fit the 604.

  • avatar

    Sweet! Did you find any Citroen’s worth of importation? I hope so!

    I see the same types of people (and a few more types) at Monterey’s Concourse every year.

    No car shopping celebrities? (even European counts)

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, why did you have to mention Citroen. At the mere mention of the brand, I smile and get sad at the same time. I think about the Cloverleaf, the 2CV, Dyane, DS, CX, SM, XM, heck, even the C6 and I smile. Then I think of its fallen status and their recent cars and I struggle with the notion that in effect, Citroen is no longer.

      • 0 avatar

        I have the same intense feelings about Peugeot. I took my first legal drive, 35 miles from Hyannis to WEllfleet Massachusetts, in a 404 wagon. I miss that car, and modern Peugeots have no more to do with those than modern Impalas have to do with an Impala from the ’60s. I like old Citroens a lot, too, but I don’t have quite the same attachment. Anyway, here’s some Citroen nostalgia for you:

      • 0 avatar

        Well I drive a rouge Mk.II C3 and I love the thing. It is a great handler, comfy, frugal. And with the windshield that doubles as a sunroof, it is pretty Citroën-ish for a contemporary car.

      • 0 avatar

        I think about how they were allowed to advertise on the Eiffel Tower.

        And how Le Corbusier made the drive of one of his house designs match the turning circle of a 2CV.

      • 0 avatar
        Jim Yu

        I just visited the Citroen Conservatoire yesterday. Heaven.

  • avatar

    I must count as the responsible dad. I agonised five years ago as to whether I should keep my then 20 year old XM going. It was facing a humorously large bill for its repair. I decided that it was important that my new daughter would have a good experience and happy memories of “dad´s strange car”. It seems to have worked as she points out XMs when she sees one and is very fond of it. The catch is that I feel like letting the XM rest for a year so I can run an Opel Senator or Peugeot 604 for a while to see what life is like in an anti-Citroen (boxy and rear drive versus Citroen´s front drive pointiness). She´s incensed. She has insisted she does *not* want another car. What´s a dad to do?

    Thanks for the article but no thanks for publishing a lovely photo of a lovely 604. You´re going to make every one want one and that´ll drive prices up. There´s one I just about afford on sale which I am mulling over. Very few are on sale at any one time, by the way.

    If you don´t know the 604, check out Wikipedia´s entry on the car which is quite revealing. It´s full of references to period reviews of the car. In many tests it did very well indeed, being praised for its steering, ride and very comfortable rear seats. Demerits were the odd seating position, mediocre performance (offset by good road holding) random placement of minor controls and its heavy fuel consumption (22 mpg).

    I have recently tested an 1984 Opel Senator which was from the same generation of cars (launched in ’76, off the top of my head) and while it was an interesting experience I suspect the 604 is that much nicer. I liked the Senator´s interior (all that velour) but the rear is a bit short on space, the dashboard is a slab and the steering (recirculating ball, I think) is a bit vague. The engine sounds great: a straight six 2.5 and with little effort it will spin its rear wheels. It´s a car for loping around in and for me quite affordable as long as I don´t go running up miles since the engine is a bit dispomaniac. I´d guess the Opel is more reliable while the 604 is more refined. What does one do?

  • avatar

    Wish I was there – my wife and me would be drooling over old Citroen’s and Renault Alpines.

  • avatar

    Enjoyable article, needs many more photos! That EB110 looks dark blue to me. The Peugeot box sedan looks alright, clean lines. But at that era, I’m pretty sure French build quality was absolutely terrible.

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