Five Fantastically French Cars You Can Buy in America

The Wise Guide
by The Wise Guide
five fantastically french cars you can buy in america

No one designs cars like the French — though many would say that’s a good thing.

Uniquely styled, mechanically complex, and (sometimes) rewarding to drive, French cars are an experience like no other. Buying a French classic is a bit like being married to a supermodel: They can be very high maintenance, but the rewards are well worth it.

Here are five of the most fantastically French cars you can buy in America.

Peugeot 505

The 505 is a great way to ease into the weird world of French cars. Its angular styling and sharp handling are distinctly French, but the mechanicals are fairly straightforward and reasonably modern, as Peugeot sold 505 sedans and wagons in the United States from 1980 until 1990. Cars and parts can be a little hard to find in the States, but with over 1.3 million 505s built worldwide and the power of the Internet, you should be able to find everything you need to keep your own 505 running.

Find your Peugeot 505 for sale here.

Renault Fuego

The Fuego (Spanish for “fire”, never a good name to give a car) came to America at a time when the Renault/AMC alliance (the partnership, not the sedan) was still seen as a good idea. Based on the mechanical bits of the R18 — the French equivalent of the Corolla — the Fuego attempted to inject a little style and sport into the lineup, with Renault even offering a turbo model. The Fuego was available in the United States between 1982 and 1985; sales weren’t great and survivors are few and far between, so you’ll have to hunt a bit to find one. But, when you do, chances are you’ll be able to buy it for a song.

Find your Renault Fuego for sale here.

Citroën DS

No list of French cars would be complete without The Goddess. The Citroën DS (and its successor, the SM) has everything that makes French cars so French: From its beautiful and bizarre styling to its byzantine hydropneumatic suspension, the DS proudly gives the two-finger salute to one hundred years of automotive engineering. To drive a DS is bliss; to keep one running is an accomplishment. Because of their mechanical complexity, these cars trade at affordable prices. Unless you want a garage queen, plan to spend a fair amount of time learning how the systems work and scrounging for parts.

Find your Citroen DS for sale here.

Citroën 2CV

The 2CV was France’s answer to the Volkswagen Beetle: A simple, affordable people’s car that would run forever, no matter what you did to it. With a tiny two-cylinder air-cooled engine, there aren’t many parts to go wrong, and since Citroën built about 5 million 2CVs over its 42-year production run, finding those parts is fairly easy. Ironically, these are among the more expensive French cars on the used market, but you should be able to find a nicely restored example in the $8,000–15,000 range.

Find your Citroen 2CV for sale here.

Renault 5 Turbo

The French have built plenty of strange cars, but the R5 Turbo is nuts even by Gallic standards. Renault took their 1.4 liter engine, turbocharged the daylights out of it, then stuffed it into the humble front-wheel-drive R5 (known to us as LeCar) — not under the hood, mind you, but in the back seat. The engine (which started at 158 horsepower and in racing versions rose as high as 345) drives wide rear wheels housed in outrageously flared fenders. It’s ridiculously quick and big fun to drive. These cars don’t come cheap, but there is a strong enthusiast community here in the States, so you should be able to find plenty of support, both mechanical and emotional.

Find your Renault 5 Turbo for sale here.

[Photos courtesy JSBFoto.]

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2 of 93 comments
  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on May 16, 2016

    My flight instructor had a Fuego. It was an "interesting" car.

  • -Nate -Nate on May 16, 2016

    Gad , what a bunch of self absorbed whiners . . The article says " Five Fantastically French Cars You Can Buy in America" . . _NOT_ : 'Five Fantastic French Cars' , 'Five Really Good French Cars' not even 'A few French Cars That Beat Riding the Ghetto Bus ' or other pablum . . You came here to read so read or shaddap and move on . . Having owned various French cars and been a mechanic in an Indie French Garage actually run by two old Frenchies , one perennially pissed off (Adolf) and one super mellow cool (Jay) , I have no serious love for French cars old or new although there are a few I really thought were damn fine cars if weird simply because _French_ you know . . Cory , don't be disingenuous ~ you know you read every single comment , don't lie . . -Nate (still missing my '59 2CV AZ)

  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
  • Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.
  • Lou_BC How to Fix Auto Media? Stop fixating on soft touch plastics and infotainment systems. I did quite a bit of research on my ZR2. There was no mention of the complexity of putting the transfer case into neutral. (9 step process). They didn't talk about how the exhaust brake works with tow/haul mode. No mention that the exhaust brake does not work with off-road mode. Nannies only stay turned off with the lockers engaged. Only one review mentioned the tail pipe as a vulnerability.
  • EBFlex I think outlets should strive for quality over quantity. In-depth, thorough reporting that covers all aspects of a story. See what Phoebe Wall Howard has done at the Detroit Free Press. There is no stone unturned when she writes a story. Also, do the complete opposite of AutoBlog. Talk about trash
  • NotAnotherTeslaFanBoi Seems like Honda is taking the same approach they did with their first SUV’s- rebadge models from other makes to dip their toes in the market before going all-in.