I recently got an email from my Relative Who Reads Stuff On The Internet drawing my attention to a Top Ten list he thought I might be interested in. Entitled Families in Lewisham Won’t Believe These Ten Facts About French Cars, most of them certainly came as news to me. I felt they deserved an audience beyond the London borough.
- The all-time best-selling French executive car in the UK is the Citroën C6. A total of seven were registered here during its production run. All were purchased new by the French Embassy in London, each one coachbuilt for use by Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni on state visits. Potential buyers of these cars need to be aware that one of the rear seats has only 30cm of legroom. The other has two metres.
- The English collective noun for French MPVs is a ‘Synergie’. In French, however, it is une Evasion. This, a question in the French citizenship examination, is the one most Anglophones fail on.
- The French preference for naming their cars after the gas-generating part of the digestive process – Renault Wind, Peugeot Rifter – is a long and illustrious tradition. In 1929, Voitures Petomane launched the Borborygme Grande Trompette, a six-metre long limousine with a V12 supercharged engine. Released in the face of the Great Depression, it brought its manufacturer to bankruptcy after only five were made. Ironically, the engines were repurposed for use in the factories of one of the country’s largest haricot processors.
- Recognising that the UK would be the biggest market for their forthcoming coupé, Renault initially planned to call it the Manderley to convey a sense of fire. When market research clinics revealed that fewer than 2% of Britons had even heard of Daphne Du Maurier, never mind read Rebecca, La Regie took the huff and went Spanish instead, calling it the Fuego. At the same time, Renault abandoned plans to call its new Ford Transit rival the Hopper.
- The Disney Corporation took successful legal action against Matra after it named its three-abreast seating sports car the Murena, after a beloved character in The Jungle Book. Matra never recovered financially and ceased car manufacturing soon after.
- While most people are familiar with the design brief of the 2CV, which included the ability to carry a basket of eggs unscathed across a ploughed field, less well known is the remit for the Citroen HY camionette. It had to be able to hold the machinery to create at least 27 different types of artisanal coffee, and meet Food Standards Agency recommendations for the storage of vegan milk substitutes in a riverside car park on a hot Sunday afternoon.
- Following the release of the 305 television advert in 1977, Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland advised parishioners to boycott Peugeot on public decency grounds. Taxi firms had to ensure that only Fords and Vauxhalls were brought out for the weekly runs to Mass. Sales of the 305 in Ireland exceeded those in France and Germany combined for the next three years. The luxury GL version with the rear seat folding armrest did especially well.
- The 1997 Steps hit “5,6,7,8”was an English language cover version of a jingle advertising the Renault Espana range in the 1970s. The group still has a fondness for Renault’s products; in fact H uses a Vel Satis to commute between recording sessions and meetings with OCGs.
- The Renault Avantime launch brochure predicted the global pandemic two decades in advance. Entitled La Voiture de l’Avenir, the copy read: ‘In the future, global warming and contagious viruses will change our social events beyond recognition. The Avantime will be there to provide you with a secure, ultrafiltered and climate controlled environment to escape into afterwards.’ No copies of these brochures exist now as a mysterious cadre of shadowy individuals, probably employed by Bill Gates, has scoured the world to acquire and destroy them. Apart from the one I have.
This could be Rotterdam or Lewisham…
“Hold on,” I texted my Relative Who Reads Stuff On The Internet, “there are only nine items in this Top Ten list. What happened to the tenth one?”
I heard nothing for five weeks, then a letter was delivered by Royal Mail. In a handwritten note, my Relative Who Reads Stuff On The Internet explained that the author of the list had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Something to do with 5G and nanites.
And so, readers in general and families in Lewisham in particular, we may never know the tenth unbelievable fact about French cars. And my Relative Who Reads Stuff On The Internet? He’s gone off grid. I visited him recently in his hovel in the woods, having taken the circuitous path he advised with my mobile phone switched off.
He shows hitherto unrecognised talents in growing spectacular facial hair and making an interesting macchiato from home-grown turnips and dandelion sap.
Images © DarthArt/iStock.