Bask in the Uniquely French Tastes of This French Collector Car Auction

Bring the francophone funk.

Aguttes

The French auto industry is the world’s oldest, and it has pioneered innumerable innovations. The steering wheel. The De Dion semi-independent suspension. The automatic transmission. They’re all from the same place that brought us Napoleon and impatient disdain. The French auto industry also has a rich history of producing very, very strange vehicles, a proud heritage it continues to this day. (I’m looking at you, Citroën Nemo Multispace.)

French enthusiasts also love other people’s weird cars, too, something on display at the Aguttes auction in Lyons this weekend. Here’s a handful of examples, ranging from the serious to the, uh, not so serious. All of them, however, are well off the beaten path.

Aguttes

1969 Morris Mini Moke - When you look at this, you immediately think “troop transport,” right? After all, what better for combat than 843cc of pure front-wheel-drive English firepower? Underneath the Moke is a Mini, a rebody submitted by British Motor Corporation when the British Army asked for a new vehicle. The Army rejected the proposal (wonder why…) BMC went on and built tens of thousands of them anyway. And the Moke stayed in production, too, right up until 1993.

Aguttes

1964 Triumph GTR4 Dove - Triumph’s Michelotti-designed TR4 was a huge success, much more appealing than the beloved but awkward TR3. With it selling so well, thought Wimbledon dealer L. F. Dove & Company, why not build a real coupe version? Coachbuilder Thomas Harrington & Company recently had recently succeeded with its Harrington [Sunbeam] Alpine coupe, so the two met and produced this, the GTR4 Dove (“do-vay,” ugh). The 30 percent price premium and 400 pounds in added curb weight were not in its favor. Only examples 49 were ever built.

Aguttes

1941 Pierre Faure Type PFA - The War hit Europe long before America got involved, so it makes sense that France would be short of gasoline and seeking alternatives. That’s the only “sense” here. Meet the Pierre Faure, a tiny two seat car with six enormous lead-acid batteries up front. Yes, up front, so there’s as little weight as possible on the narrow rear axle. It hasn’t run in 65 years. Whee!

Aguttes

1979 Peugeot 104 ZS2 - The “ZS” trim meant indicated short-wheelbase Peugeot hatchback, a skittery little insect with the creature comforts of a wooden plank raft. Only 1,000 of these ZS2s were made, early in 1979, which should get your spidey sense tingling: Those are homologation numbers. Weighing 1,720 pounds, it has a 1.4-liter dual-cam four, good for 95hp, and it qualified for Group 2 Rally. This is what a hot hatch really looks like.

Aguttes

1983 Aston-Martin Lagonda - Were there an algorithm for quantifying the most complicated car for its year, this would be the answer. For every year. The Lagonda cost well over £50,000 (roughly $240k in real money, inflation adjusted) when new and had a 5.3-liter DOHC V-8. Also, LED instrumentation, pushbutton controls and electrification of everything that could carry a current. Scary? Consider all of that was built by hand, in England, 32 years ago.

Aguttes

1975 Monica 560 - French rail baron Jean Tavestin called it Monica. He built it, naturally, at a rail yard. Like the English Jensen Interceptor, Tavestin went for a 5.6-liter Mopar V-8 (hence, “560”) and offered either a ZF five-speed manual or three-speed Torqueflite auto, with a patriotic De Dion rear end. Like most Frenchman, his timing was terrible: The market for hideously expensive gas-guzzlers shrunk during the Seventies OPEC gas crisis. He only built 22. Mercy.