– by John McCulloch

 
Rétromobile 2013 came in like a lamb. Quietly and modestly the show opened with no fanfare, just a brief announcement “Les portes sont ouvertes”.

Citroën too, had no “Official Opening” as in 2012. There was no Press Conference and no ribbon cutting. With such an inauspicious beginning my expectations were low. After ten years attending the show, I have seen it shrink in size, reduced in numbers of days open and lose visitors to other attractions.

But what is it that piques my interest and draws me back year after year? Simple: You can see here what you will not see anywhere else: ordinary cars, luxury cars, one offs, concept cars, cutaways, – even a steam engine (Hello! Larry Lewis)

I want to highlight three such cars: The Xanthia, the D Super découvrable and the 1984 Visa découvrable.
The red Xanthia (yes, with a “th”) is a concept car from the Conservatoire in Aulnay. It was first shown at the Paris Auto Show in 1986. The car is equipped with an 880cc AX engine sitting on an AX platform. Nominally the car has four seats: two front seats and two rear seats suitable for a pair of five year olds. The rear seats in this model are covered by a portion of the roof – which in the case of this car does not open. Fine place for a case of wine? The car shown here does not have any suspension and, according to my sources, would not have survived crash tests.

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The D Super découvrable by Henri Chapron is a one off. In this case, part of the roof retracts from the windshield to the top of the trunk. An edge of the roof remains intact, proving a groove to hold the windows in place and provide some stability to the car as a whole. This model was a special order car from the Marseillais paper the “Provençal” which allowed journalists to follow the different stages of the Tour de France. It struck me that for folks from Marseilles, much reputed for its strong Pastis liqueur, it would be a case of the topers watching the dopers.

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I immediately thought of the late John (Maz) Mazmanian when I saw this gorgeous 1984 Visa découvrable. This particular car was one of 2633 made during the ten year production of the Visa (1978 – 1988). The body was created by the chassis maker Heuliez and was first shown in 1983. The 5CV, as it was called, had a four cylinder inline 1124cc engine. The roof featured in this car is what makes it a découvrable and not a cabriolet or décapotable (both convertibles). A true cabriolet is open at the sides when the roof is retracted.

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This in a nutshell is why Rétromobile is such a good show.

 

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