Drive Guide Guru Blog

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Four years … and counting

Drive Guide is now in its fourth successive season and continues to bring you a personal selection of the top places for car enthusiasts to visit in France.
Drive Guide is now in its fourth successive season and continues to bring you a personal selection of the top places for car enthusiasts to visit in France. With your support, in 2017 the guide was re-launched in a new, fully revised edition, available as a paperback and eBook; for the first time, the guide was also published in French (as France : Guide touristique des passionnés automobile) by Veloce’s partner, ETAI.

The French edition of the guide – new in 2017.

On this website you’ll find an event calendar, showing exact dates for this year’s shows, together with an updated set of downloadable files containing all the addresses of the venues in the guide, ready for you to download to your satnav as ‘Points of Interest’ or view on Google Maps.

I continue to attend many of the major shows and historic motorsport events throughout the country, helping out at some of them as a bilingual commentator or concours judge.

Commentating at the Circuit Historique de Laon in May 2017. (Courtesy Annemieke Dekkers)

What’s new in 2018?

Top of the bill in 2018: Formula 1 returns to France!

More importantly than all this though, the classic car movement in France goes from strength to strength. Despite ever more stringent speed checks and restrictions on access to many major cities, there are still plenty of events to enjoy and places for the enthusiast to discover.

Last year, Classic Days held its tenth edition at Magny-Cours, while the Musée Automobile de Vendée marked its fiftieth anniversary. New museums opened at Châtillon-Coligny (the Auto Sport Museum – devoted to post-war sports cars) and at the Circuit de Comminges at Saint-Gaudens in the south.

Locomotion en fête, a splendid celebration of vehicles and machinery of all types, made a welcome return, to a new venue at the Villaroche airfield outside Melun.

The new Auto Sport Museum has a hall devoted to English sports cars.

Mercedes-Benz troop transporter from World War II, seen in action at Locomotion en fête in 2017.

For lovers of historic motorsport, Les Grandes Heures Automobiles really hit its stride on the famous banked track at Montlhéry, while further south, a change of organisers brought high-quality racing back to the streets of Angoulême for the Circuit des Remparts. News is just in too that Michelin is opening up its proving ground at Ladoux in the Auvergne for clubs to use for track days.

Track action at Montlhéry during Les Grandes Heures Automobiles last September.

Bugattis line up for the start of the Marc Nicolosi tribute race at Angoulême in 2017.

Aerial view of Michelin’s proving grounds at Ladoux. (Ccourtesy Michelin)

All these are set to continue in 2018, but there are plenty more new events to look forward to as well. The biggest of all, of course, is the return of Formula 1 after an absence of eight years, when the French Grand Prix takes place once again, this time at the Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet from 21- 24 June. If you prefer historic racing action, 2018 will see the latest edition of Le Mans Classic from 6-8 July. Also held in even years are the 48 Heures Européennes in Troyes (this year from 1-9 September) and, of course, the Paris Motor Show, which starts on 4 October 2018 and celebrates its 120th anniversary, no less!

The unmistakable markings of the Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet. (Courtesy Circuit Paul Ricard)

Alpine M63 on track at Le Mans in 1965. (Courtesy Alpine)

1937 Peugeot 402 Eclipse shown at Troyes in 2016.

BMW X2 displayed as a concept car at the Paris Motor Show in 2016 and now on sale.

Many of France’s regional cities are now starting up their own classic car shows: after Dijon and Nantes, there are shows taking place for the first time in Strasbourg and Mulhouse, the latter taking over from the former Festival automobile held there: why not combine one of these shows with a visit to the car museums at Mulhouse or Sochaux?

Reconstruction of a 1960s Total service station at the Auto Rétro Dijon show in 2017

Closer to the Channel ports, the Club de l’Auto – which already organises top-flight rallies and concours d’élégance in Deauville and Granville – has added a new event to its calendar this year, taking participants in pre-1970 cars from Enghien-les-Bains outside Paris to the coast at Le Touquet from 28-30 September.

Modern classics from the 1980s and 1990s – known here as ‘Youngtimers’ – are increasingly popular and will have a new show all to themselves this year: from 29 June to 1 July, the first Youngtimers International show will be held at the Circuits du Val de Loire in central France.

Classics of all ages, however, are encouraged to take to the roads on 29 April, when the FFVE is organising its second Journée nationale des véhicules d’époque, inspired by the ‘Drive It Day’ held in the UK for many years. If you have a classic, why not join in – no registration is needed!

Coming soon ... the first Youngtimers International gathering at the Circuits du Val de Loire

Mark the date for France’s ‘Drive It Day’!

Taking their leave

Inevitably, as new events pick up speed, some familiar places have closed down. In Paris, high rents have forced some of the manufacturers to give up their prestigious showrooms on the Champs-Élysées: at the end of 2017 Citroën, Mercedes and Toyota all moved out. But you can still enjoy visits to the showrooms of BMW, Peugeot, Renault and the Fiat Group, all of which hold a variety of temporary exhibitions through the year.

Celebrate the Venice Carnival At Fiat’s Motor Village on the Champs-Elysées until 3 April. (Courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

Away from the capital, financial difficulties also caused the museum Le garage de mon père in Laon (in Picardy) to close. Saddest of all, however, was the closure of the Musée de Sanxet in south-west France, after the owner’s wife was killed in a tragic accident during the Tunis Grand Prix.

Elsewhere, some event organisers have revised their programmes. West of Paris, for example, Les Anciennes en Vallée de l’Eure now holds an informal monthly gathering rather than a single annual show.

Finally, don’t forget that you can follow news from the classic car scene in France throughout the year on Drive Guide’s Facebook page.