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Happy birthday!

Three historic marques celebrate in style…
Historic cars celebrating a ‘big birthday’ are often the centrepiece for classic car events in the UK, and French shows are no exception, with a special place often given to popular French cars. If your favourite model is from Citroën, Peugeot or Renault, there are plenty of celebrations in store this year. Why not time your trip to France in 2015 to coincide with one of these special events?


After the 80th anniversary of the Traction Avant in 2014, this year, it’s the turn of the DS to take the limelight, as it celebrates its 60th birthday. Launched at the Paris Motor Show that autumn, it created a sensation, and 80,000 cars were sold during the show. It went on to become President de Gaulle’s preferred car, in which he escaped an assassination attempt, and a class winner in the Monte Carlo Rally. As well as the saloon, the DS range included a cavernous estate with seats for seven, and a stylish – and now hugely expensive – cabriolet by Chapron.

Period publicity photograph for the Citroën DS. (Courtesy Marque DS)

The 32nd DS19 ever built, on show in March 2015 at the Avignon Motor Festival.

Interior of a 1970 DS Prestige. (Courtesy Marque DS/Peyrinet)

The ‘pièce de résistance’ for this year’s celebrations will come over the weekend of 23/24 May. On the Saturday, DS owners will converge on the historic Autodrome at Montlhéry, with the chance to drive on the banked track, buy spare parts, and maybe even a car at the auction that day. On Sunday – following the hugely successful event in 2005 – the DS cars will parade through the streets of Paris, before a picnic lunch and display in the gardens of the Tuileries. Full details of this stylish event are available (In French and English) at:

Citroën DS cabriolet on a parade lap at the Circuit des Remparts in Angoulême.

If you can’t get to Paris for this weekend, the DS will also be fêted at the Festival des Belles Mécaniques, on the legendary velodrome at Roubaix, on 27/28 June, and at Chantilly Arts & Élégance on 6 September. Both venues are an easy drive from Calais, and are fully described in chapter 5 of the guide.

Citroën DS21 in the snow during the Monte Carlo Historic Rally. (Courtesy Marque DS)

Whether you prefer the DS or another model from Citroën, the manufacturer’s own Conservatoire, just outside Paris, and the Citromuseum in Castellane, both have impressive permanent collections, which any lover of the make should try to visit at least once. Check the guide for more details.


Not one, but five anniversaries for Peugeot this year! The oldest model – the 402 – will be 80; the youngest – the 309 – a mere 30. In between come the 403, marking its 60th birthday, the front-wheel drive 204, which turns 50, and the 604, which was launched 40 years ago.

Peugeot 402 Limousine Familiale from 1937. (Courtesy Peugeot)

Peugeot 403 saloon and estate on display at L’Aventure Peugeot in Sochaux.

Styling sketch for the Peugeot 204 by Paul Bouvot. (Courtesy Peugeot)

Period publicity photograph for the Peugeot 604 STI. (Courtesy L‘Aventure Peugeot)

Peugeot fans are fortunate that the company has made the biggest investment of the big three French manufacturers in its heritage, with a splendid museum in Sochaux (in north-east France) open all year. Their key model anniversaries this year are celebrated there in a series of special displays until 15 June 2015: as well as the cars themselves, there are extra photos and videos from the period to enjoy. You’ll find more information about the museum on page 206 of the guide. You can also find out more about the Peugeot 309 at the CAAPY museum just outside Paris (presented on page 12 of the guide).

Peugeot 309 bodyshell and assembly line equipment, on show at the CAAPY museum in Poissy, where the model was built.

Peugeots of all generations are present at many of the major classic car shows throughout the year, and the company usually supports major displays at Rétromobile in Paris in February, and at Epoqu’Auto in Lyon in November. This year, several of the clubs have come together for a day of celebrations at the historic Autodrome at Montlhéry on 2 May: see for final details.


Over the past few decades Renault has built its reputation as a manufacturer of practical and innovative family cars, with transversely mounted engines and roomy hatchback bodies. It’s no surprise then that Renault’s major celebration this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Renault 16, which was launched in 1965. 200 cars – from the first models through to the fast and luxurious 16TX – are expected to gather at Renault’s own circuit, the Circuit Renault, near Vernon, west of Paris, on 16/17 May. Contact Jean-Paul Brunet, President of the Amicale Renault 16 ( or + 33 6 13 04 09 53) for more information, and see page 101 in the guide for details of the circuit.

Period publicity photograph for the Renault 16 range, from L to TX. (Courtesy Renault UK Limited)

Renault 16 2-door prototype, on show at Rétromobile in Paris in February 2015.

As well as the 16 range, look out this year too for its successor, the 20 and 30 models: introduced in 1975, the first cars are now coming up to 40 and are beginning to attract interest as ‘Youngtimers’.

Proud owners line up their Renault 20 and 30 models at the Youngtimers’ Festival at Montlhéry in April 2015.

I hope you’ll enjoy the video clips below, presenting the Renault 16 at launch in 1965 and explaining the brand-new, electronically controlled automatic transmission on the 16 TA four years later.

Renault 16 : film de présentation (1965) by challenges-auto

Renault 16 TA : fonctionnement de l'automatisme... by challenges-auto