The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

Charles de Gaulle said, "France cannot be France without greatness." France also cannot be France without a selection of the most delightfully weird cars ever made. Here are Jalopnik readers' choices for the most quintessentially French cars.

Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!

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The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

10.) 1955 Simca Week-End

Suggested By: Jonee

Why it matches with brie and Beaujolais: For cinephile Americans, France is the subject of an ongoing documentary series by Jean-Luc Godard. In Bande a Part, the three inept partners in crime and romantic entanglement get around in a car with just the right mix of Parisian rakishness and backwater clumsiness.

Photo Credit: Rialto Pictures/screenshot via celluloidclassics.wordpress.com

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

9.) Peugeot 205

Suggested By: Leadhead

Why it matches with brie and Beaujolais: Britain may have invented the hot hatch with the Mini, and Germany may have made it reasonable with the Golf/Rabbit GTI, but Peugeot sat down and subjected the idea to a deep existential inquiry and came up with a small, nimble, absurdly fun car that has deservedly earned cult status.

Photo Credit: Andrew Eaton

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

8.) Matra endurance racers

Suggested By: minardi

Why it matches with brie and Beaujolais: Racing in France isn't quite as pervasive as it is in Italy or England, but when they decide to do it they are deadly serious about it. A side project of a defense contractor, the Matras took back ownership of Le Mans in the early Seventies with speed, reliability, and one of the most nerve-tingling V-12 exhaust tones ever heard.

Photo Credit: oalfonso

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

7.) Renault 5 Turbo/Turbo 2

Suggested By: Baja Bug, hooning a Crown Vic for the week.

Why it goes with brie and Beaujolais: And sometimes those dominant racing cars come from more pedestrian roots. Alpine has made worldbeaters out of Renaults for decades, first independently then as a direct contractor for the Regie. The A110 may be classically beautiful, but the R5 Turbos are gleeful outrage, provocative street theater for rally stages.

Photo Credit: Matthieu Durand

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

6.) Delahaye 135m with Figoni et Falaschi coachwork

Suggested By: rawtoast

Why it goes with brie and Beaujolais: Before the war, grand routiers like Delage and Delahaye owned the autoroutes with their outlandish Art Deco style (often by design madhouse Figoni et Falaschi) and decadent fittings. They weren't terribly fast nor nimble, but that just made it all the easier for folks to admire them as they cruised through Cannes and Nice.

Photo Credit: Rex Gray

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

5.) Renault Avantime

Suggested By: Mikeado

Why it goes with brie and Beaujolais: Just when you thought the auto industry was all safely internationalized and homogenized in the early 2000s, along came this thing, this crazy pillarless half-GT/half-minivan Star Wars luxury cult car. It is a crime to think that something so audacious was a marketplace failure. We are reduced as a society because of that.

Photo Credit: harry_nl

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

4.) Citroën DS

Suggested By: DasWauto

Why it goes with brie and Beaujolais: The Goddess is to France as the E-Type is to England: a peculiarly pure strain of the national character grown to life size and wrapped in metal. The standard-bearer for a nation synonymous with luxury and style, the big hydropneumatic spaceship is still in many ways ahead of its time. A conceptual triumph.

Photo Credit: kenjonbro

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

3.) Citroën Traction Avant

Suggested By: TroyQueef

Why it goes with brie and Beaujolais: Before the DS came the Traction Avant, a car so ambitious that it would have been derided as a joke — if it hadn't worked. It worked fantastically well, basically setting the rules for others to follow: excellent ride, usually front-drive, technically advanced, and next-season's-couture stylish.

Photo Credit: FotoSleuth

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

2.) Citroën 2CV

Suggested By: Marimvibe, Queen of Scotch

Why it goes with brie and Beaujolais: Nothing else on Earth matches the Deux Cheveaux for sheer Gallic weirdness and panache. Originally intended as a replacement for draft animals and carts, the 2CV is a genius blend of high engineering (the amazingly resilient suspension) and rustic charm (windows that flop open, removable seats for roadside lounging). If it wasn't so absurdly slow it would be the best cheap car in the world, but that's part of the fun too.

Photo Credit: Ernst Moeksis

The Ten Most Quintessentially French Cars

1.) Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

Suggested By: skinnayyy

Why it goes with brie and Beaujolais: Ettore Bugatti was an arrogant, stubborn mechanical artist. His son Jean was a gifted stylist with rare senses of proportion and inspiration. Any Molshelm Bugatti is a majestic creation, but the Atlantic — all riveted alloy bodywork over race-proven mechanicals — approaches divinity. It is style, it is class, it is France.

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