Thursday, July 26, 2007

Citroen's Future Car Comes Of Age

The Citroen DS Convertible - craziness on wheels!For some time now I've been fascinated by the Citroen DS. Clarkson once remarked what a shame it is Citroen no longer make their trademark "crazy big cars" and I'm inclined to agree.

My boss in my first full time job after uni, an architect called Mark, was a DS nut. He didn't have one any more, preferring his new Alfa 166, but he had been through a string of them in his 20s and 30s and loved every second of it.

As family saloons go, they were pretty damned luxurious. They looked stunning too. They look even more stunning these days, now that all cars look the same. They remind me of a 1950s luxury jet on wheels - a look that continues right through the car, from the chrome ridge running up the centre of the bonnet to the enormous leather armchair with wrap-around headrest, which almost literally absorbs the driver.

I don't know what they're like to drive, but the air suspension is always good for a laugh and they had a wealth of fantastic little touches, such as headlamps that turn to point the way you are directing the car. (Great for the DS driver but a pretty ropey idea if you're the poor sod coming the other way on a right-hand bend!)

So, suffice it to say I'd rather like a Citroen DS. Annoyingly, just five years ago I could've picked one up for peanuts in any French town you'd care to mention. Not so any more. They are scarce enough and interesting enough to fetch the best part of €10,000 these days, for a decent later model. Still feasible, but no longer in the "cheap" stakes.

Which is why I got rather excited when I saw an immaculate red DS convertible (or Decapotable, as the French call it) in Rapallo at the weekend.

These days the Decapotable version is a very expensive car, as it seems Citroen only made about three of them. To give you an idea, the only one I could find for sale in the UK was a replica (a standard 1963 saloon with the roof chopped off by a good coachbuilder) and the dealer wanted £50,000 for it. They are, to coin a phrase, like hen's teeth. So it's hardly surprising the only place I've ever seen one is a stone's throw from Porto Fino, in Italy's millionaire's playground, on the Ligurian coast. The other two are probably in St. Tropez.

Sadly, I seemed to be the only one who noticed. Everyone else was too busy trying to stop my girlfriend's nephew from dropping his ice cream on the floor. Oh well. Their loss!

Friday, July 06, 2007

The new, new Fiat 500

The Zastava 750 - distinctly un-Croatian.So it has been launched. What started off as an industry rumour has ended up a finished product. According to Fiat CEO, Sergio Marchionne, "the new Fiat 500 will be the iPod of cars". I hope so. These relaunches of classic models have been a mixed affair. The new Mini is a fantastic little car, but then the new Volkswagen Beetle is dull and completely undeserving of the association.

I'll reserve judgement on the new 500 until I actually see one, but it can't be any worse than the last "Cinquecento" Fiat put out. I'm tempted to go to a dealer over the weekend and see if I can get a test drive - just for fun!

On a slightly different note, the photo in this post looks like a Fiat 600, right? Wrong! Apparently this is a Zastava 750 and my father took this photo in Croatia. It is a re-badged Fiat 600 and the "750" refers to the engine capacity, as the later models had 767cc engines.