Chromed Eyelashes And Fingernails Of Steel

Your erstwhile correspondent took a short trip to Grenoble recently and couldn’t resist making a report for your edification and delight.

Some semi-interesting things crossed my path while exploring Savoy, part of the western Alps. However, it surprised me that some I cars I expected to see did not turn up. I did my level best to keep my eyes peeled; despite my vigilance I only saw one XM, and a tatty one at that. To be fair, the large older car is scarce in Grenoble. You won’t be amazed that the only examples of such elderly vehicles wore Mercedes badges. Even BMW and Audi didn’t make the cut.

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The Vel Satis and 607 represented the last of the big French cars. The Renault proved, as ever, fiendishly hard to photograph. Did they ever sell this car in a lighter colour? They did but they are not in evidence.

Conversely, the 607s I saw were always metallic grey. It looks better as the years go by and I am becoming a stronger admirer of this vehicle. Though I did not photograph them, 406s could be seen on most streets or roving around. Given the car has been out of production for so long, this is a testament to its robustness and utility. I feel more and more certain it’s the W-123 of its era. I expect they will continue to be be in service for some considerable time.

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Only one Renault 21 showed up, this one (above) in a very sad condition. If you look inside you can see an old-school French modernist interior of considerable design integrity. The unusual single-stump mounting of the front seats makes for an additional sense of roominess inside the car. The seats don’t seem to sit on two runners but a kind of stalk. Why is that not done today?

The R21 hatchback design still looks to me like the afterthought that it was. It makes me wonder though why the first version was a saloon? Answer, because the 18 was a saloon. The R21 hatch has a whiff of the R16 – I might still prefer it to the saloon now I come to think of it.

In the world of smaller cars, Peugeot dominate Grenoble’s older car fleet. All of them were five doors versions of the Sacred Number. The Super 5 came a close second, with the red one (above) parked near the 1962 Tour Vercors, a semi-brutalist tower so advanced it looks like the architecture of the mid 1970s. The interior was beautifully fitted out, like a stylish hotel lobby but as a contribution to town planning it can only be called a disaster.

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We like Jimnys here and I present three images of them. The one with the cows is an affirmation of the car’s real world value. It is helping to move cows. It is not just out shopping. I have not seen a convertible before (that I can remember) and the beige one looked a treat in downtown Grenoble. That one probably is shopping. And why not?

This C6 is here because the car is parked between the two sets of barriers with about 5 cm at either end. It looks as if the car was pushed in sideways on a trolley rather than parallel parked. It is rather hard to estimate how long this parking operation would have taken.

What I did not see were any new Peugeot 508s. Not one. Something has gone wrong here, I think, as you’d have expected the car to be common enough by now, especially in the home market. When I got back to Denmark I noticed a new Skoda Superb on my street, looking rather imposing and opulent in gleaming black.

This is something like what I expected of a saloon like the 508 and it leads me to consider the possibility that the 508’s rather fussy design has not helped win new buyers and may have alienated those who admire Peugeot’s understatement. All in all though, Peugeot is for me a brand increasing in stature, on the strength of the durability of its older models and the quietly glamorous look of its bechromed current range.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

74 thoughts on “Chromed Eyelashes And Fingernails Of Steel”

    1. I actually like those type of challenges when parking. If there isn’t too much pressure, ie. angry motorists waiting for you to finish, I enjoy trying to get in tiny spaces. Fair enough I had a compact Honda Civic at the time but it’s all relative isn’t it ? It’s still challenging to park a small car in an almost equally small space. Once, I took my father to the doctor, dropped him off and went on to find a parking space. I parked with roughly the same amount of space left with C6 above, between 2 cars and not 2 trees, so the stakes were much higher here. I was so proud to have managed it but my dad never showed he was impressed when he came back 😦

    2. I wouldn’t think it took that long for C6 guy to park between the trees. He’s obviously someone who likes a parking challenge (or possibly desperate for parking space) and with the Honda Civic it was done in 6 or 7 maneuvers and 2 or 3 minutes top. I’am aware it sounds like bragging and you’re right, I’am.

    3. “If there isn’t too much pressure, ie. angry motorists waiting for you to finish”

      If I recognise the street correctly, it’s one of the worst places in this respect: a high-speed artery when it’s empty, chocabloc the rest of the time, with dual bus lanes and a few busy driveways connecting.

    4. Hi Jeroen,

      I won’t be testing my skills on that road then, thanks for the tip.

    5. In these rapidly changing automotive landscape its recomforting that the Espace, at least the nameplate, still exists. But for how long ?

      I like a lot of LeQuement’s work at Renault but to me, as interesting and avant-garde as the Vel Satis was, it never had the profile of a statutory saloon conveying power or luxury. Its excessive height didn’t really make for a graceful car in my opinion, it’s not like people with money are wearing top hats anymore. Doomed from the start. One thing I was enamored with were the small wooden squares on the passenger side of the dashboard. I think they were called Marqueterie or something like that.

      I agree that the 607 looks good. It’s aging quite well I think, shame it didn’t have bigger wheels.

      The 2-volume Renault 21 is a very special car for me because one of the very first car magazine I bought around 10 years old had the spyshots of this car and I was really fascinated at the transformation of the 3-volume Renault 21. This is when I learned about body-styles (2 or 3 volumes, etc…) I remember staring at a red 2-volume Renault 21 for ages every day, taking in the changes they’ve made. I already liked cars before setting my eyes on the 2-volume Renault 21 but it’s possibly the car that awoke my interest in car design, ironic when the car in question wasn’t a monument of design itself !

      A neighbour still has a red Supercing, the colour faded by succesive hot summers and scorching sun.It’s most often parked next to a gleaming red brand new Mercedes A-class and I like the way the Supercinq is still here, doing its job, unashamed.

    6. NRJ,

      PlQ deeply dislikes the Vel Satis. He and the design department fought hard for a production version of the 1995 Initiale concept car, but the board preferred the more MPV-like concept advocated by the product planning department, which eventually became the Vel Satis.

    1. I crossed the road to photograph it with bored daughter in tow. Even she was astonished at the tiny clearance between the bumpers and the metal barriers around the trees front and rear of the vehicle. I think it was not more than 5 cm. The car was positioned so it was in the middle of the gap; that means or implies the driver shuffled the car forward and back a very many times with, presumably an awful lot of steering. Eurgh.

    2. Another reading of the situation may be that the C6 has been parked there before the metal bars were installed. Chapeau to the owner (or the city of Grenoble) who still keeps it clean, it may have been boxed in there for years… (-:

    3. The « Monotrace » seats gave rise to another interesting issue.
      Given enough Gallic Grub, portly folk could, and indeed did, cause stress cracks in the platform adjacent to the runners.
      The amount of foie gras one needs to ingest gives rise to health problems before damage to ones soubaissement becomes cause for concern.
      Thanks for this post and the myriad responses. Makes me all nostalgic for the days before cars reflected the penile/puerile automotive fantasies of
      A generation weaned on The Fast and the Furious and Grand Theft Auto.
      L’ejaculation précoce en guise du design..

  1. Renault introduced their Monorail seats with the R9/11. These seats were running on one wide central runner instead of two lateral ones and were meant to provide space for rear seat passengers’ feet under the seats. They were abandoned because it was impossible to directly mount the seat belts to them which became standard industry practice for safety reasons.

    1. The R25 can only be called a masterpiece. I love that vehicle. It still retains freshness all these years later, just like the Audis of the same period. I can´t see why it did not have a bigger impact. The top spec versions balanced plush and modern very well. As I reported here some years back, they were also a pleasure to drive. The R21 seems cruder in many ways when it could have been a smaller, as nice interpretation of the same tropes.

  2. That’s a fascinating selection of vehicles, Richard, some expected, others rather less so.

    I agree that the Renault 21 hatchback isn’t quite right. The tail is too short and there’s a slight but noticeable uptick in the window line under the rear quarter window. That, the window’s rounded trailing edge, and the similarly rounded leading edge of the rear light unit where it cuts into the rear wing are all somewhat at odds with the rigidly geometric styling elsewhere. The rear quarter window and rear light treatment on the saloon was rather more harmonious:

    The driver of the C6 has demonstrated admirable skill (assuming that Richard and his daughter carefully inspected the bumpers for scars!) but I would never risk such parking between two other vehicles. You’re exposing your pride and joy to the unknowable skill and patience of the two other drivers, should they return before you!

    1. It´s the radius on the trailing corner of the sideglass that jars. The new metal is more rounded than the carry-over. The side profile you show gives the R21 an almost Audi-like clarity. In the metal they did not look so sharp but rather banal. I do the like the way the rear door´s trailing edge forms part of the wheel cut-out. Very Opel.

    2. The relatively poor job Renault made of the 21 five-door is all the more surprising given the highly accomplished and elegant design of the 25 just a few years earlier:

      That wraparound rear window might not be the most practical from a load carrying perspective, but that’s what the 21 estate was for.

    3. Hi Daniel,

      The Baccaras were quite special. I was especially fond of the 5 Baccara. That whole Havana brown atmosphere was quite something. The 25 had a leather soft suitcase underneath the hatch to stack your 1988 power suits and conquer The City, La Defense or Wall St

    4. Hi NRJ, that suitcase is a neat idea. The brown/tan interior makes such a refreshing change from the ubiquitous black and dark grey. The pale grey is not to my taste however. It puts me in mind of cheap slip-on shoes!

  3. I’m happy to see a piece about Grenoble. Though I’ve lived there for three years, I’ve got only little wisdom to share about its car landscape. The tag line is that the locals’ drives are mostly a) rugged, b) small, c) estate, often French but not overwhelmingly so.

    Clio II and Peugeot 306, 206, and 106 are still common as well as any variant of Megane I. There’s very little over that size, and almost nothing Citroen and/or saloon. (Where have all the XM, BX and CX gone?) As to more recent French cars, I think the Dacia Logan estate won the most hearts there.

    The Peugeot 508 is a rare sighting. Fair enough, saloons are generally unpopular in that part of France. But the few ones around are either opulently-specced Renault Talisman or anything German. There might be a prestige factor involved too.

    More exotic cars are found in multistory car parks in the center. I remember several Mercedes W123 and W126, a red 1990 Toyota MR2 in superb condition, Audi V8, small Japanese 4×4 and much more. Once, the very rare event of a box garage door opening revealed a Citroen Traction Avant and an H Van (the latter now ubiquitous in coastal towns).

    Finally, I should point out that the average size of parking spots in town is so small that a Citroen C6 just has to be parked in the street like that. Or, like a neighbour’s Land Rover 110, diagonally between bollards.

    1. Grenoble is cracking. I found an amazing chocolatier on the street near the rail station. They had hand-made jellies and the local nut cake. Plus nougat. It was still 1978 inside that shop. The graffiti problem is serious and sad. Nothing is spared the spray can.

    2. I know what you mean by “it was still 1978”. It’s definitely one of the charms of Grenoble. I also agree on graffiti, though some of the large-scale, council-sponsored paintings at least manage to hide some truly ugly pieces of architecture.
      Funnily enough, the aforementioned garage door sports a very glitzy paintwork as a part of a huge graffiti that straddles the whole building.

    3. The R25 can only be called a masterpiece. I love that vehicle. It still retains freshness all these years later, just like the Audis of the same period. I can´t see why it did not have a bigger impact. The top spec versions balanced plush and modern very well. As I reported here some years back, they were also a pleasure to drive. The R21 seems cruder in many ways when it could have been a smaller, as nice interpretation of the same tropes.

  4. You didn’t see a single XM but you can’t have seen many 605’s or R25’s either…

    As for the new 508, I think I only saw one last time I was in France (in September) so I guess the delivery has only just started. There are dozens of the outgoing model wherever you go.

    Finally, is Savoie really spelt ‘Savoy’ in English?

    1. No, there were zero 605s and no R25s either. I might have expected to see one or two of the Peugeot´s but expected no R25s. Yes, Savoy is the English version of the name.

  5. Thanks Richard for the atmospheric and enjoyable piece. The car that really pops for me is the Renault 5. It was such an iconic and lovely shape, I would argue close to the equal of the first Golf, but with an added dose of Gallic flair. And yet its story ended there. I think where the Germans have really nailed the French – automotively speaking – is by building incrementally on a design template and nameplate over successive generations, to the point where Polo, Golf and Passat are iconic global brands even without the VW logo.

    Imagine if the French had built on the Renault 5 or Peugeot 205 in the same reverent way the Germans did – and how much stronger their brands would be today as a result. The just launched blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Clio update looks like Renault may be giving iterative incrementalism more serious consideration. Just 30 years too late because I would like to see a 2019 interpretation of the Renault 5…

  6. The Vel Satis is a very weird car. I have been in the backseat of a top of the line model once as my old neighbors used to have one. It was a light blue Initiale 3.5 V6. Despite the engine size it was quite sluggish. The gearbox certainly didn’t help either. Also the suspension of the car was one of the worst I’ve ever encountered: unexpectedly harsh on short bumps and too floaty on the longer stuff. It wasn’t a sales success either, still they managed to shift more than the C6, which I’m rather fond of, despite it’s many shortcomings.

    I actually stumbled upon a blue 607 today. Didn’t care for it when it was new and it hasn’t grown on me I’m afraid. I took a photo, but how do I post that here?

    If I remember correctly the seatbelt buckles on the Renault 21 were a disaster. They were mounted fixed in place between the seats on a U shaped piece of metal. It looked cheap and nasty and made wearing a seatbelt extremely uncomfortable.

    I quite like the R5, 205 and AX, though. They sold by the bucketload here in the Netherlands, but I don’t see much of those anymore.

    1. Hi Freerk. To post a photo on DTW you need to use an image hosting app or website, such as Imgur. Here’s how:

      1. Download the Imgur app or go to http://www.imgur.com

      2. Select the photo you want to display

      3. Post or upload the photo.

      4. Copy the URL of the posted/uploaded photo.

      5. Paste the URL into your comment

      6. When you post your comment, the photo should display within the post.

      Hope this is helpful. Let me know if you’ve any difficulties and I’ll try and help further.

    1. …..And using the ‘0’ of 607 to hide the button to open the bootlid as with other Peugeot models was nice, although I think it could have been done in a better way: when you looked closely the button was obvious inside the ‘0’.

    2. That picture is from the Pescarolo Concept car. I think it could have made a good template for a midlife restyling although I suspect the cost of such a transformation would be too high for a simple facelift. The wheel arches are the back were more pronounced, it looked more Germanic in my opinion.

    3. And I cannot resist posting again this advert for the 607 which is one of my favourite ads ever. I added a second advert where the theme of the Lion roaming the street is reprised. This time, people can feel the 607 coming and become animals themselves for a brief time (complete with animal noise)

    4. Good morning, NRJ. I hadn’t been aware of the Pescarolo 607 concept before. It really does look nicely muscular, thanks to those more voluptuous wheel arches.

      I like the TV ad too, although my all time Peugeot favourite is the one for the 406 with the M People soundtrack:

      Pure tosh, of course, but brilliant! In a similar vein, there’s this for Skoda:

      Amazing vocals, great song!

    5. Hi Daniel,

      Yes, we spoke about the 406 advert before. I didn’t know the Skoda one. It’s quite a novel concept for a car ad to have a whole song dedicated to a model or brand. The lyrics do play on the underdog image of Skoda 😀

    6. Yes, unusual, and deeply ironic: Skoda certainly was making its own kind of music back in the days of the Yeti and Roomster, but this song was used to promote the Kodiaq…

      I’m not (quite) old enough to remember the Mamas and Papas original when it was first released, but I think Paloma Faith does the song full justice.

    7. The Pescarolo was an official Peugeot concept- car, not a transformation by a tuner. I would hazard that it was commissioned to replicate to Renault’s own Safrane bi-turbo but as often with Peugeot, nothing came out of it.

    1. Nice work, Freerk. I was just about to suggest that, but you beat me to it!

      The 607 has aged well. Only the slightly too short wheelbase militates against it.

  7. There’s a guy half a mile or so away from where I live who has replaced his two Safranes with two Vel Satis, brave chap. They are both dark coloured, but I have just stumbled across this pale one for sale on Autotrader, which is pretty unusual as Richard observed. Try as hard as I might I can’t say it’s a thing of beauty in my eyes. I much prefer the 25. Let’s see if this photo posting lark works…

    1. Agreed – the VelSatis is not as obviously lovely as the R25. It is more of a car that satisfies intellectually. Most clearly it´s packaging-led, hence the odd shape. Within that framwork, I like it very much, especially the superb interior. The r25 had that base covered as well, admittedly.

    2. Noooo!!! Don’t do it, Richard. Adrian is trying to lead you astray.

  8. An amazingly warm article that embraces the scarce but delightful carchitectural approach.

    607’s virtues do appear more obvious nowadays, when it turned into
    a relatively low-slung and elegant car, when viewed among
    the behemoths of current-crop SUVs and elevated/elongated
    ‘conventional segment’ vehicular templates.

    Nevertheless, its main three visual drawbacks remain, and are still noticable. As a paradox, it’s actually impressive how it manages to look that good
    with those three obvious imperfections blemishing its profile:

    – comically long overhangs (or too-short a wheelbase, as Daniel refers to)
    – A-pillar angle aiming well in front of front axle
    – a particularly short, and hence displeasing to look at, distance from back of front wheelarch to leading edge of front door.

    I can just conclude that the combination of very prominently radiused sides, with that delectable DLO & doors’ proportioning, still manages to pull
    the trick and overcome the above massively debilitating drawbacks.

    One thing cannot be denied to the 607: bags of visual character.

    R25, for example, similarly suffers of an overly long front overhang. It is, however:
    1. authentically justified (inevitable due to drivetrain layout), and
    2. majestically balanced within the visual weight distribution, with that chunky (but still well contained) rear end – there are some musical-grade maths going on in the way how the surface area of the rear wings rhyme with their counterparts of the front wing, front door and rear door. Opron magic.

    Safrane is the king of them all when it comes to styling conveying ride comfort messages. Whilst it is not the most pleasing shape to look at (except the tantalising Bi-Turbo with its subtle but stately bodykit), it’s a masterpiece
    of convincing the observer of its perceived comfort qualities. A stress-removal visual exercise, if you will. It just yells a relatable promise of guilty cocooning and iconoclastic eroticism. Not unlike meeting a lady that’s without particularly prominent bodily features, that you simply know will be dangerously addictive to accompany in a closer setting.

    Modern, Peugeot-era Citroens were never able to convey such a furniture-grade-comfort-level-promising message in their styling. Their visual language was just too futuristic, too meta-human for that.

    The Saf’s styling will probably never be equalled when it comes to the notion
    of disturbingly accomodating, easy sensuality language it was
    so disarmingly fluent at.

    1. I don’t know if you are really serious about the Safrane, or if it’s a satirical statement. It’s certainly a very calming and comforting design – absolutely too much so, I would say. There is nothing for the eye to hold on to, no edges, no tension in the proportions, and also none of the rhythm you so delightfully describe on the Renault 25. The facelift does it no favour, either. The rear side is contrived just for the sake of difference, whereas the front tries to appear more stately, but just turns to utterly conventional.
      What makes it even worse, the cars seem to age very badly. I don’t know if this is a matter of build or material quality or just due to the fact that it was completely worthless after a few years and then left to last-hand owners who used them up without any care or repair.

      I’d rather have some futurism, thanks!

    2. Alex: although it´s only 10 o´clock, that´s the post of the day (I read it today).
      This bit: “R25, for example, similarly suffers of an overly long front overhang. It is, however:
      1. authentically justified (inevitable due to drivetrain layout), and
      2. majestically balanced within the visual weight distribution, with that chunky (but still well contained) rear end – there are some musical-grade maths going on in the way how the surface area of the rear wings rhyme with their counterparts of the front wing, front door and rear door. Opron magic.”
      is especially delightful to read.
      You are also right about the trick the 607 pulls off. It ought not to work but it does most certainly. I really enjoy gazing at 607s. I have reservations about the centre stack but I could live with that. The boot and rear window is a little bit of poetry. Look at the third generation Mondeo saloon and see if you spot the resonance.
      It´s lovely you can garner so much enjoyment from the Safrane. At the time it didn´t do anything for me. Today its merits are largely in relation to the other dross offered. I wouldn´t mind having one if I had to. However, other vehicles in the same class charm me more: Opel´s Omega Mk2 is a neglected masterpiece; the Kappa luxuriates in understatement; the 607 (see above) and maybe the C6 (though later).

  9. Hi Simon. If you want futurism in your large Renaults, this might appeal:

    This was, I believe, a 1987 proposal for a replacement for the 25. The unpainted bumpers look a bit austere, but it’s certainly more distinctive than the bland Safrane that did reach production.

    1. Thanks Daniel I don’t think I’ve seen this before. It’s actually a design much to my liking: long, stretched silhouette, simple surfaces, no adornments, no pseudo-prestige grilles. Does anyone else see some Opel Omega around the rear wheelarch? (especially visible in the top picture)
      As a 25 replacement, it’s maybe a bit too evolutionary, much as Renault does it today with the Zoe or Clio.

    2. Indeed: Opel Omega “A” in the overall surface treatment. We should all take another look at the Omega “A” because it´s still as fresh as glass of chilled Perrier on a cold day in Chamonix. The 1987 car shown here, though, is derivative of the R25 and not especially rich in new concepts. They must have been low on inspiration around this time.

    3. Yes, there’s definitely a resemblance to the 1986 Opel Omega A. Both this and the Omega are clearly “Aero” designs, following the style set by the 1982 Audi 100 C3.

      The production Safrane resembled nothing more than an XXL Citroen Xsara, both being equally bland and so similar that they could easily have come from the same manufacturer:

      They were contemporaries and represented something of a low point for French automotive design.

    4. Einstein is alleged to have said that when he died and met God in heaven, he´d ask him about fluid dynamics. In my view that´s a pretty good question having pondered the topic in the early 1990s. If I arrive at a similar position to Einstein, one of my questions will be about why Citroen designed the Xsara and Mk 1 C5 the way they did. In comparison, the Safrane is quite intelligible, as bland as it is.

    5. Good evening, Richard. I think you are being rather beastly to the poor Citröen Xsara by equating it in any way to the execrable C5 Mk1. The Xsara and Safrane’s offence against automotive design is the same, and more of a misdemeanour, really: both are bland in the extreme. The C5’s crime, however, is of a different order, and should properly be tried at The Hague.

      Despite its extensive coverage of all things Citröen, DTW has almost completely ignored the C5. Only Eóin had a sufficiently strong stomach to tackle it, and then only to address its misbegotten and futile facelift:

      https://driventowrite.com/2014/07/14/citroen-c5-facelift-design-review/

      Notwithstanding the fact that Citröen was deep in its “cars as white-goods” design phase when the C5 was launched, I find it impossible to believe that anybody could have stood back, looked at the prototype and said “Oui, c’est bien.” I mean, just look at it!

      Its litany of faults is extensive: the extreme FWD stance with the huge front overhang and minimal gap between front wheel arch and front door leading edge shut line; the vague and half-hearted “coke bottle” curve to the lower DLO line, juxtaposed uncomfortably against a straight bodyside crease; the strange curvature of the C-pillar and rear screen.

    6. Around the back, the C5’s troubles continue:

      The shape of the rear light units, both the straight inboard edge and (especially) the oddly curved outboard edge, gives the impression that the car is widest at the level of the door handles. This is an unfortunate optical illusion, as can be seen from the facelifted rear end:

      Actually, the facelift was fine, or at least as good as was possible in the circumstances. As the Englishman who was lost deep in rural Ireland was told when he stopped to ask directions to his destination, “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.”

    7. Daniel: yes, it´s a criminal lump of design sluddge. Cumberford noted that the widest point of the car was ahead of the mirror, above the front wheel. That is correctly spotted and awful. I can not grasp how this theme was chosen. I still loathe this car intensely. It is sui generis is a miserable way. One day I´ll get an answer about its gestation.

    8. Being a bit of a sucker for lost causes, I thought I’d play with the C5 to see how it might have been:

      The changes are limited to a proper “fastback” tail and the deletion of the body side crease. Quite a difference, don’t you think?

    9. While your messing about in the Photoshop sandbox, you might consider taking 1% or 2% off the car above the waistline. You have improved the proportions; the detailing (and that undulose waistline) are still off. And the headlamps are awful along with the tail lamps. It is a car with no corporate identity of any kind; if you were launching a new brand and had some feeble designers the C5 is a plausible result.

    10. Here’s a further adjustment, to increase the wheelbase and reduce the front overhang:

      And the image above with the DLO lower edge straightened out:

      I’ll attend to the lights next.

    11. Those versions are nice to see and improve the car yet are still end up only polishing the turd.
      The C5 had, to its credit, a good package. Killing it was the poor surface treatment. Adjusting the proportions ruins the package and only mitigates the vague, couldn´t-care-less theme applied to the package.
      The more work you do on this the more the shining mediocrity of the surfacing and graphics and detailing of this thoroughly disappointing car become clear.

    12. More wraparound to the lights, to emphasise width from the front and back:

      Thank you and goodnight!

    13. Good work. It now has the deep glass house of something I might have done in 1999. I think Daniel has demonstrated the unworkability of the basic theme. That in itself if a valuable discovery. Night night!

    14. Daniel, you’re a brave man, working on such a lost cause…

      Many good things we see here, but I agree with Richard, it will never turn into a beauty. I’m absolutely for increasing the wheelbase, but I’d rather have done it at the back and instead taken optical weight out of the front (especially the lower bumper) to give it a more Citroën-like stance. This way it looks very RWD, which is fine for most saloons, but totally wrong on a large Citroën.

      The fastback is great, by the way, it’s what it should have had instead of this thing that’s neither fast nor notch. The Xantia had something vaguely similar, but executed in a much more convincing fashion, and I don’t mind it there. I found it funny by the way when Citroën launched the C6 – they now had a car with notchback and hatch and another one with fastback and a small bootlid. Quite counterintuitive if you ask me. Alas, they corrected it to the wrong side with the second C5.

      Regarding the wavy waistline: could it echo the kinks we have seen on the XM and (in softer form) on the Xantia? They might have included this as a reference, although in such a diluted and undecided manner that it’s hardly recognisable (like everything on that car). Man, I really hated Citroën when they presented this lump. There were always some conspiracy theories around that Peugeot didn’t allow Citroën to become too good and too attractive in order to keep a good distance to Peugeot-brand’s sales, and at this time there were good reasons to believe that.

    15. Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for these photoshop masterpieces.

      Let’s not forget that a long front overhang was a Citroën signature for a long time. It isn’t the standard of beauty admittedly but that’s the way a lot of Citroëns were back then.

    16. Here’s my last bit of C5 tomfoolery:

      This one has standard wheelbase, fastback rear, straightened lower DLO and slightly lowered roof. Would it have made a nice alternative-reality successor to the CX?

    17. Hi Daniel,

      That last C5 alteration you’ve made is not bad actually. It reminded me of a car but I couldn’t put my name on it but I just realised it was the Nissan Primera III, a bit dolphin-like.

  10. Thanks for your comments, all. I never set out to create an automotive icon from the C5, but merely to show that it didn’t have to be so repellent. The most effective single change was the fastback tail. That, and different light units front and rear, would have meant that it would only be regarded as bland, like the Xsara and Safrane. These would have been zero-cost modifications at the early design stage, as would straightening the DLO line and losing the bodyside crease. None of these changes would have affected its practicality or “Citröen-ness” at all. In fact, the fastback tail is far more a Citröen design trope than the weirdness they cooked up for the C5.

    The change in the wheelbase is just a bit of kite-flying on my part, and would have required major engineering changes, or simply been unviable with the transverse FWD layout.

    1. Jacques Calvet has a lot to answer for the state of Citroen back then. He was notoriously stingy and in my opinion had a really backward way of thinking, very “Old France”. The C5 I was probably his idea of a “serious” (read ‘non-weird’) Citroën that would’ve been able to tackle the Germans at their own (conservative) game. I think it came at at time when Citroën really wanted to move away from the overtly weird design solutions they were famous for. For all the love you witness for old Citroëns on the Internet and on websites like DTW, I think a lot of people, in France at least, were repelled by Citroen’s weirdness by the late 80’s, coupled with a bad reputation quality-wise and most people around me then would not touch a Citroën with a 10f barge pole.

      I think it wasn’t so much the 2CV which was on sale for decades that eroded their appeal. In my opinion cars like the Visa, the Ami 6 and 8, the Dyane, possibly the GS really weirded out people and as much as they were original, interesting designs in themselves they did look particularly fragile and strangely put together somehow. These cars, in my opinion, sealed a reputation for weird, “crap” Citroëns that tarnished their appeal and I think the “clean” approach of the C5 I (as in no outrageous lines and strange gimmicks) was to try to move the Brand away from these polarising products. As much as I understand the sentiment behind that move it could’ve perhaps be handled better by Calvet and his team.

      At least the arrival of Ploué gave a new lease of life to Citroën’s design after those bland years.

    2. With the Mk2 C5, Citröen really was playing up its “Germanic” qualities:

      I thought it was actually quite a good looking car:

      Of course, nobody really wanted a slightly dull “German” car without the perceived build quality and reliabity of the real thing.

    3. The C5 Mk2 in no way looked German. Did they really think this? I presume this awful tagline was for the UK market only. And I should admit that though it has taken me a decade, I can see bits of the CX and GS in the C5 Mk2. I wish it was more tidily detailed. Does anyone know if it was any good as a drive? I don´t recall very many reviews and the same went for the 407.

    4. The first thought crossing my mind whenever I see that second-generation C5 is ‘Domagoj Dukec’, as the man likely to become to BMW what Gorden Wagener is to Mercedes was that car’s exterior designer, in a more innocent age.

    5. I have very limited experience of driving this generation C5. One thing that sticks in my mind is how spec-sensitive it seems to be. When I was looking out for a C6, I also considered a C5 as an alternative, and I drove two used estates. Both were high spec, light-coloured interior and with hydropneumatic suspension, one of them with the 3 litre diesel unit. They were quite close to the C6 in road comfort, just a bit less quiet and not exactly as floating. The interior felt much less airy and roomy, though. Both drives were quite short, though, as they both seemed to have been smoker’s cars, and I didn’t want to buy such a smelly car.

      A courtesy car I once had provided a completely different experience: this time it was a rather basic model, conventional suspension and completely black inside. This car, although still very comfortable in its road manners, felt bland and unengaging. Talk about ‘cars as white goods’ here. It was like a Passat lacking the cool perfection in execution and about 10 cm of rear legroom. The cramped rear seats do not justivy the huge outer dimensions of that car at all. The only good point was that it actually felt really nimble in comparison to the C6, although the dimensional differences are almost negligible.

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