The waltz continues its overdue retrospective sweep through 1987.
By the mid-80’s the Japanese car companies were beginning to really give the European car business the willies, with the UK’s Car magazine bewailing their advent in luridly melodramatic terms. With Honda’s existing midliner being Accorded viable 3-Series rivalry status, Minato-Tokyo prepared a fresh salvo into the hearts and minds of their European rivals with this third generation Prelude.
The roll of call of great French cars is almost the same as the roll call of French cars that have failed to generate anything but legends of unreliability and weirdness in North America.
The DS, the SM, the 604, the Renault 5 (known as “Le Car”) and the Peugeot 405. Yes, French cars have not been a great success in North America but a dedicated group of automobile enthusiasts still have a fascination for them.
Do French engines live up to that nation’s fine engineering heritage?
In Post War Europe, engines were restricted by reasonably arbitrary taxation classes. In Britain, the old ‘RAC Horsepower’ rating was based on an archaic formula that related to the bore only, not the stroke and didn’t actually refer to the actual output of the engine. Despite it being abolished in the late 1940s, it meant that the longer stroke engine, with its relatively low rev limit, lived on far longer in much loved stalwarts such as the Jaguar XK and BMC A Series and it did stem the development of lighter, freer running engines. Italy was less prescriptive and, although there were aberrations, like home market only 2 litre Ferraris and Alfas V6s, it allowed the development of the sweet engines found in the Alfas and Fiats of the 60s. The French tried to be more scientific, with a fiscal horsepower tax that brought in various factors but, generally, encouraged smaller engines of 4 cylinders and less. Thus, in a country that has a fine record in technical advances in motoring, engines struggled to keep up.