Tuesday May 1, 2018
Put simply, a Euro-Barge is a large saloon of the 1950s and the 1960s that you might see in such fine pictures as From Russia with Love or Topkapi. These are my own favourites from either a Cold War drama or a world of sun shaded heroes speeding along the Autoroute towards the Mediterranean, with a Françoise Hardy song playing ion the soundtrack:
5) Opel Kapitän P1
In 1958 the P1 became the fifth incarnation of the Kapitän and in terms of Detroit-inspired looks and image it was the Opel equivalent of the Vauxhall PA Velox/Cresta. Opels were not officially sold in the UK until 1967 and so the British motorist was most likely to encounter this undeniably handsome 2.5 litre saloon lurking in the background of The Quiller Memorandum. The upmarket “L” had separate front seats while all versions came with a dashboard that resembled a jukebox ready to blare out At the Hop by Danny & The Juniors. Unfortunately, the styling was too radical for many of the marque’s customers and the P1 was succeeded in 1959 by the slightly more conservative looking P2.
4) Renault Frégate
The Frégate was launched in 1950 but after six years it was struggling for sales in the face of competition from the Citroen DS and the smaller Peugeot 403. In 1961 Renault replaced the A Frégate with Belgian-assembled Rambler Classic Six and they would not make their own large prestige car until the 30TS in 1975. Yet there was much to like about their 1950s flagship; the 2-Litre 4-cylinder engine could cope with France’s swingeing horsepower regulations but the coachwork was imposing - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_opDy01Kv4 - and it was well-appointed without looking like transport from a Gallic Arthur Daley. In 1958 Autocar found the flagship “Grand Pavois” fitted with optional semi-automatic “Transfluide” transmission to have ‘a very high standard of road-holding’. Alas, import duties meant that the Frégate would remain a rare sight in the UK although its lines were familiar as they continued in scaled-down form on the Dauphine.
3) Simca Vedette
If a Vedette looks like the French answer to the Zephyr/Zodiac Mk. I and Mk. II, the logical answer is that it was indeed the result of Simca’s acquisition of Ford of France’s operations. Between 1954 and 1961, the 2.5 litre V8 powered saloon appealed to Continental drivers who craved US-style glamour without incurring the fuel bills of an Antwerp-built Plymouth. A 1957 made the Vedette look even more trans-Atlantic, especially the decadent top-of-the-range Chambord, and one notable option for 1959 was “Rush-Matic” transmission. In theory, this allowed the driver to swap from automatic to manual changes at the flick of a switch – formidable!
2) Ford Taunus 17M P3
The brochure illustration not only coveys a day out of pipe-smoking, cravat-wearing and jolliness in general, it also emphasises that the P3 was a full six-seater. The distinctive bodywork with its lozenge-shaped headlamps was the creation of Uwe Bahnsen, who would subsequently style the Fiesta Mk. I and many other European Fords. Some 669,731 17Ms were made between 1960 and 1964 although UK -based enthusiasts stand more of a chance of seeing one in Funeral in Berlin than in the metal.
1) Fiat 2300
Ever since I saw the Peter Sellers vehicle After the Fox, which was shot largely on location in Italy in 1965, I have craved the Fiat 2300. The film was averagely entertaining (especially the scenes with Victor Mature) but the final reel chase was dominated by a handsome tail-finned saloon – in short, I was hooked. When it was launched in 1961, the 2300 was intended to appeal to both a Rome lawyer and a Connecticut business executive - ; indeed, its appearance combined the best of US design tropes with Dante Giacosa’s styling. Over its seven-year run a few were sold in the UK and even now the big Fiat evokes a discreet air of glamour.