This is, I think, the third time I’m showing the Tour Auto to you, Oppo. So I was a bit worried that everyone would be bored of it by now. But as soon as I walked in the Grand Palais, I knew it’d go just fine!

This place is so cool

If you haven’t heard of the Tour Auto, you can think of it like the French Mille Miglia: once a crazy race across France, it now is a historic rally. 230 cars drive all the way from Paris to Nice in some of the nicest classics around, provided their models actually took part in the original race, that ran from 1951 to 1973. It was getting pretty insane by the end, with cars coming straight from Le Mans to the French roads, which is in part why it ended. Think of it this way: we would be greatly amused to see a Le Mans Matra 650 howling ass right below our windows; I’m not sure that was the case for everyone in 1973, just as the first petrol crisis got to France.

Name the three first cars, get an internet point!

Nonetheless, it gave us an incredible diversity of cars to work with, over the span of those 22 years. A 2CV Type A entered the first edition, so now if you wish you can do it too. In fact, two of my colleagues did just that, and despite breaking down a number of times, they have reached Nice yesterday. With only 9hp on tap, and being bullied by Ford GT40s, I think that’s pretty brave!

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Like any historic rally, you don’t have to go for outright speed of course, you can go for regularity instead. But if you do wish to go for balls to the walls speed, be warned: you’ll be entering many special stages, a few tracks too, against stuff like a couple of GT40s, a Cobra Daytona, many, many 911s, or a Ligier. A Matra 650 was on the entrants’ list, but sadly never made the start. I was quite looking forward to that one, not gonna lie.

On the left, this isn’t a truck, but a tiny Renault 8. Think of how small that Jidé is...

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Ironically enough, a Lotus Elan bagged the outright win!

Anyway, because the event happens during the week and increasingly far from my Parisian job, I didn’t get to see them in action. Instead, I went for the next best thing, which is the inspection day. It happens under the art-deco roof of the Grand Palais, which might just be my favorite place in Paris, and is open to the public. 10,000 made the trip, which I find super impressive for a one-day event in the middle of notoriously car-hating Paris.

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So I got to gush over every car that took part in the race. And, even if quite a few of the cars are now regulars of the event, the diversity on display was quite impressive.

“Headlights are this way”

Sure, there were a lot of 911s, Alpines, Mustangs and Cobras. But look, I ain’t complaining. And looking at the rest, you’d have to be French since 233 generations to find a way to complain.

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From quirky French cars like CG, Jidé, Ligier, Matra, DB Bonnet and of course Alpine, to a tear-jerkingly beautiful Ferrari 250MM, including a bunch of rare Italians (the show was this year honoring discontinued Italian brands), I could have spent the whole day there.

This almost made me reconsider my favorite Ferrari ever, the 250 Sperimentale. Close second!

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Still faster than a 2CV! Much faster.
Quite surprised to find an NSU there! A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.
Batman should be rocking a Gitanes livery more often.

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Hnnnnng
Again, much, much faster than a 2CV!

And indeed I wish I had! Hopefully next year I’ll get to see them on the roads. And maybe the Matra 650 will be there too. In the meantime, I absolutely cannot wait for Le Mans Classic, the next big classic-car event here in France. A Matra should be there too, along with some Oppos from what I understand. Not sure what I’m more looking forward there!

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So, see you there possibly!

I now have an Instagram account, where I’ll be posting more from this wonderful event, and more. Feel free to follow me there:

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