Why french cars?
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Thread: Why french cars?

  1. #1
    Tadpole Leeroy69's Avatar
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    Default Why french cars?

    Hi there everyone,

    I'm new to the forum so my apologies if this has been discussed before.

    Anyway, after 20 years of driving, and a long list of relatively unremarkable cars (mostly hotted up pre '85 commodores), I have bought my first french car. A '98 Peugeot 306 1.8 16v manual. While this is the first frenchie I've bought myself, it's far from the first I've driven, and it's re ignited my passion for these "wierd" vehicles. This passion has led me to this forum, and reading through threads on this forum has got me thinking. What is it that draws some of us aussies towards french cars? Why do you drive, and love, these strange, expensive to maintain, and often difficult to work on, vehicles? For me, unfortunately, it's hereditary!

    Way back before I existed, my father had all of his hair. He also at one point was looking to buy himself a brand new car. The story, as I remember it, goes that he was tossing up between a 253 powered HG Premier with a 4 on the floor, and a Renault 16TS. He ended up choosing the R16 as it was nicer to drive, had roughly the same 1/4 mile time, and could corner an easy 10mph faster than the Holden. What followed was a succession of 16TS' s with a CitroŽn ID19 thrown in somewhere, then a Peugeot 504 sedan. There was also an R16 that was being built for dirt circuit speedway racing, but in 1980 I came along and put an end to that nonsense (something I can relate to now, being a father myself)!
    Somewhere around 1982 an 8 year old CitroŽn GS 1220 Club wagon was purchased as the young family's second vehicle. At some point the 504 was replaced by a 505, then the 505 was replaced by a '74 CitroŽn DSpecial. Come 1990 the family was expanding again so a third vehicle was purchased, a 7 seater Peugeot 504 wagon. My childhood was filled with trips throughout the South Australian countryside in these cars, including one memorable weekend in the Flinders Ranges. Due to a last minute mechanical issue the 504 wagon had to be replaced with the GS. During the night while staying at Rawnsley Park Station there was a bit of rain, and come the morning the (usually dry) creek that crosses the only track in and out was flooded. The water was high enough that there was a bit of a lineup of cars and 4WDs with drivers standing around, scratching their heads, wondering how they were gonna cross. Along comes our little CitroŽn which casually cruises up to the crossing, hesitates for a minute while the hydropneumatics do their thing and raise the car up to a comical height, then bounces across the rocky creek crossing without batting an eyelid! I can still remember the amused faces of the stranded 4WD owners!
    By '96 I had my learners permit and my father taught me to drive in both the 504 wagon (known by my mates as 'the hearse') and the GS. Best thing about learning in a GS? It teaches you how to change gear very smoothly! I had a great time cruising around in this little beast, teaching myself how to rev match on downshifts, though trying to master the heel and toe technique in a GS can be dangerous!!!
    Soon after I had gained my P Plates the 504 had been traded in for a Renault 25, then a Renault 20 was added to the fleet. Sadly both were auto's as my mother had injured her back and could no longer drive a manual. Oh how I loved that R25! A teenage, testosterone filled me did many extremely fast, extremely illegal blasts through the twisty Adelaide hills roads in that car! I have very fond memories of that 25. Sadly, my mother rolled it at the end of the 90's when she passed out at the wheel at 80kph. The R20 was great too, it just had a lot more bodyroll, which could be disconcerting at times, and taught me all about roll oversteer. That car also taught me about plough understeer. Good times! The R20 was given to me when I moved out of home in '98 but unfortunately the auto trans decided it had given up on life after about a year. So I very generously gave it back to dad!
    I then bought myself a VH Commodore and the rest, they say, is history.

    While I moved away from the french stuff in the pursuit of bigger engines, more power and rear wheel drive, dad kept going. His fleet now consists of:
    The DSpecial, the GS 1220 Club wagon, a GS 1220 Club sedan (bought as a parts car for the wagon), the R20, a second R20 bought as a write off for its manual transmission and other parts required for the conversion. The R25 written off by my mother (because it still has a heap of good parts including an almost brand new auto transmission), a second R25 in very good condition except for the auto trans, and a series 2 CitroŽn BX TRi(?) auto. None of these cars have, to my knowledge, been started in over 10 years and are all waiting for dad's retirement. I'm tempted to blend the R25s myself if I can find the spare time. He won't let me touch the CitroŽn's!

    So that's where my fascination comes from, how about you guys?

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  2. #2
    1000+ Posts Kim Luck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leeroy69 View Post
    Hi there everyone,

    I'm new to the forum so my apologies if this has been discussed before.

    Anyway, after 20 years of driving, and a long list of relatively unremarkable cars (mostly hotted up pre '85 commodores), I have bought my first french car. A '98 Peugeot 306 1.8 16v manual. While this is the first frenchie I've bought myself, it's far from the first I've driven, and it's re ignited my passion for these "wierd" vehicles. This passion has led me to this forum, and reading through threads on this forum has got me thinking. What is it that draws some of us aussies towards french cars? Why do you drive, and love, these strange, expensive to maintain, and often difficult to work on, vehicles? For me, unfortunately, it's hereditary!

    Way back before I existed, my father had all of his hair. He also at one point was looking to buy himself a brand new car. The story, as I remember it, goes that he was tossing up between a 253 powered HG Premier with a 4 on the floor, and a Renault 16TS. He ended up choosing the R16 as it was nicer to drive, had roughly the same 1/4 mile time, and could corner an easy 10mph faster than the Holden. What followed was a succession of 16TS' s with a CitroŽn ID19 thrown in somewhere, then a Peugeot 504 sedan. There was also an R16 that was being built for dirt circuit speedway racing, but in 1980 I came along and put an end to that nonsense (something I can relate to now, being a father myself)!
    Somewhere around 1982 an 8 year old CitroŽn GS 1220 Club wagon was purchased as the young family's second vehicle. At some point the 504 was replaced by a 505, then the 505 was replaced by a '74 CitroŽn DSpecial. Come 1990 the family was expanding again so a third vehicle was purchased, a 7 seater Peugeot 504 wagon. My childhood was filled with trips throughout the South Australian countryside in these cars, including one memorable weekend in the Flinders Ranges. Due to a last minute mechanical issue the 504 wagon had to be replaced with the GS. During the night while staying at Rawnsley Park Station there was a bit of rain, and come the morning the (usually dry) creek that crosses the only track in and out was flooded. The water was high enough that there was a bit of a lineup of cars and 4WDs with drivers standing around, scratching their heads, wondering how they were gonna cross. Along comes our little CitroŽn which casually cruises up to the crossing, hesitates for a minute while the hydropneumatics do their thing and raise the car up to a comical height, then bounces across the rocky creek crossing without batting an eyelid! I can still remember the amused faces of the stranded 4WD owners!
    By '96 I had my learners permit and my father taught me to drive in both the 504 wagon (known by my mates as 'the hearse') and the GS. Best thing about learning in a GS? It teaches you how to change gear very smoothly! I had a great time cruising around in this little beast, teaching myself how to rev match on downshifts, though trying to master the heel and toe technique in a GS can be dangerous!!!
    Soon after I had gained my P Plates the 504 had been traded in for a Renault 25, then a Renault 20 was added to the fleet. Sadly both were auto's as my mother had injured her back and could no longer drive a manual. Oh how I loved that R25! A teenage, testosterone filled me did many extremely fast, extremely illegal blasts through the twisty Adelaide hills roads in that car! I have very fond memories of that 25. Sadly, my mother rolled it at the end of the 90's when she passed out at the wheel at 80kph. The R20 was great too, it just had a lot more bodyroll, which could be disconcerting at times, and taught me all about roll oversteer. That car also taught me about plough understeer. Good times! The R20 was given to me when I moved out of home in '98 but unfortunately the auto trans decided it had given up on life after about a year. So I very generously gave it back to dad!
    I then bought myself a VH Commodore and the rest, they say, is history.

    While I moved away from the french stuff in the pursuit of bigger engines, more power and rear wheel drive, dad kept going. His fleet now consists of:
    The DSpecial, the GS 1220 Club wagon, a GS 1220 Club sedan (bought as a parts car for the wagon), the R20, a second R20 bought as a write off for its manual transmission and other parts required for the conversion. The R25 written off by my mother (because it still has a heap of good parts including an almost brand new auto transmission), a second R25 in very good condition except for the auto trans, and a series 2 CitroŽn BX TRi(?) auto. None of these cars have, to my knowledge, been started in over 10 years and are all waiting for dad's retirement. I'm tempted to blend the R25s myself if I can find the spare time. He won't let me touch the CitroŽn's!

    So that's where my fascination comes from, how about you guys?

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    It's another lovely day! Again!

  3. #3
    1000+ Posts jo proffi's Avatar
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    I first got into french cars at uni, where the resale value on a R16 or r12 was atrocious.

    30 years later, not much has changed, so I still drive the bloody things!!!!

    Jo
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    Great story, thanks for sharing.

    I'm similar in that I grew up with the family car always being a Peugeot (except when we were in the US) and got the strong passion for Peugeot's from Dad. I posted some pics of our recent family Peugeot's recently: Family Affair - Peugeot
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilverGTi_6 View Post
    Great story, thanks for sharing.

    I'm similar in that I grew up with the family car always being a Peugeot (except when we were in the US) and got the strong passion for Peugeot's from Dad. I posted some pics of our recent family Peugeot's recently: Family Affair - Peugeot
    Cheers mate.
    I did see those pics the other day, great photos by the way. I should grab some old pics from my old man, he's got a coupla good ones including some of the pair of identical 504s belonging to him and his best mate that were his wedding cars! None as good as yours though with the family of silver Pug's!

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    French cars were always good for picking up Le Chic's
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  7. #7
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    Default why french cars

    Quote Originally Posted by driven View Post
    French cars were always good for picking up Le Chic's

    And they always had French letters on them



    A
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    I hope the Le should have been Les
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    Le Chic's what? Poodle?

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    Le Chic would own a pointer
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    Hi
    In my case the old man had an old Ford and then a Holden and another Holden. Work horses not fun cars. So no input from that direction
    When I came of car age and enough money the cheapest car was a R750. They were fun to drive and seemed funner that those of my friends who had cheap boring cars. You could out corner any of theirs.
    Then I came across a B15 Citroen and fell in love with that. It just went on from there and I associated with similar types of deviants. Mostly French cars early on.
    Always

  12. #12
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    My first car was a Minor 1000. Next, a '56 Ford Customline ute, followed by a very small motorbike (doesn't count) a Mk 2 Zephyr wagon, a Morris A55 ute and my first new one was an R10 round headlight. I had often been to the Wagga Wagga Renault dealership and fallen in love with the R4 and R8, but by the time I could afford a proper car with four wheel disc brakes, independent suspension all-round, bucket seats, front seat belts, four on the floor, heater demister and windscreen washers, sealed cooling system and a two tone horn all I could buy was the R10. So I did. Between the wife and myself we've owned 8 brand new Renaults since 1967, and nothing has made us happier!
    It's another lovely day! Again!

  13. #13
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    In my case Iím a pom by background. Growing up in the UK the family car was Hilman Minx, then Vauxhall Cresta x3 successive models. In the 1970s my Dad decided to go upmarket & bought a BMW 2500, at the same time getting a Citroen Dyane which my Mum used & I learned to drive in. The Dyane was followed by a Renault 5, then Pug 205 diesel which I eventually Ďinherited.í (Iíd had a succession of VW Beetles followed by a Scirocco Mk1 in the meantime).
    The 205 was followed by a long succession of mostly very boring Ďcompany carsí before I rebelled against the tedium & bought myself a Traction Avant (L15), sadly left behind when I moved to Aus. I have another now but needing considerable Ďwork.í
    Somewhere in the middle of all that I also owned a BMW 3.0 (another Ďinheritanceí) MGB GT, Ford Cortina, Citroen 2CV, & an Audi Coupe.
    Varied diet of Eurotrash has obviously stuck with me, why French a bit more than others? Not sure but maybe something to do with staring out of the window of the big Vauxhall on long family holiday trips through France at the carscape. If space permitted Iíd replicate all those weird machines I saw :-)
    Happy Francomotoring, Rob


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  14. #14
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    Not much history of Frenchies in my family at all. I think my father had a Simca at some stage, and another brother must have had a 404 at some stage because I remember a Peugeot diff under the house but that's about it.

    My time with French cars started when my aging 124 Coupe needed replacement (severe tin worm meant that it was more 'Flintstones' in theme) and I couldn't find an Italian I thought would keep going for more than 10 mins.

    The 205 was dealing up a storm at the time so I switched from a rear wheel drive Italian to a front wheel drive Frenchie. I know exactly how the bogans feel at the moment having to switch from a Falcodore to an Opel product. Front wheel drive scared the crap out of me - How do you power slide a FWD after all ?

    I've always had a hankering for another Italian product but whenever I go to look at them the French product seems like it's actually had more engineering in it's development and less vino at lunch time. The Italians continue to build product which feels like it's warranty period is actually it's use by date. Having to remove the engine on a 147 to change the cam belt didn't help.

    I'll keep the Italian bikes though....

    So we've now had 205 GTi S3, Scenic, 306 GTi6, 308 Touring, C3, Megane R26 and another 308 Touring.

    Vive la France!

    Justin
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    I became interested in Peugeots when I bought an old 504 to do up and sell, and realized it was actually a much better car than my previous Jap and English cars.

    Simple and solid construction, very safe in accidents, cheap and readily available new parts compared with some other Euro cars, VERY comfortable seats, 4-wheel disc brakes, and a real quality interior. Plus great handling.

    I wouldn't buy a 307 in a fit, but still have my 1985 505 as a spare car. I can't bear to part with it (or its comfortable seats ! )

  16. #16
    JBN
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    Although my father had a Peugeot 504 milk cart on which I learned some driving skills (most were learnt on an Austin A70), it wasn't until 1984 that I bought my first French car - a Citroen CX C-matic. I couldn't believe how great they looked and how cheap they were relative to other mundane cars like the first Holden Commodore.

    Citroen has since become a habit with another CX25IE in the UK where we lived for 3 years and returning to Australia with some hand luggage - two 2CV Dollys (one in my name, one in my wife's name). The wife's one was swapped for a BX automatic as my wife can't drive a manual. A BX for my daughters first car followed. Both BXs died at around 200k due to broken ZF automatic boxes. They have been replaced with a Xantia.

    The Xantia is on borrowed time (has hit 200k with the same ZF box as the BXs). I like French cars because they are comfortable. I love Citroen. I don't want to contemplate a future without either.

    John
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  17. #17
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    Fell in love with an ID19 in Mildura when I was 5. Grew up in family of Rolls (old ++) and Rover enthusiasts and the ID was like something from another planet

    Started with Austin seven ( still have ) at 12

    No frenchies for long time.

    Had hot Alfa Berlina which was very fast and very nice but a bit bitey for the uninitiated. Partner duly rolled it so I got insurance cheque.

    Marriage and kids loomed so decided to be boring and sensible so did homework and got a '75 504 in 1982. Took it on holiday in Vic alps involving >1000 odd k of fastish ( 130-140 k) dirt road driving After while dropped to fact that was vastly comfortable, very quick and nothing fell off. Alfa almost as quick but one had to budget for something falling off every 1000k and ensure a sump guard. Peugeot just did it. Was hooked from then. Then succession of 504 sedans and wagon for Jan and a 404 for me on return impoverished from UK in 87. Still have him, recently restored and upgraded, > 500,000 k later.

    The French are brutally practical in a quirky way ( e.g. DS , which have also had and still mourn) CArs are effective , fast and interesting

    Current project 4CV, which is similarly quirky, effective and interesting

    Gave up on moderns years ago - who needs anything other than a good 404 as daily driver?

    Andrew
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  18. #18
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    Because we are exceptions to the rule!

    'Weird' hey?

    Dave
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  19. #19
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    My father usually drove sports/convertibles most of his life (Jaguars, MGs, Hillman Minx ... convertible! Mustang, Caravelle etc). His cars were legendary. Later in life, a Mercedes coupe. I was (mostly) too young to drive these, but I appreciated them.

    My family home had a neighbour who owned a white ID19. Nothing on the planet looked like that in the late 60's early 70's. Spaceship indeed.

    I learned to drive on a Datsun 1300. Rock solid, pretty stolid.

    In my later teens, I fiddled with old Morries and then the obligatory VWs (beetle + halfback).
    On my way to uni was a Citroen dealer. In his yard was a white ID19, and I was selling the VW... contemplating a Holden, (or whatever).

    I called in and enquired, thinking it will be too much (it looked quite young) and was told it was a "traded" 1966 and the owner wanted about $900 from memory. It sat in the yard for some months. I called by now and again, and eventually bought it for, I think, $650 and was told "they are a bit slow off the mark, but then they get going." And so it did ... until I brought it in for a service and we found only one carby valve was opening. After that, it went a lot faster. What a car/experience ... nothing like any other car. My long hair (etc) always attracted the cops when driving the VW. Instantly stopped when driving the Citroen.

    Thus started the addiction. Concurrent R16TSs and many R4s followed. The ID morphed into later IDs, DSs, (D Specials, DS21, DS23) and GSs, CXs, then the Xantia Activa and C5s. Bypassed the BX (although the 16v was the motivation for the Activa). In between there was a BMW2002 (quickly sold to get back to the R16TS) and an Audi 2.3E (very good value/car). Also a Honda Accord hatch (also nice) and a CRX in the family. (I like Hondas) .... The R16TS was a lovely, versatile, comfortable car, but when pushed, only 85% of the Citroen.

    Why French? For one thing, cheaper (sadly usually because of steep depreciation), so you bought a whole lot more car for less.
    And as you know, seat comfort, ergonomics, high speed touring, (if you have never taken a GS out for some higher speed touring....they are a very different car than around town) and with cars like the Activa, amazing handling/ride combination, and a very good all-rounder, city or highway. Something like the BMW needed driving lights, tyres (etc) to match with the Frenchies, and was not convincing as a tourer. Citroen braking, steering, balance, the ability to have two wheels on the dirt and two on the tarmac, and still brake in a straight line (even with hands off the wheel), etc.

    I've never owned one, but the 504 Pug always seemed to have a similar French character, but like the Renault, not quite the last few yards of innovation and finesse.

    Citroen: The turning headlights. The adjustable ride height ... great for those times your mates couldn't drive over some kinds of terrain. Cross a watercourse, ditch, etc. Highway manners. Design aesthetics. Bloody mindedness. Fingertip piloting. Minimal brake pedal movement.

    The CX killed 4WDs on dirt roads. And in style and comfort. Still love the look of the CX. Highly underrated.

    Ultimately (as much as I like sports cars for *what they do*) the minimal touch, the subtle way you drive most Citroens....kinda a sensual technique versus a brute wrangling. And although not always regarded for handling, even the C5 (wagon) is quite impressive when pushed. Many of my friends like Benzes, all of the older ones seemed to have flat, featureless seats that couldn't match the Frenchies. (But as per my request in another post, please convince me of other marques).

    Before buying yet another C5 (a well used one) I test drove a few other cars, Peugeot, Honda, Benz, Alfa .... and although some had some appeal (or not) I couldn't find anything that did what the Citroen did, and for much less money. The C180 Benz looked fab, but didn't do anything particularly well, and has terrible visibility. Only when you get up to an E class do you approach Citroen ride.
    The Alfa was fast and sporty, with a whole lot of scary noises that probably were awaiting expensive attention. The Honda was tired, tatty, and basic for the bigger money being asked. None of the later model Pugs have appealed as yet, even though I test drove a slew of them many years back.

    So dem's my reasons .... why Frenchies, and why Citroen in particular.
    Having said that, I have no real love of most of the newer non-oleo-pneumatic models, although the 2.0HDi C4 auto is a hoot (and I liked it better than the Mini). The DS3 seems like fun, too, must try one ...
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    Once upon a time:


    Many R4s (incl. fourgonnette), R5LS, R16TS.


    GS 1015, 1220, sedans and wagons.
    CX 2200, 2400.
    ID 1966, 1969, DS21H, DSpecial, DS23 Pallas.
    C5 2002, 2004 petrol and diesel.
    sold ..... D Special 1974 ... to fellow Tassie AFer.
    sold ..... Xantia Activa 1998 (look out Gulargambone)
    sold .....GS 5 speed sedan (what a tale)
    sold .... 1986 2CV6

    And now:

    C5 2.2 HDI 2005 wagon
    CX25GTi 1985 auto
    CX2500 IE Pallas 1985 auto
    DS23 1973 Pallas
    DS23EFI 1975 Pallas

  20. #20
    JBN
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    I am amused when people cite Mercedes Benz for their perceived safety, but ignore Citroen in that regard.

    When one reminds them that Princess Diana died in a Mercedes, yet President de Gaulle attributes his life to the Citroen DS and its ability to escape disaster even with a tyre or two shot out.

    An old friend I have known for 50 years was reminiscing about the CX's ability to withstand frontal accidents. He had one, survived and bought another CX. I did the same. Still my favourite Citroen, probably because it was the last of the Citroen designed cars before Peugeot contaminated them with dullness.

    John
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    Le Cheyenne is my neighbors truck, that's what he calls it anyway... I don't understand why just yet? =)

    Enough about pet names anyway, but as long as it's reliable it has my vote

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    What about safety and comfort ???

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    Quote Originally Posted by dronebuzz View Post
    Le Cheyenne is my neighbors truck, that's what he calls it anyway... I don't understand why just yet? =)

    Enough about pet names anyway, but as long as it's reliable it has my vote
    I suspect he may be calling his truck Le Chien, which is French for The Dog.
    Cheers, Peter J
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  24. #24
    1000+ Posts robmac's Avatar
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    Nov 2004
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    I am amused when people cite Mercedes Benz for their perceived safety, but ignore Citroen in that regard.
    I guess that's a perspective you gain when you sit upon your wallet to view potential marques to purchase.
    Mutual Respect is Contagious


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