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September 21 2013
Viva La France
By Jarah Weinreich

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One of the most sensational collections of motorcars ever assembled on the feature floor of the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania forms the Vive La France display showing through until the 14th of December.

In 1919, Andre Citroen founded the Citroen automobile company. Citroen died of stomach cancer in 1935, but his legacy continued in the form of the cars his firm produced. Indeed, some would argue that the most iconic vehicle to wear the Citroen name didn't appear until some years after the founder's death.

It was, of course, the immortal DS of 1955, a revolutionary luxury car that was several decades ahead of its time. When production of the DS range ceased in 1975, the competition still looked archaic in comparison.

The example on display is a beautiful and rare 1974 D-Special. Also featured is the DS's successor, the CX, in this case an immaculate and original 1980 Pallas variant with 58,000 original kilometres.

The foundations of motor racing had been laid in France as early as 1894, resulting from the enthusiasm the French public had for the motorcar.

The Renault name is synonymous with motor sport and the display features three unique and rare vehicles that utilise the rear-engine powertrain from Renault.

The R8 Gordini took out the Tour de Corse on its release and, in Australia, the 1970 Australian Rally Championship. The R8 Gordini on display would compare favourably to the best examples in existence today.

To many, one of the most beautiful small coupes ever built was the sensational Alpine A110. Iconic status was ensured when the A110 won the first World Rally Championship in 1973 featuring a 1st 2nd and 3rd place in the Monte Carlo rally that year.

It is a privilege indeed to find one of these unique cars featured on display, as it is also to find the sensational 1966 Matra Djet.

Rene Bonnet's Djet (pronounced 'Jet'), released in 1962, was the first mid-engined production car in the world. The vehicle on display is believed to be the only example in Australia and has travelled only 45000 kms since new.

Our centrepiece hails from the golden age of pre-war motor racing; a spectacular and exceptionally beautiful machine which represents this time better than almost any other, the stunning 1936 Delage D6-70S Le Mans Sports Racing car.

A wealthy Parisian originally owned car 50721. Upon the fall of Paris in 1940, SS officers commandeered the car. It was repainted in the standard Nazi uniform grey, which is still visible on the identification plate on the firewall. In more recent years, the Delage has enjoyed a distinguished and successful racing and hill climbing career, and still participates in various historic events.

Vive La France is about more than just the exotics, however. The display also features examples of worthy machines, which contributed to the economy of their country and the automotive landscape of Europe and beyond. The Peugeot 404 of 1960 was a solid family car wearing elegant Pininfarina styling.

Today, Peugeot is viewed as one of France's most steadfast manufacturers; a reputation cemented in place by the company's economic boom during the 1960s and 1970s, in which the 404 played a considerable part.

All the way from the Netherlands, one of the oldest Citroen H vans in the world takes its place in the display. These vehicles have attained a cult status in their home country where they remained in production for an amazing 34 years.

Although once part of the French scenery, the H-Van is extremely rare outside of Europe. The example on display represents a unique opportunity to see a true rarity.

The French motor industry is nothing if not diverse, and that diversity is reflected in our display, combining famous and much-loved classics with unique exotics. The result is a spectacular exhibition, which promises not to disappoint.