France is not only one of the best tourist destinations in the world, it is an important country in the automotive industry. Home of several important multinational corporations, France is also the home of the concept of automobiles. They may have invented the first car with internal combustion and a gasoline engine in 1886 in Germany, but more than 100 years before that, the first self-propelled vehicle saw the light of the day in France.
Nicholas Joseph Cugnot, a French inventor, invented the steam-powered vehicle in 1769. That was seven years before the American Revolution, just to put that in a historical perspective. So, it is safe to say that France has a special place in the automotive history. Over the course of 20th century, French manufacturers produced numerous interesting and quirky cars. They also introduced innovative concepts and invented dozens of patents that later became standards of the industry.
From an American point of view, French cars never achieved big success in the states. Most models they sold here were underpowered, strange, small, slow or just too complicated without a proper service network. However, there is still a cult following among French car fans in the U.S. Although the last French car sold in America was the Peugeot in 1991, here are the best French cars that shaped the automotive industry. They also earned their place in the hearts of many car enthusiasts in America.
Be sure to read to the end of this list of legendary machines to see how French cars are unique in any class, from economy models to high priced luxury cars. Even today, when industry standards threaten to kill uniqueness and personality, French cars continue to deliver special charm, making them irresistible. So, read through this list to go for a ride down the French Riviera. You’ll see what automotive treasures this great country has to offer.
Even though Ettore Bugatti was Italian, he spent most of his life in France. In fact, he considered himself a Frenchman and created the ultimate French luxury and sports car brand: Bugatti. During the early 20th century, Bugatti was one of the world’s most active companies in terms of racing and producing racing cars. They won virtually all prestigious events and races. Their best model was the legendary Bugatti T35 racing car.
Bugatti introduced the T35 in 1925. It was ahead of its time with its advanced construction, big drum brakes, and precise steering. It also came with a powerful straight eight engine that customers could order with a supercharger. The first version had a 2.0-liter engine with 90 HP, but it revved up to 6,000 rpm, which was unheard of back then. Later versions had a smaller 1.5-liter engine but still achieved more power due to the supercharger unit.
They discontinued the T35 in 1931. During its short but successful racing career, this car managed to win over 1,000 races and numerous championships. It even managed to win the Targa Florio five times in a row.