Friday, December 31, 2010

French body language

One of the little disadvantages of loving and collecting French diecast cars is my poor skills with the French language. A few decades ago I did respectably well in four years of schoolboy French, but that included almost no motoring terms, and so every now and then I wonder "what does that mean?". So a while back I set myself a little task: to learn a few new French motoring words, and also to collect some examples of them, in this case via the mighty Peugeot 203. This great French car of the late 1940s and all through the 1950s was built in a wide variety of body shapes, and so what follows is a little posting about French body language.

CAMIONETTE: a term which literally translates as 'small truck' (the word camion means truck).
This term seems to be almost obsolete, even in France. Everyone seems to call this vehicle
a 'pick-up' nowadays. In the 70s I knew the Peugeot 404 version of this as a 'light truck' and
my mate who owned one says his Peugeot owner's manual called it a 'light lorry'. The canvas
cover over the tray is called a bâche, by the way. This model is a 1:43, by Norev.

Without its bâche, the 203 pickup gets close to being the Aussie favourite work vehicle called
the 'ute' (or utility vehicle), and that's how many Aussies refer to any Peugeot pick-up – a ute.
BERLINE: your basic four-door car is a berline. In the very old days, the term berline was
applied to limousines where a window separated the driver's and passengers' compartments.
Marketing liked the exclusive connotations of the word Berline and so all sorts of lesser cars
took on the classier name. Another term for this type of car is, of course, 'sedan', a term which
originally meant 'covered chair'. This model is 1:43, like all the others, and is made by Corgi.

BREAK: the family-friendly break has a different name for every major market. In the UK it's an
Estate Car, or a Familiale. In the US it's a Wagon. In Australia it's a Station Wagon, but Citroen
called this Station Wagon either a Familiale or a Safari at various times. I've always known of these
203 models as wagons, and those configured with extra seating in the back are the Familiales.
(Edit: my good friend Colin tells me that the word 'brake' comes from the body-less carriage-frame
used to break in young horses. Later on the term 'brake' was applied to a 'shooting brake', an open
horse-drawn carriage which carried several gun-toting sporting shooters out into the field to shoot
at hares, pheasants, peasants, ducks, etc.) This model is a particularly drab grey thing by IXO.
CABRIOLET: I had to create a more cheezy French cafe look for this diorama. The term
'cabriolet', like so many car body names, comes from the horse and buggy eras. In most cases
the cars bearing the horse-carriage name barely resemble the original, but that's hijacking for
you – it's not a science. The original cabriolet was a two-wheeld horse carriage (pulled by
one horse) with a folding top. In Australia we virtually never saw any cabriolet Peugeots,
but other cars in this body style were usually called convertibles or, sometimes, soft tops.
This is a Solido 1:43 model, nicely done.

COUPE: the French word 'couper' means to cut in half, and so a coupe was a cut-down car, in this
case a snazzy looking two-door in such a deep blue it looks black (it's a Solido model).
DÉCOUVRABLE: the word means to 'uncover' and so it's pretty plain where this four-door
soft-top gets its model name. Just the thing for a trip to the vineyards. Model is by Solido.
And now, as a brief interlude and for a complete change of pace, here's a 30-second drive by video, courtesy of You Tube, of a lovely Peugeot 203 Decouvrable (also called a Decouverte) in a street somewhere in France.

FOURGONNETTE: the delivery van models in the 203 range came in
several styles, including this one by Altaya.
I had to include this other Peugeot 203 Fourgonnette here, as it's part
of the delightful Michelin series of cars by IXO.
COMMERCIALE: a variant of the Fourgonnette which includes a few more windows, this
Commerciale travelled between Paris and the Cape of Good Hope, and so I have pictured it
here in a stop-off somewhere in Northern Africa. This model by Solido is lovely, with a lot of
nice detail, including a shovel at the back to help you dig yourself out of trouble.

VAN: the hard-working camionette light trucks wore a variety of bodies on the back, including
this Isigny cheese van droppping off another load of deliciousness at La Fromagerie. The
light trucks weren't ordinary Berlines with different bodies. They were built stronger, with
changes to suspension, gearing, differentials and more, to cope with the heavy workload.

TAXI! Speaking of hard-working Pugs, there's nothing much harder
working than a taxi, and there were 203 Pugs everywhere, including this
one spotted outside a mosque in Casablanca. The model is by Altaya.
DARL 'MAT: not really a body style at all, instead it's a body treatment by a stylist, in this
case a French car dealer by the name of Emile Darl'Mat. He was most successful during the 1930s
with his reworkings of the 402 Peugeots, and the 203 Darl 'Mat of 1949 was his last one. The car
is set a bit lower than other 203s, and the flashy chrome trimming, rear wheel covers and two-tone
paint job made it a very stylish way to enjoy a day at the beach. The model is by Norev.

Finally, an apology to all the people I have pinched background photos from, while trawling Google Images for backgrounds for my little dioramas. I wouldn't love to credit you all, as that would make everything even longer and clunkier than it currently is. But as I am running my blog advertising-free (and profit-free, of course), I hope my use of these photos is no worse a crime than jay-walking on an empty street. I am slowly trying to teach myself how to use Photoshop – "what does that button do?" etc etc – and so these are my first-ever deep-etched and layered Photoshop dioramas. Hopefully I'll get the hang of it all as time goes by.


  1. Can you share with us how you obtain/print the background photos? The quality is exceptional.

  2. Hi (I'm enjoying your South American posts, by the way, great stuff).

    Most of the photos (except the vineyard pic, which is mine) are simply taken from searches of Google Images. I just look for photos which can at least be 20cm wide, at a resolution of 72dpi (which is computer screen resolution - any higher a resolution than 72dpi is wasted on a screen).

    Lots of people post unnecessarily hi-res 300dpi photos online, and these are the best ones for converting to the dimensions I want, using Photoshop. For example, a 5cm wide photo at 300dpi can be turned into a 20.8cm photo at 72dpi, without losing any sharpness on screen.

    The aim is not to 'blow up' photos to the desired size, which always makes them lose sharpness. Instead, I just 're-size' them in Photoshop, so they keep their sharpness.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement. If anything, I've got stuff to write about for the next 25 days!

    If you lived closer, I'd contract you out to do photoshoots/photoshops of my minuscule 1/43 collection. Ha!

    I think my next big trip will be to Australia, so I may be asking you and your fellow countrymen for advice!

    Stay dry.