SieMatic Montreal Opening Party

I attended the SieMatic Montreal opening party last night, enjoying cocktails and fantastic hor d’oeuvres with 150 guests in the sparkling new installation.  I started working with showroom manager Jean-Martin Lapointe on the design last summer, so it was great to see the space come alive, exactly as we intended.

The studio is part of the large kitchen gadget/commercial supplier shop Doyon Cuisine, in the upscale Montreal suburb of Brossard.  To enter the space, one goes through the main kitchen store and up the stairs to SieMatic.  We clad the stair area with a walnut laminate to visually connect the SieMatic areas upstairs.  Here SieMatic USA principal management Marcia Speer and Hans Henkes pose on the red carpet.

Marcia Speer and Hans Henkes of SieMaticWhen reaching the top of the stairs, we needed to show visitors the way to the studio (to the left at top of stairs.  We added a walnut laminate-clad desk and curved wall at the top of the mezzanine and used logos to denote the way to the main showroom.  This area is the perfect buffet and bar area for events.

Main Reception of SieMatic MontrealThe ceiling of the Doyon Cuisine space was a lovely terracotta color, and walls apple green.  Jean-Martin and I selected all new finishes for the building and carefully orchestrated the entrance sequence, as the studio itself passes by the commercial demonstration kitchen before entering the displays.  Upon entry, one walks into a “full living environment”-style display – showing a living space with a large kitchen display.

Studio entry view of SieMatic MontrealLiving Space at SieMatic Montreal

The first kitchen display is an SE4004 Stone Beech Veneer.  This display bridges the living space with Floating Spaces shelving to integrate a flexible storage element which can be more decorative or more functional, depending on planning and configuration.

Full View of Stone Beech display at SieMatic Montreal

SieMatic Montreal Stone Beech Display

SE4004 Display

Note the ceiling “cloud” above to bring the scale down and slightly mask the commercial corrugated/exposed ceiling.  The flooring throughout is a dark medium-plank veneer.  Mick enjoying a drink with guests and SieMatic management/colleagues at the cantilevered Smoked Oak countertop.Mick with Guests

The display around the corner is an S2-L Truffle Grey Gloss Lacquer model with black glass touch-latch cabinets embedded in the wall to the right.  The vertical channel tall cabinets hide a column-style Gaggenau refrigerator.

S2 Display at SieMatic MontrealAt the center of the showroom is a Beaux Arts 2.0 display, in the “Sophia Loren” style.  For more on this style of display search for “Beaux Arts” or “Sophia Loren” here on my blog.

SieMatic Montreal "Sophia Loren" Beaux Arts DisplayThe last display is an SC10 in Titan Pine and Sterling Grey laminate.  This is a Smart Design offering from SieMatic, which is a great look at a popular price-point.  We show Materials system shelves along with a standard L-shape design.

SieMatic Montreal SC10 Display SieMatic Montreal SC10 Display

Note the window opening into the Beaux Arts display.  Whenever I can, planning visual cues into other areas is essential to keeping a sense of circulation and discovery in a showroom layout.  Especially in this case, as this SC10 display is a “dead end” which leads only to offices at the back.  A detail of the backsplash area, showing SieMatic LP1 lighting and award-winning OnWall accessory system:Tile Detail of SieMatic Montreal SC10 Display

Here is a view of the samples library/consultation room, just adjacent to the studio entrance and across from the reception area.

Samples and Consultation Room at SieMatic Montreal

SieMatic Montreal is associated with Doyon Cuisine and Julien, the fantastic stainless fixtures company.  Here, Jean-Martin Lapointe addresses the guests along with Hans Henkes and Julien CEO Gilles St-Pierre.

Manager Jean-Martin Lapointe introduces the new SieMatic Montreal kitchen design studio

A parting shot – old friends Keith and Raymond Binns (SieMatic resellers in Toronto) with SieMatic management.

Raymond Binns, Hans Henkes, Marcia Speer and Keith Binns

I am very happy with the final presentation.  Jean-Martin Lapointe did a fantastic job at executing the design, and this business is surely going to do quite well here in Montreal.  As always, I wish I had more time to spend in the city, but I have pledged to come back in the summer or fall – with my bicycles and sense of weekend adventure – and visit again.



ISH 2013 – The Bathroom Experience Show in Frankfurt (part one)

Just back from ISH in Frankfurt, Germany.  I also used the short time in Germany to visit SieMatic to discuss our ongoing showroom projects around the world.  A snowstorm in Frankfurt cut my trip short by one day so I had to shotgun the tour of the 5-hall bathroom show in one jet-lagged day.  I was mainly concerned with faucets, vanity cabinet ensembles and baths; here are some quick highlights.

First up are some vanities by Sanijura, a French company located near Geneva in the eastern part of the country, owned by Kohler.  I visited this factory and worked with the company years ago when working with Kohler in the Cabinet Division.  It looks like they have come a long way and I was impressed with the design and workmanship.

Saninjura Vanity CompositionI like the integrated towel bar and the colorway is very fresh.

Sanijura VanityThis ensemble shows the ongoing trend of mismatched, randomized cabinet configurations.  Next up was a company called Burgbad, from Germany.

Pressed LavatoryThis lavatory basin is molded from some sort of acrylic, like it came from one sheet of material and was folded or pressed into shape.  Very minimal and elegant, although I wish the wall color was more interesting or in more contrast.  This all-in-one bathroom pavilion was clever, with the adjacent tall cabinets part of the composition.  I like the integrated TV above the bath.

Burgbad Bathing PavilionVisible Wall StudsSupporting the tall cabinets and the other displays was a metal stud system that the company made visible on the backs.  I should have asked about it – it looked very clever.  I don’t know if it is something proprietary to the company or if it is some sophisticated European wall system.  There was a name on it – Viega.  I will have to search around for this system.

This next cabinet system was one of my favorite designs from the show.  I forgot to note the company who made this!  Anyway, the cabinets are made from laminate, but are lacquered on the fronts.  The seam (see below) is quite good.  This is an adventurous detail and it comes off quite good.  A very, very nice idea which eliminates the need for a separate radius edge side panel.

Lacquer vanity cabinet with radius edgeDetail of inside edge:

Half Laminate/Lacquer DoorNext up, a nice vanity composition with a clever, angled towel bar integrated into the countertop.  I didn’t get the name of this company either.  It is a very well-known maker but I just didn’t note it down – darned jet-lag!

Vanity System ISH 2013Detail of the towel bar.

Integrated Angled Towel BarTo me, these types of details make/break your concept.  I do not like walking around the room with dripping hands or face hunting for my towel.  I would love something similar in the kitchen…

Some designs from Kohler.  I don’t know if this is available in Kohler Germany only, but there were some nicely-detailed vanity systems.  I worked on some concepts for Kohler years ago which were very much like this.  I’m glad to see they are continuing the modular cabinet ideas.  This was called Terrace, and it was similar to the Robern Box Logic series I did 10 years ago…

Kohler TerraceThe white oak drawer accent is very nice.  Here is a detail on the “Box Logic” area on the mirrored cabinet:

Kohler Terrace Shelf SystemThe Kohler stand was a little cold and without much style.  I think they could use some brand differentiation.  This wall was a little better – just a little color, anything really.

Kohler Terrace Vanity System

Next up is a variation on the curved/integrated wall basin idea from Antonio Lupi.  Last year they showed a basin that “peeled” away from the wall, from the top down.  The face of the basin is then skimmed over with joint compound and painted to look as if the design was actually peeled away.  It is lit with LED from above.

Curved Lavatory by Antonio LupiI don’t like this much.  It is too much of a one-line joke.  If you are walking around with those wet hands looking for your towelbar… well, I guess it is not functional enough for me.  Domestic bathroom furniture should look as it works, not be a parlor trick.

Next up: some mirrored cabinets from Keuco, the master of medicine cabinets.  Nothing too innovative this year.  In fact, there was not much innovation in general at this show.  In years past there have been fabulous concepts of lifting doors, articulating features… my bet is that these cool ideas are very expensive to produce and this world economy is not supporting lavish designs at the moment.  Here was one articulating design, with the mirror section and integrated light moving in concert.

Keuco Articulating light and mirrorA mirrored cabinet.  The big news from anybody doing mirrors was the way the lighting is integrated, something we worked very hard on at Robern.  LED has made this much more elegant.

Keuco Mirrored bath cabinetA mirrored cabinet from Burgbad.  Very flashy and maybe a little too much so.

Burgbad Mirrored CabinetAll those highlighted acrylic edges were making my head hurt.  Or was it the aforementioned jet-lag?

This trip came with delays from every mode of transportation I used.  The snow delay, normally awesome German trains were late on each occasion (which means missed connections, which could be disaster if you get on the wrong train), and the flights back were not without hiccup.  Still worth the trip, however!

Next installment of ISH2013 I will cover faucets, lav fixtures and baths.

Car Design: Classic Brown Interiors

There has been a revival of brown automobile interiors in recent years.  Although this alone would not prompt me to purchase such a car today, Audi, BMW, the Land Rover Evoque, upscale Toyotas and the loveable little Fiat 500 (among many others) offer retro-style brown/saddle interior options.

BMW Cohiba Brown Interior

Contemporary BMW Cohiba Brown Interior

I was a boy in the 1970s when brown was a popular color for cars, kitchen and bath fixtures, appliances and shag carpet.  Brown is a color I grew up with.  The new car interiors are very nice – see the BMW interior to the right –  but I really admire the design and beauty of classic automobiles, so here follows a short list of some favorites.

The Citroen SM.

Interior: Citroen SMThis car was one of the most advanced automobiles extant on its debut in 1971.  Featuring a lovely Maserati V6 and the trademark hydraulic suspension (among many other great technological hardware) the SM unfortunately cost Citroen its independence as the cost to develop the car was never recovered.  The perfect “personal car”, this executive-class coupe was all luxury inside.  One picture is not enough… here is a nice montage of SM details:

Citroen SM Details

Next up, a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia from the American brochure of 1971 (courtesy enthusiast website Drivers Found).

1971 Brown Karmann Ghia Interior

In the mid-70s, I used to peer over the window jambs of the few old Volkswagens in my neighborhood.  In the summer, especially, you could smell the horse hair stuffing if the windows were open (or the top was down).  I have not smelled this lovely odor for many years now, but I know it would take me right back to that 10-year old wandering around on his bike in NJ.  I had many, many Volkswagens over the years (I have a 1977 Scirocco today – guess what color interior?).  Not an expensive machine, but such a quality old motorcar.

Since I am reminiscing about cars of my youth, I’ll need to mention the Mercedes 300D.  My neighbor’s dad had one of these, and it was a lovely, solid piece of rolling art.  This was a slow-moving car, but it motored majestically on all-wheel independent suspension and those fantastic MB-Tex psuedo leather seats. (note: to this day, I do not like actual leather seats.  Probably another reason I will not be buying a new brown car – everything is leather these days).

Brown MB-Tex Interior

Here is a 1970s 450SEL Mercedes interior.  You can see the all-encompassing devotion to functionalism.  These old Mercedes have particularly large-diameter steering wheels.  I don’t know if the modern Benzes stick to this tradition, but that larger wheel gives you a nice sense of, lets call it, relaxed entitlement.  Note the wood control panel; the little VW above got along with a nice wood-grain decal, but be assured the Benz is the real thing.

70's Benz Interior

It is time to drop the mid-70s bomb that is the Porsche 928 Op-Art interior.  Originally conceived as a replacement to the venerable 911 model, the 928 was perhaps a wee-bit advanced in style and feature set for the traditional Porsche customer.  In fact, this car is very much like the Citroen SM in this regard – a little ahead of its time.  Little Brown Porsche 928

The picture to right is a scale model, but I wanted to find a brown exterior shot to support the incredible interior you are about to see.  This automobile was designed in the early-mid 1970s, when Porsche was still a very small boutique manufacturer.  Although they had recently had success at the top of motorsport (overall victory at the 24 hours of Le Mans), they were not yet the cash-flush company that would threaten to buy VW outright (like they almost did in pre-recession 2008/2009).  This car had the motor in the front, as opposed to the rear like all Porsches did in the 50s and 60s.  And it was a modern liquid-cooled V8 unlike those aircooled little 4 and 6 cylinder units of prior models.  To celebrate this technological breakthrough, the company styled the otherwise functional and rigorous interior with the most incredible seat cushion inserts you can imagine.

928 InteriorIt is just… mind blowing.  I’m not sure how many years they offered this seat option, but it came in a orange-toned color as well:

Orange 928 Interior

Note how the instrument binnacle is still in black.  I’m sure the idea is to keep the driver’s eyes on the road and not distracted by that lustrous interior color.  The binnacle would actually move up/down with the steering wheel height adjustment – quite novel at the time.

Porsche Op ArtThe center console was quite influential, as many makers (Acura most notably) copied the long, integrated sweep towards the gearshift and armrest.

There are so many great cars from the 60s and 70s I want to post about, so this will have to be a multi-part post.  As a parting shot, we’ll use the interior from a VW Scirocco.  This is not mine; I hinted above that I had a brown interior in my 77 but it is actually a light tan color called Bedouin.  One of my favorite colors for Sciroccos was Brazil Brown, a metallic copper-like tone.  The interior was a little darker than Bedouin, so we’ll use this.

VW Scirocco Brown Interior

Any favorite car interiors you have, brown or otherwise?  Share your thoughts with me.

Montreal – St. Louis Square

To complete my Montreal walking tour trilogy, I present my impressions of St. Louis Square.  A Victorian-era urban square similar in setting to the many city squares of Savannah, this area of the city is now a bohemian paradise.  Just a block or two from the pedestrian street Avenue Laval, with buskers and endless outdoor dining, this grand-but-funky square is the perfect setting for a late afternoon stroll.  I took out a few minutes to write in my journal as a impromptu jazz quartet blew some standards:

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

Victorian houses always have bright colors and incredible detailing.  Since this neighborhood’s presumable decline and hippie-era gentrification, there is a wonderful sense of preservation and longevity.  The crazy colors and gingerbread detailing suit the new inhabitants.  Some scenes along the square:

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

The sense of scale is just about perfect.  The adjacent streets have the best residential width (parking on each side and one driving lane), with the houses the correct height for the width.  The street trees and small gardens in front were generally very well maintained and creatively planted.

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

Honey locust was a good tree choice for planting right up against the facade:

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

I love the variety.  The New Urbanists must love this place – I certainly do.

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

A slightly-dilapidated old gem:

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

As I walked around this place, I was reminded of the book City Life by my favorite urbanist/writer Witold Rybczynski.  At the beginning of the book the author describes a fellow-Montrealer’s remarks about visiting Paris; “why can’t our cities be like that?”  There is no short answer; the author works on this question for hundreds of pages of lovely prose.  Ironically, however, I find Montreal to be quite beautiful, compared to other say, more industrial North American cities.

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

This neighborhood is not unlike several in Baltimore, in which I live.  I’ll have to do a few studies of Bolton Hill, Reservoir Hill… the sense of scale, grandeur and detailing is very similar.  The ironwork and stonework is remarkably close.  Also, the street layout is similar using the alley systems, which is my favorite feature of North American cities (well, those which preserved the alleys).  I walked around back too… the houses push right up against the rear fence.  Now we see the significance of those front balconies and gardens.

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

Some interesting street art was to be had:

Walking Tour of St. Louis Square, Montreal

Overall, this neighborhood had a calmness and scale that was at once both invigorating and relaxing.  This theme crops up a lot in my urban walks – and I think much of it has to do with the lack of automobiles, the presence of trees and the variety of building style.

I’ll close with a random picture from Chinatown in Montreal.  Lovely city, I do hope to get back for our project’s completion.

Street Scene from Chinatown in Montreal

Montreal Part Deux – Golden Square Mile

Continuing my walk around Montreal, here is a quick tour of the Golden Square Mile, the “uptown” area developed in the Gilded Age.  So named because of the large residences and prominent office buildings/shopping destinations, the area still has a manicured, refined feel.  The fine arts museum anchors Sherbrooke Street with a lovely 1912 Beaux Arts structure.

Museum of Fine Art in Montreal; a walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

Across the street is a modern museum structure by Moshe Safdie, which does look a little out of place.  I didn’t scrutinize it, mostly because the morning sun was coming from right behind it.  However, Montreal does not seem shy about contrasting new with old, as this adjacent structure illustrates.

Museum structure; a walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

I walked right up to that nook between old and new; the glass mullions are pressed right up against the old stone.  Its a nice detail.

There are many residences along Sherbrooke, and plaques mark the most significant.  Here are some doors and facade details:

Private Residence; a walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

A walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

There was a lovely pair of buildings further down the block with some exceptional landscaping in front.  Overall, the street plantings in MTL were quite good.  I imagine winter must be pretty bleak but it does look great in the summer.

Lovely facade; a walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

A walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

The building to the left was on the corner, and I walked around and checked out the courtyard and carriage house.  This funny little “guardhouse” structure was tacked on to the back of the main structure.  It looks like a roof that was added above the basement stairs… very odd for such a sober, historical structure.

Little Guardhouse; a walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

A nicely-detailed apartment building entrance:

Apartment building entrance; a walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

Continuing the juxtaposition of old and new, the Ritz Carlton hotel is adding a shockingly-modern glass structure to their old building.

Ritz Carlton; a walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

Next door was the Streamline Modern Holt Renfrew department store.  This seemed to be the haute shopping corridor of MTL, with Coach, Prada and the like on these several blocks.

Streamline Moderne design; a walking tour of the Golden Square Mile

Behind this neighborhood is a long set of stairs which leads to the entrance of Parc du Mont Royal – the small mountain in the center of the city-island.  If you have been reading my posts on urban walks, you know I love hilly cities.  Walking up these shaded stairs was a great treat in the middle of summer.  Everything was very clean, no litter or signs of danger.  The promise of a huge urban park awaits my ascent.

Stairs linking Golden Square Mile to Parc du Mont Royal

There were some grand apartment houses at the base of the park, which is also the edge of McGill University campus.

Apartment house at the top of McGill University in Montreal

This house had an incredible view of the city, as right behind the mountain begins rising.  A short walk up the road is the park entrance.  Along with scores of others, I walked up the hundreds of steps and around the meandering Frederick Law Olmstead driveways to the Chalet du Mont Royal – the lookout spot.  The view is pretty spectacular; my manually stitched Android photo:

Panoramic Image of Montreal

Overall however, the park was a bit disappointing.  It didn’t seem all that “wild”, and there were no other designed-in views or features to get excited about.  I took to the single-track walking trails through the forested parts, but they very quickly led right back to main carriage paths.  I only found one interesting bridge feature, but even that was not up to the usual FLO/Vaux quality.  So, I descended the long stairs and went back to the city.  I was going to try the Bixi bike rental, but the kiosk I approached was not taking my credit card, so I jumped on the subway.  Built in 1967 (the pinnacle of MTL, the year of the big Expo), it is very clean and the cars run on rubber tires, just like Paris.

Next up will be a short tour of the bohemian St. Louis Square, my favorite little spot in MTL.

Vieux Montréal – Walking Montreal’s Old City

I am presently working on a project in Montreal, a new SieMatic studio across the island from the main city in Brossard.  It is a good space with very smart owners and I’m sure the new business will be a success.  I will post about the studio as the project comes together.  Since I had never been to Montreal before, I was excited to walk around – the flâneur that I am – and experience the fabric of the city.  Following are some street views of Vieux Montréal – the old city.

Maisoneuve Monument in Old Montreal

This is a view of the Maisoneuve monument and the old Bank of Montreal building.  This space has a lovely scale, and the light was incredible on an early summer’s evening.  The ashlar-pattern paving is detailed in a modern fashion, meshed in with older Belgian block paving stones living the vehicle lanes.  The trees were young maples; there must be some fantastic color in Montreal in autumn as maples are a favorite street tree throughout the city.  Some street scenes:

A grand old building in Vieux Montreal

On the left: this little restaurant reminds me of a place in Barcelona.  To the right, a curious little building.  A Louer means “for rent”.

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick RiceretoA walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto

There are some very narrow streets in the old city.  It is very quiet after work hours (but before the all-night party begins).  Some quiet alley scenes:

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto

The care and craftsmanship taken on these old buildings is amazing.  Even though this building faces a small little alley, look at this cornice:

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto

I just love old portal, courtyard buildings, carriage houses:

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto


A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick RiceretoThe old city adjoins the lovely waterfront, the old port.  The city used to compete with New York City for shipping to the midwest; all ocean cargo headed up the St. Lawrence river needed to disembark at Montreal and go through the Lachine Canal.  This era ended when the St. Lawrence seaway opened in the 1950’s, among other factors, and we are now left with an amazing still-life of industrial ruins.

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto - the old grain elevators of the old port on the Lachine canal.

Directly across the waterway are two islands, which were developed around the time of Expo ’67.  This is a view of the incredible housing complex Habitat 67, designed by Moshe Safdie.

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto - View of Habitat 67

A view of Lachine Canal:

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto - Lachine Canal

There is a wonderful feeling of summer outdoor activity in Montreal.  There is a great bike path going right through this section of the city – bikers were whizzing by constantly.  Lovers strolling, young families having a quiet picnic on the grass.  Everything was so civilized.  An outdoor bar and two “food trucks” were placed on the quay – I tried a pizza from one of these trucks; it was made fresh right there in front of my eyes – and it was quite good!

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto - Muvbox "food trucks" in the old port.

It was getting dark pretty quick.  I found a roof-top bar and relaxed with a drink among the sound of French conversation.  On my way to my hotel – a hip new building in total contrast to old Montreal – I walked through what I would discover is just one of many pedestrian-only streets.  This could be mistaken for Quebec City; a bit touristy, and lots of souvenir shops.  Still, lovely.

A walking tour of Vieux Montreal by Mick Ricereto

In future installments I will post reports of other walks I took in Montreal; the lovely Beaux Arts-era Golden Mile and my favorite spot I found, St. Louis Square.

French Cars

What designer doesn’t like automotive design?  The pinnacle of consumer goods in terms of complexity and often, cost, automobile design inspires passions that transcend mere utilitarian needs; cars become objects of desire well beyond what usefulness dictates.  Vintage cars especially have little use today other than to study the history of culture, design, pragmatism, invention, beauty.  Like the piles of decorative art stashed away in museums around the world, very few good examples of obscure cars survived their initial in-service intact.  What is left now is being hoarded and driven only occasionally.  Luckily, when these wonderful old cars do come out of the garage, people flock to see them and enjoy talking with their stewards about the good old days of motoring.

Sketch of a Citroen DS

For me, looking at French cars is a particular treat because they are so exotic today – but also, there is a certain Gallic quirkiness that emanates from these cars; utility is nice but why not make something very special, to delight the user and casual passerby?  This is the essence of the French motorcar to me: elevating the utility with careful details and imaginative engineering.

Last summer I went to a few car shows and found myself snapping pictures of all the French cars I could find.  What follows are a few of my impressions and what I liked about each design.  First up: the Peugeot 504 sedan.

Peugeot 504 at Carlisle Import Show

A neighbor had one of these where I grew up.  It was 1970’s brown with a saddle interior, and one night my friend clipped it with his 1967 GTO and totaled it on the spot.  The neighbor said “oh forget that piece of junk, don’t worry about it”.  At first glance, that sloping trunk is a little bizarre.  As time goes on, many car designs (or any product, really) which seemed a little dowdy will eventually grow on me.  I would have been crushed if my 504 were hit by some over-exuberant teenager in a muscle car.  The interior:

Peugeot 504 Interior from Carlisle Import Show

This is a Peugeot 505 racing car.  I didn’t get any information about this particular car but it appears to have been recently campaigned in vintage car racing, what with those modern tires.  I can’t think of a more unlikely race car at the moment, but the 80’s Showroom Stock series might have been the perfect opportunity for Peugeot to get some exposure in the USA.

Peugeot Race Car at Carlisle Import Show

Keeping with the Peugeot marque, here is a lovely older car.  This is a 1938 402 Legere.  Without revealing the date on the placard, I might not have guessed the correct year; this car eludes a particular time period, at least to my American eyes.

Vintage 1938 Peugeot 402 Legere at Carlisle Import Show

In a most-fantastic detail, the headlights are embedded behind the elegantly sloped grille.

Here is a marque I heard of but had never seen: Panhard et Levassor.  The car I saw, I believe, is a model 24b1.  I could not get a good overall shot at the show, so to get a full view of the design I found this picture on the internet.Panhard 24b1 at Carlisle Import ShowThis car had some amazing details, like the chrome beltline, perfectly integrated bumpers and fine window trim moldings.  The wheel hubs appear to be finned brake drums with just a thin chrome rim at the edge.

Panhard 24b1 Motorcar at the Carlisle Import Show 2011

Just look at that incredible bumper detail.  From a little research into Panhard et Levassor automobiles, I discovered they were absorbed into Citroen in the early 60’s.  This particular design debuted in 1964.

Panhard et Levassor 24b1 Automobile DetailThe greenhouse is almost symmetrical from front to back.  This swept-back detail on the rear glass/tail gives the car a very good suggestion of aerodynamics, although the laminar science applied here was probably very little.

Panhard 24b1 Greenhouse Detail

A detail of the door handle.

Panhard 24b1 Door Detail

Every part of this car was carefully, originally detailed to be one integrated piece of art.  Due to the noon daylight the interior was hard to capture.  It was too a feast of design, with binnacled instruments and a sweeping integration of instrument panel and door handles.  Look how close driver is to passenger; what better to help romance bloom on a Sunday drive in the country?

Interior of Panhard 24b1 at Carlisle Import Show

Citroen SM… the last great car by Citroen before the corporate merger with Peugeot in the early 1970s emasculated this great brand’s singular vision.  Jointly developed with Maserati (mostly providing drivetrain including a lovely small V6), the SM had many amazing technological advances including electric self-centering steering, headlights that point towards the corners when the wheel is turned, the famous hydraulic suspension… the list goes on.

Citroen SM in Philadelphia

This amazing example was found in Philadelphia at a small design-oriented auto show.  Again, the attention to detail is exquisite; for instance, again we see completely integrated bumpers, but I think we can admit these would not be much protection during parallel parking.

Citroen SM - lovely hood detail

Citroen actually purchased cash-strapped Maserati in 1968.  Of course Maserati had extensive experience building racing engines and large-displacement road engines; Citroen was looking to make a modern sports-variant version of the venerable DS saloon car and the partnership with Maserati would help put the missing pieces into the puzzle.

Citroen put everything they had into this car.  They literally spent themselves into ruin with the engineering and tooling costs.  The car was a success but it was expensive, and of course they probably would have loved to double production numbers.  There are many fragile and unique mechanical systems that do not tolerate casual neglect.  Many cars were probably abandoned after going long periods without proper maintenance.

Citroen SM Door Handle

I should take a minute to describe the peculiar French approach to automobile ride and comfort.  French cars have traditionally weighed heavier on comfort over road control and a firm ride.  The driving position may not be “aggressive”, and the gear change not as direct as say, a German car.  In cars such as the SM – a “personal luxury car” to use the American term – great effort has been expended to make the car responsive but in its own unique way; isolation from road harshness brings driver alertness by avoiding fatigue.  Plus, you just need to look good when driving; you won’t look good if your hair is mussed and you have perspired from having the top down in your little roadster.

Interior: Citroen SM

Citroen SM

The other iconic Citroen (some would consider the iconic Citroen) is the DS.  Developed in the 50’s this is the car that really defines the high period technologically and stylistically.  These two cars were parked in Hampden in Baltimore on Bastille day.  I happen to be driving by on my French moped and could not resist a picture.

Motobecane Moped with Citroen DS

Although the more exotic cars such as the Panhard and Citroen SM draw a big crowd, I get equal enjoyment from the average old economy car.  This seldom-seen gem is a Simca.  My parents have a story about driving a Simca which involves hilarious throttle cable repairs, a string on the end of each windshield wiper through the side windows as an important “manual override” and being able to hear the rust chewing away the car on quiet nights in the garage.

An old Simca displayed at the Carlisle Import Show

According to my parents, a member of the family won two Simcas on a game show in the late 1960’s.  Two?  His and hers, or did they think a spare car would be needed?  As I sat in this car (the owners were very friendly after sharing the above stories), I imagined my father with his Vise Grip hand-held throttle desperately trying to drive in the rain…

Simca Interior

On to a few Renaults.  I had never seen an R16 before – a very distinctive design.  I believe the car was designed in the early 1960’s, and is a very early hatchback.  It was the European Car of the Year in 1965.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this one.

Renault 16 at the Carlisle Import Show 2011

The “bird beak” nose detail was a styling cue that appeared all the way into the 1990’s.

Renault 16 Front Detail

France used to allow – or still does? – these cool amber headlights.  I’m pretty sure they are illegal in the States but they really complete the look of the car.

Rear Detail of Renault 16

Here is a look at that hatchback.  I love the framed badge which becomes the bottom lip of the hatch, the rhombus-end/diamond taillamps… oh and notice the Quebec plate.  I talked to a friend of the owner and they brought several cars with them to this show in Pennsylvania.

Nearby was a trio of Renault Le Cars.  The race car looked completely trashed and although curious about that, I was completely transfixed on the brace of completely mint, time-warp road cars.

Renault Le Car

I asked around for the owner but he was out walking the show; he owned all three.  Both road cars were of a very high specification, with roll-back sunroofs, front air dams, beautiful cast wheels, perfect graphics, minty interiors… they were just stunning.  Sadly the red car was gone when I came back to get more photographs, but no matter: the white one was the car I would most want to take home that day.

Renault Le Car, White: Detail of Wheels

The Le Car – called the 5 at home and in world markets – was a very successful car in France.  The Le Car was sold through AMC dealers in the States from 1977 all the way to 1993.  I’m thinking these cars were very late model survivors.

Red Renault Le Car Rear End Detail

I love the plastic bumper details on these cars.  I did a little research and the car was restyled a bit for the 1980 model year; US bumpers were always larger and clad in black, but the domestic models have very svelte, more integrated metal bumpers.  This is a case, however, of me preferring the US version as these styling stripes and that integrated reflector is very nicely done.

Renaultt R5 Turbo Detail

In the display building was an incredible Renault R5 Turbo 2.  This was a specialized, rear-engine/rear-drive homologated racing car that is very, very rarely seen in the USA.  This car – and a nice Citroen G3 – were mobbed by people and it was hard to get a good shot.  I will close with the photo of an R5 Turbo 2 from the internet.  Next summer I will make sure to get to more car shows and possibly disseminate the styling and history a bit more.