Memories : Paimpol, Brittany, 1984

Paimpol, Brittany, 1984

It’s August 1984 and we’re in the beautiful harbour town of Paimpol in the delightful region of Brittany in France. The relative peace of this region seems like a million miles away from Olympics in Los Angeles, which are hogging the world’s media and making superstars of some of the USA’s finest athletes. As well as something of an anti-hero of our adopted long-distance hope, South African barefoot runner, Zola Budd.

Here, life takes its own pace – a tabac coffee and croissant for breakfast followed by a stroll in the morning, and a languid seafood lunch harbourside. For Brits lucky enough to be enjoying a driving holiday in this region, the relaxed pace of life and spacious roads feel like a million miles away from Blighty, while car enthusiasts can enjoy what looks like a very different car parc to the one that they enjoy back home. Grabbing a gite holiday and taking the Portsmouth-Saint Malo Brittany Ferry as part of the package is still quite unusual for us Brits, but the French holiday is gaining popularity fast as families look for a different experience to more traditional getaways.

You’ll just about pick up a crackling Radio 4 long wave here, otherwise you’re going to have to immerse yourself in French radio or, if your gite has one, an eyeful of TV broadcast in glorious SECAM. There isn’t an equivalent to Top Of The Pops, but if you tune into TF1, the programme HIP HOP will sate your musical needs. You’ll be missing out on some crackers in the UK charts, though – Careless Whisper by George Michael is at number one, holding off a strong challenge from Black Lace’s Agadoo. It’ll soon be replaced by Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You from the Gene Wilder film, Woman In Red.

So, tell us about the cars

Autobianchi A112

As you can imagine, the car selection is wildly different from what you’d expect to see in 1984 Britain, and that’s what made travelling overseas such a pleasure for car enthusiasts back then. Right at the front, we have a Ford Granada Mk2, next to a spotlighted Renault 4, which is no doubt wearing a red A plate. Then we have a late-1970s Mazda 929 and Renault 18 Turbo boxed in by a bright red Opel Ascona B in what looks like SR trim.

There’s a lovely Volkswagen Golf Mk1 alongside an Autobianchi A112 (above), which are boxed in behind a double-parked Renault 14, while a Simca 1100, Mini van, Mazda 323 (was there a local dealer nearby?), Renault 5 and Peugeot 305 complete the row. In the line nearest the shops, we have a Peugeot 504 and Citroën Visa. Outside the newsagents, we have another 504, Fiat 127, Simca 1100, Peugeot 404, yet another 504, Renault 12 and another Mazda 323.

Further along we have a Peugeot 204, Volkswagen Beetle, another 204, a family getting into a Renault 5, a BMW 3 Series, a Renault 6 and, topping off that delicious selection, is a wonderful beige Renault 14. What a selection!

If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via any of the links below.

Keith Adams


  1. Judging by the decals that’s an Ascona J which was sporty model with a carburettor not injection . A kind of GT/E-lite if you will. There was a similarly trimmed Manta brother, a version of which I own.

  2. Keith you missed the Citroën GS which you can see the headlight on the edge of the picture. It is quite a lot of foreign metal there, as my few experiences of France you didn’t see much. Maybe a few holiday makers? Can’t remember the last time I saw a 323 or a 929.

  3. Perhaps the most obvious comment to make is about the ANGLED PARKING. People come in from the right end, drive directly to an empty slot and park. On leaving they have all the central space to reverse into, in one almost straight movement – no fiddling about as with square, right angle parking – slip into first and away. How is it that so many foreign countries have not adopted either parallel or right angle parking when stopping on a street or, as here, in an off street area? No wonder the Frogs shrug their Gallic shoulders at LES ANGLAISES. Oh, la la!

  4. One model I’m surprised not to see – the Peugeot 305. I always thought it looked a really classy small saloon, and one of the few French cars I ever considered owning (although I didn’t).

    And I’d forgotten about the Mazda 323 – possibly the first time I seriously liked a Japanese car enough to think of owning one (but never did).

  5. Today the buildings on the Place de la Republique look pretty much the same. Much of the roadway has succumbed to granite-block paving, planters and LED lights. And these cars are gone. Check out Street View at 48°46’44.63″ N 3°02’42.08″ W.

  6. The blue Mini van appears to be a “window van” which was offered as a regular model alongside the standard van and pick-up in several continental markets.

    • @Chris Cowin, in Portugal, BL offer 4 models of Mini Van:
      – Van (panel van) ;
      – Van Deluxe (with wind up mechanism in rear windows) ;
      – IMA (4 seat) ;
      – IMA (5 seat) ;

      Best regards.

  7. That Renault 18 Turbo with its alloys reminds of that brief fashion for wheels with stripes on them, so that it was most unlikely the pattern would line up between the front and rear wheels! The Fiat Ritmo/Strada was another model to have such wheels

  8. The Mini van must have been pretty rare in France at the time. I had a wonderful Visa just like that, and I love the Renault 14. Great pic, keep ’em coming!

  9. Great stuff again. The Mazda 929 was the 4 cyl OHC engine equivalent of the RX4 Rotary car. As for the Autobianchi A112, it was a similar car that we hired in Tunisia in 1977 while working there to drive from Tunis & a town called Sfax. Got us there and back with luggage and equipment.

    • O no, I see a chrome side mirror, Taunus tc3 had a black plastic one. For it is not a Taunus tc2, it must be a Granada mk2

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