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Like most of the readers of this article, I’m over 50, and I love rock ‘n’ roll and the 50s. I’m therefore a bit nostalgic for an era that I didn’t know, but that I tried to live, in spite of everything.
How did I go about trying to get there?
Well, first of all, listening to the music of that time of course. All the good songs of rock ’n’ roll from the 50’s made sense to me when I was young, and continue to do so. Oh yeah !!!
I also adopted the ‘look’. Converse sneakers or Creepers shoes, t-shirts, Levi 501s with cuffs. Uh … I must admit that I also mixed it with the punk look, but it’s still rock ’n’ roll, right?
And then also, I got a scooter from the 60s. My magnificent Lambretta 125DL. Uh … I must admit that it came out of the factory in 1970, but it has a good rock ‘n’ roll look anyway, right?
And then finally, I drove an old car. A Peugeot more precisely. For more than 10 years, I drove a Peugeot 403. First a 1962 grey sedan, and then a 1958 black station wagon. Uh … there, I can say that it’s rock ’n’ roll! Do you agree with me?
And in this article I’ll talk about cars. Or actually, I’m going to talk about the adventures that happened to me with these two old cars, that might not have happened if I’d been driving a modern car.
First, do you remember the smell of old cars? Such a unique smell! A kind of mixture of plastic, foam and imitation leather. I loved that smell when I was a kid and I still love it. Modern cars smell completely different. Their smell almost makes me nauseous. Seriously.
In some old cars you could fit up to six people. Three behind and three in front! As in the Peugeot 403. It was very practical. “What about security?” Yes, I know, but look, I’m not dead! Not even an accident in the ten years I was driving it, and I covered miles. In 1999, I even went to Barcelona from Paris in my Peugeot 403, to the psychobilly festival in Calella. Joined by my friend Laurent (aka Laurent 403) who also made the trip in his.
Laurent 403 was also the drummer of Georgette 2, one of the groups in which I sang. Which means we had two Peugeot 403s! Laurent had a blue diesel one. We did a little bit of touring with these cars. It was class, I swear! Well, I admit, it wasn’t possible to do a 1,500km round trip in a weekend to go and play at the other end of France. But what class we had! Yes, I know, I repeat myself, but damn, it was class!
Would we have had the same class if we had toured with modern cars? Of course not!
Old cars didn’t have seat belts.
It was freedom. “Yes, but it was really dangerous!” Yes, but it was freedom! Once, when I was on my way to go and do a concert with Georgette 2 at Surcouf, at Pré Saint-Gervais, I was stopped by the cops at Bagnolet (Paris) because they saw that I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. And when I told the young cop that I didn’t have one and that I had the right to drive without one, he didn’t believe me.
Here is roughly the dialogue –
“What do you mean you don’t have one and can you drive without one?” said the young man in uniform.
“We have the right to drive old vehicles not fitted with seat belts like this! It’s the law!” I said.
“What is this law?” he retorted.
“Well, I don’t know exactly what law it is, but I know it!” I replied, sure of myself.
“How do you know the law. And me?” he blurted annoyed.
“I understand, sir, but this law is real, and it exists,” I said, still sure of myself.
Finally, to decide who was right, it was necessary for one of his superiors, in his fifties, to come and confirm to him that I was right and that I was in good standing. And it’s surely with regret that the young cop let me go again.
Would I have been arrested with a recent car? Probably not because I would definitely have put on my seat belt! But that wouldn’t have allowed me to put this cheeky young man in uniform in his place!
Another time, I was stopped at a red light. It was in Pigalle, on Boulevard de Clichy (Paris). It was three o’clock in the morning, there were four of us, two girls, two guys, and we were leaving the bar “Le Trou Gaulois”. For those who don’t know, it was a rock bar in Pigalle. And we hadn’t been sucking on ice there!
An important and happy detail, it was a hot night and our windows were open, so it didn’t stink of alcohol in the car. When the cop approached the car, I turned my head toward him, trembling inwardly and telling myself that my friends and I were going to be in big trouble. Except that the cop had stopped me because he wanted to talk about my old car! I swear it’s true! Still, I didn’t look ‘normal’ with my crazy haircut and piercings in my face. But he must have been tired of working, and he just wanted to chat with the driver of a Peugeot 403.
Here is roughly the (crazy) dialogue –
“Wow! Your car is super!” said the cop, enthusiastically.
“Thank you,” I said, trembling.
“What year is it?” he asked.
“1962,” I replied, still worried.
“They don’t make cars like that anymore!” continued the cop, a bit disappointed.
“Is the painting original?” he asked.
“Yes, the painting’s original.”
“Oh! It’s magnificent!” he added with a broad smile on his lips.
“She is beautiful, it’s true,” I replied soberly.
“Ah! It was good mechanics at the time,” continued the man in uniform.
“It was robust, indeed,” I replied.
At that time, the light turned green.
“Uh … the light’s green, sir,” I said to him, with an interrogative air and still worried by not knowing how this roadside check was going to end.
“Oh ! No problem. Go, go!” he ordered amicably.
So we drove away from the policeman.
My three passengers and I couldn’t believe it. In the middle of the night on Pigalle (a nightclub strip), a cop stops us to talk about the car! Would I have been stopped if I’d been driving a more modern car? I don’t know, but this story is anchored in my memory and I thank this police officer who loves vintage cars for not asking me to blow in the bag for a breath test!
I said a little earlier that you could take up to six people in this type of vehicle. Once we came home in the evening and there were eight of us in my Peugeot 403 grey sedan! Yes, me, the driver, and seven friends! We were a little cramped! When we got to our drop off point on Championnet street, while I was parking, I saw a cop car coming in the opposite direction, but it was too late, so I continued parking the car. The cop car slowed down, stopped, and the cops waited for everyone to get out of the car. I don’t know what they thought when they saw eight people get out of the Peugeot 403, but they restarted and continued on their way.
This time, no dialogue. But again, what would have been their reaction if they had seen eight people get out of a modern car? Would they have arrested us? No one will ever know, but I like to think that it was thanks to my old car that they decided there was no need to question us.
There it’s finished. And all is well that ends well.
I would add that I really loved driving in old cars. It was rock ’n’ roll, right? And finally maybe more “safe” with the cops than in a recent car.
And you? Do you have any stories about cars that end well like these ones? Tell us about it in the comments.
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