GALLERY: Traversée de Paris Is The Classic Car Rally Defying Winter
Photography by Mathieu Bonnevie
What can you expect from an event where people are supposed to meet on a rather cold, pretty early, and very wet and windy Sunday morning for a ride in Paris? The first answer to come to mind would be: not a lot. But passion is stronger than any solvents used on the winter streets, and the 18th Traversée de Paris (literally translated to “Crossing of Paris”) managed to gather more than 600 classic cars and bikes to create a fascinating ‘60s-era traffic jam in the French capital city.
In the darkness of a winter night that’s just become a frigid morning, the first engine sounds are heard around the Château de Vincennes as yellow lights cast a shine on the still-wet ground in the direction of the esplanade, where the classic car enthusiasts meet for the start of the Traversée. With road books in hand and not discouraged by the atrocious weather, they start the brief road trip in the direction of the city center well before we could see the first light of the day, waking Paris up along their way.
The program of the route was pretty busy, with passages and stops by the main monuments and destinations that Paris is known for: Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Esplanade des Invalides, and of course the unmissable Place de la Concorde. Even on this bitter morning tourists were visiting at each stop as usual, but the classic cars really stole the show away from the city staples, mostly by crowding every square meter available! As the sun rose the rain began to ebb and finally stop, and we could finally enjoy the herd of the old machines without the same worries that came with the earlier dampness.
You can also add some unofficial stops as you please, as the Traversée literally puts Paris back to the good old days: in every street you could find classic cars passing or parked here and there, for any number of reasons—some stopped at bars for a quick petit-déjeuner, at the boulangerie to grab a croissant… and sometimes in the middle of the road to help others fix and push their cars that refused to start, followed by a trip back to the bar perhaps!
We’ve been fans of the event for years now, and there’s always something new to be found on each iteration. For instance, this latest edition was focused on car manufacturers that have since disappeared, and the rarities that came out in support were worth the trip, with a bunch of Facel Vegas, Panhards, Deutsch-Bonnets, Talbots, Messerschmitts, DAFs… and an unexpected convoy of four DMC DeLoreans! There were plenty of other interesting machines from those still in operation, with models such as the Lancia Flaminia (a Coupé and a Zagato Super Sport!), Alpine A106, and Aston Martin DB4 sharing the road.
Perhaps even more interesting though is the condition of the cars, not the cars themselves necessarily. Lots of them were first-hands, either in their original paint and patina, or in contrast, painstakingly restored states. Look at the rust on the red Citroën 2CV and the shine on the Renault Floride to see this juxtaposition.
These popular cars all seem to have a story when you take time to look at them closely and to discuss with their owners. You don’t come to the Traversée de Paris to see the rarest cars in the world, but this is a rare opportunity to visit Paris in a magical vintage atmosphere. It is altogether a beautiful collection of cars and an atmosphere full of sharing passion and memories. We will certainly be back for the next edition later this year.