Tokyo Coffee & Cars: The French Edition

After every country-specific Tokyo Coffee & Cars gathering, I’m always left wondering what the next event’s theme will be.

We’ve gone from British to German cars, and the last time we dropped by the Tokyo Prince Hotel it was all about Italian metal. But this time? The borrowed car park was only open to French-built cars.


Since Japan is currently in the middle of its rainy season, the organizers made a last minute call to bring the event forward one day to take advantage of a clear break in the weather.


It’s not like French cars can’t go out in the rain, but some of the most prized possessions that you will see in this post didn’t even have roofs, so ensuring owners could bring them along was quite important. Plus sunny days are better than rainy ones, right?

Arriving early at any event is something I always like to do, as it allows me to hang out at the entrance and grab shots of the cars driving in. Plus, many other people who drop by just to check things out often show up in interesting rides too.

A Fiat Panda at any event in Japan will always be a winner. Owning and driving one is an instant projection of your inner connoisseur, someone who appreciates masterpieces from the famed automotive and industrial designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro.

Riding Low, French Style

Compared to previous Tokyo Coffee & Cars events, attendee numbers were definitely down, but then again French cars are a pretty select theme. There was no shortage of passion though.


From the old to the new, the Citroën camp was rather well populated.


As soon as I saw this Renault 5 Turbo drive in, I immediately followed it to its assigned parking spot.


After a quick glance into the engine bay, it was obvious that the owner hadn’t been able to resist enhancing its turbo-boosted potential. This is Japan after all.


Not too far away I spotted an original Renault 5.


The car dates back to the early ’70s, and this one is completely on point with its beige/tan colour combination. Renault is currently working on a new 5 with full electric power, so this iconic model will continue to live on.


You definitely can’t fault Citroën for a lack of originality. From their unmistakable low-slung designs, almost pointy front ends, single-spoke steering wheels and of course hydraulic suspension, they certainly have a special charm.


For me at least, the cars that Peugeot did best remain the lightweight hatchbacks of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Party In The Back

Then of course we have the older stuff like the Simca above. I am far from knowledgeable about these cars, but I just can’t help admire them for their mechanical layout.


And by that I mean that so many were rear-engine, rear-wheel drive.


I’d love to see more manufacturers squeeze engines into the back of sedans.

Just like Renault did with this 10.


When I spotlighted a Matra Sports JET 6 at the Marronnier Run in 2019, little did I know I would end up seeing another example of this rare mid-engined, lightweight (660kg) sports car in Japan. I bet it must be quite the drive.


An R5 van? But, why?


Because cyclist.


The Citroën DS, ‘airing out’ a few decades before ‘airing out’ was even a thing.


Given the number of 2CVs I see on the streets in Tokyo, I thought it was interesting that only one showed up to this meet. A baker that lives in my neighborhood daily drives a canary yellow example.


Not too far away was the often nicknamed ‘3CV’, the Ami, or ‘friend’ in French.

A Few Oddities

In another area of the parking lot sat a few interesting Renaults.


Ok, so it’s not entirely a Renault, but it is halfway there. The Alpine GTA V6 Turbo was France’s sports car offering for most of the ’80s and early ’90s.


It was an interesting design, very much its own thing and in the hotter version powered by a Renault V6 Turbo pumping out 250 turbo-lagged horses.


On the subject of turbo lag, the car parked alongside fit in rather well.


The R5 Turbo 2, like all homologation specials, made no sense and was utterly crazy, and because of that was one of the coolest cars from the era. With its mega-pumped guards, these things look menacing and powerful even sitting still.


As I kid in Italy, I remember someone in town owning one of these mysterious three-seater cars.


It wasn’t driven much and I only ended up seeing the car a couple of times parked, but I do remember marvelling at the fact that three people could sit across its coupe form. That car was a Matra-Simca Bagheera and this, the Murena, was its successor.


By then the Matra-Simca tie up was dissolved and Talbot took over the brand. Notice how this example is shod in Yohohama Advan Neova rubber.


The car was only sold for three years until 1983 and was powered by either a 1.2L or 2.2L motor.

After moving from the UK to Japan, I was always intrigued by the complete lack of Peugeot 205s around. Back in the UK it was the hot hatch to have, both in 1.6i and 1.9i guise, so I didn’t understood why the Japanese didn’t really go for it. I found out later that the 205 was pretty expensive in Japan, and for the same money you could have yourself a 300ZX, Supra or R32 Skyline GT-R. That explains that then.


If you’ve got a thing for vintage Alpines then this will be an awesome sight for you.


At any classic car event in Japan you can be sure to see a nice group of A110s.


And now that also extends to the new versions. Alpine Japan was actually at this event with a few cars.


I really need to get behind the wheel of this thing. Would anyone like to see a drive of the latest version on some Japanese roads? Paddy gave us a great review of his drive, but I need to find excuses to borrow one!

The Bugattis

Ah yes, the Bugattis – stunning race cars from what is close to 100 years ago.


It really does make you think how far we’ve come in close to a century, but at the same time marvel at how advanced these things were during their time. This Type 35 for example was the first car to be fitted with alloy wheels.


It was always powered by Bugatti’s straight-eight engine, a beautifully compact unit, if a tad long.


As I moved down the parking lot for a final pass, I spotted a Renault Spider as it was leaving. It mustn’t have stayed for long.


The French obsession with sticking engines in the back of cars continued into the modern era.


The Clio V6 is probably the first one that comes to mind.


The yellow car next to the V6s is the Megan RS.


Staying in the Renault camp, here’s a Dauphine Gordini.


Again rear-engined, and a car built/modified by Gordini which later on became part of the Renault Sport group. The Vespa 100 was a bit lost amongst all the other French machinery.


I was surprised to even see a BX GTi.


Although, the DS wins hands-down – and suspension-down – all the time.

Remember Climb Dance? That was a 405 T16. This is a 405 Mi16, not 4WD but FF, and not a crazy rally car base, but cool nonetheless.


A late arrival to the event was this Alpine A110 GT4.


This rare model was a stretched version of the regular car that had 2+2 seating. I’d never actually seen one in person before this spotting.


And a great addition to the rest of the Alpines at the event.


As I left, satisfied with my crash course in French automotive history, I grabbed this last shot of some cars parked up outside. Maybe the next Tokyo Coffee & Cars meeting in September will be all about American iron? I’ll definitely be there to find out.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare



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Very nice.

Have to say that C6 with the spats looks fire. Modern classic?


That was the one that caught my eye too, with smoothies also. Guaranteed classic and so under-rated as it's a modern Citroen where they went back to their quirkyness. I would love one for wafting around in.


The yellow car next to the two Clio V6 is a Megane RS.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

The yellow car next to the V6s is the Lutecia RS, the name Renault has to use instead of Clio in Japan as Honda owns the copyright on that name

Umm... Dino, that yellow car is the bigger Megane RS, not Clio.


The yellow Renault next to the Clios/Lutecias is a Megane RS


Interesting that the 205 was so expensive in japan - I would never have imagined it was on a similar scale to much more sophisticated machinery. A Miami blue 205GTi 1.6 was the first car I ever bought with my own money. Put Koni adjustable shocks, 1.9 GTi alloys, and a Pipercross filter on it. The electrics were terrible and caused it to break down all the time, but it's still the best car I've ever owned (the follow-up 306Gti-6 a very close second).

Mgr Fabrice Carpentier

The blue renault registered 47 97 is not a R5 but a super 5 gt turbo and a phase 2 (circa 1990). Thé same that was in a movie with sacha baron cohen and a regular basis in france and uk for tuning.

Thé van is a express and is based on thé same chassis!!!!!


the bike the the Express van is a Time french bike by the way. Finest carbon bikes money can buy.


with Mavic wheels to boot!


The "super 5" was a commercial nickname for the phase 2 R5. It still is an R5 nontheless, hence why there are badged "Renault5" even in France.


Renault, Citroen, Peugeot are rarity here in the Midwest and throughout the country, except perhaps in NY, NJ, MA. I remember Renault 9? or 11? which was made in Kenosha Wisconsin in the 80's and it never sold in large enough number to justify continuation.


I have never clicked on a Speedhunters article so quickly after reading the title, thank you Dino for covering this meet. I am obessed, although disappointed in the lack of Gordini's.


If that is a legitimate street driven Type 35...holy, holy crap. I mean, Japan is always impressive when it comes to car diversity, but this is next level. I've only ever seen one before, and that was in the Musée Sclumpf. What a spot!


Love the french flag detail on the Simca's vents


can't imagine how alien must be seeing an old french car in Japan

Keith Peronilla

What a variety! There's so many cars in here that I need to learn about.


French cars are wonderful
I have a liking for them


Man I got the opportunity to see a Alpine GTA V6 Turbo in red at a Cars and Coffee event last month. I honestly from far though it was an Opel Monza. Man I was wrong.


Maybe I'm little bit biased here but growing up in a family full of French cars made me admire these cars. I really don't understand why everyone seems to hate them for lack of reability (taking the cars from the same era as reference to compare).
I think they lost their "mojo" at the beginning of this millenium but they're coming back at track by reviving the Peugeot GTI, Alpine, Renault RS, Renault R5 electric,...
Living in a country where a brand new 1.2Clio starting price is around 20k USD (we pay around 100% taxes), i don't think i'll never be a 1st owner for any car let alone an overpriced hot hatch; but i'll be rooting for them.


Clearly, this is what heaven looks like.


Is that first pic one of the rare badge-engineered Citroen Pandas? The quirky ‘quatre par quatre’ definitely my favourite french car…


I'm a JDM/Honda/Euro/BMW fan since I can remember, more than 30 years since I picked up my first car magazine. But yes, please, more French cars!


What, no one wearing a beret, toting a shopping bag with baguettes sticking out, or smoking non-filter Gitanes to the last millimeter at a French car meet? C'mon Japan!

Love the last photo, event parking. Jag saloon and a freaking Shaker Hood 'Cuda.