by Bruce Grant

Last December, I had the great pleasure of a meeting in Ottawa with two crazy Frenchmen, Quentin Renaud and Tristan Villemain, who were completing a round-the-world tour in a topless 2CV named Bucéphale. I’ll give a brief outline of the story here, and the links to the whole story for any of our friends who want to pursue it.

Bruce, Quentin, and/et Tristan

Bruce at the wheel of Bucéphale – Bruce au volant de Bucéphale

It all starts with two other Frenchmen, Guy de Larigaudie and Roger Drapier who in 1938 made, in a Model A Ford, the first overland journey from Paris to South-east Asia. Much of the route, particularly the Ganges estuary, had no roads and was impossible to traverse. They traversed it anyway, using a combination of charm, boy-scoutish optimism, imperialist arrogance, and a pistol. “Si la route te manque, fais-la.”

Their book (LA ROUTE AUX AVENTURES by Guy de Larigaudie, publisher Librairie Plon) is available (used) in French from www.priceminister.com

The next chapter in this tale is about Edouard Cortès and Jean-Baptiste Flichy who took inspiration from that book and set out in on the same journey in a 2CV. In Transylvania they cut off the roof to improve the view, a foolish thing to do as the roof forms the top chord of the car’s structure. There were consequences. The roads were better than in 1938, but not without new challenges; think about driving across Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2003.

Having completed their journey, they abandoned the car in a field near Saigon. In their book, they issued an invitation for anyone who wants to recover the car and drive it back to France. “Dans une boîte Nouristani, souvenir d’Afghanistan, nous conservons les clefs de Bucéphale. Elles sont à qui voudra bien la récupérer. »

(In a Nouristani box, souvenir of Afghanistan, we keep the keys to Bucéphale. They belong to whomever wants to recover it.)

The book (PARIS SAIGON, by Edouard Cortès and Jean-Baptiste Flichy,publisher Presses de la Renaissance) is available new, in French, from the same www.priceminister.com

This brings us to Quentin Renaud and Tristan Villemain, who answered the call, brought the car back to life and drove it home, making the briefest stop in Ottawa.

(September 2015 update) Quentin and Tristan’s story is now available in book and e-book form.  The book has been published in French by “Presses de la Renaissance, Paris” under the title “SAIGON-PARIS, LE RETOUR DE BUCEPHALE”. It can be ordered through Priceminister at this link.