1960s / 1970s / French / Jidé


No one corrected guessed last week’s mystery car, a first since we started Ran When Parked. Admittedly it was probably the most obscure one to date: a Jidé.

The Jidé was the brainchild of Jacques Durand, a Frenchman who got his start by making small engines for model cars. He designed and built several cars before the Jidé but very few of examples of each were produced. While the Jidé was by no means mass-produced, it was by far Durand’s best-selling car.

Durand drew the Jidé in 1969 and story has it he was inspired by the Ford GT 40 – a quick look at it and that claim becomes believable. It had a polyester body designed and built in-house and used a plethora of Renault parts: the windshield came from a Floride, the radiator and fan came from an R16, the rear brakes mixed R8 Gordini calipers and R12 discs, and so on. The engines were all Renault units and mid-mounted.

The car was first noticed by Pierre Madelaine, a Sovam/Matra dealer around Paris, who liked the car enough to field one in the 1969 Tour de France Automobile. It was piloted by Madelaine himself and Patrick Champin but it unfortunately abandoned the race early on. Other pilots would later have more success behind the wheel of a Jidé, including Jean Ragnotti of Renault fame and Michel Robini.

Durand displayed the car at the first annual salon de la voiture de course (a sort of car show opened only to race cars) that took place in Paris from February 21st to March 2nd of 1970. As a result of the show he gathered a large handful of orders and saw his business boom.

Before he could fill the orders Durand had to homologate the car. It was tested by the U.T.A.C. in France in several areas, including front impact, impact against steering column, road handling, braking and even the strength of seat belt anchors. The Jidé passed all of them with flying colors, both doors even opened after the front impact.

With that out of the way Durand started selling the car under the name Jidé, the phonetic pronunciation of his initials in French. The cars were sold either as kits, engine-less shells or complete cars.

In 1970 the kit cost 6,300 francs and consisted of the body, the doors, the front and rear decklids, the chassis, the dash, all of the necessary hardware to put it all together plus a blueprint of everything. No engine was provided. To put that price into perspective, in 1970 a Porsche 911S cost 58,000 francs, a VW 1300 L (aka Bug) 8,690 francs, a BMW 2002 TI 23,500 francs and a Citroen 2CV6 cost 7,180 francs.

That same year the next expensive version retailed for 10,000 francs and consisted of an assembled shell without an engine.

As far as complete cars went, the 1300 model started at 23,800 francs and used a Renault 8 Gordini four-cylinder engine which Durand claimed was good for 202km/h (125mph). It came standard with light alloy wheels, halogen lights and four disc brakes and had a single option, a sunroof that would set a buyer back 1,000 francs.

To complement the lineup there were versions of the Jidé that were designed to race in the 1600cc class. Both had the Renault 8 Gordini’s 807G engine; one was carbureted and retailed for 47,500 francs, the other had fuel injection and sat at the top of the Jidé lineup, retailing for a rather hefty 51,000 francs, more than the aforementioned 911 S!

In spite of that the diverse lineup helped Durand’s grow and he was building about one car per week in the early 1970s, a very respectable amount for a small manufacturer. There were some upgrades over the years. In 1972 a 1300cc Renault 12 TS engine was available, as was a 1600cc borrowed from the ill-fated Renault 12 Gordini. A front-mounted spoiler came in 1973.

The press was thrilled about the Jidé. It weighed just over 1,400 pounds and went around corners like a go-kart, it cornered flat and many claimed it was more rigid and in that in many ways it handled better than Alpine’s A110. Durand was on the brink of expanding his operations, going from a garage-run coachbuilder to a small company but things took a turn for the worst in 1973.

The first and main hit was, of course, the 1973 oil crisis. Almost overnight driving became more of a luxury than a leisure and cars like the Jidé simply couldn’t compete. Durand’s operations could have probably survived the crisis but its consequences were even harder than then initial blow. As a result of the oil crisis, the French government started posting speed limits on public roads, a move that caused general outcry in France and made cars like the Jidé less appealing. The Jidé’s last remaining market was essentially the race car crowd, but that came to screeching halt when the French government temporarily outlawed motor racing in late 1973, essentially declaring it a useless waste of gas.

When all was said and done about 130 assembled cars and 50 kits were sold. Most were heavily modified for race use and they are hard to come by today, especially original examples.

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