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SNAPSHOT 39: Season’s Greetings

In Britain there is a tradition that associates snow with this time of the year, so who are we to spurn convention? Long ago Bing Crosby dreamt of a White Christmas and crooned a song about it, although for those who can remember the winter of 1962-3 that persisted for three months, it didn’t actually start snowing until Boxing Day. When work resumed for some of us the following morning, travelling by road was … interesting … but it was managed on a 50cc Mobylette moped whose narrow tyres cut very effectively through 2-3 feet of deep virgin snow. Fast-forward to a couple of years ago when the result of a brief blizzard was caught on camera to produce this photograph; discretion was deemed the better part of valour and the car remained where it was until the thaw came – three days later.

However, the breeze that had accompanied the snow did serve to leave the vehicle looking as it might have done when its development was being undertaken with the aid of wind-tunnel testing. For those who do not recognise the aerodynamic profile, the car is a Peugeot 406 Coupé.

Although these used the parent firm’s mechanicals and front-wheel drive layout, they were actually made in Italy, by Pininfarina, who had not only designed the model, but then set up a production line at their San Giorgio Canavese factory north of Turin to build them. The Coupés were first seen by the public at the 1996 Paris Motor Show and in the following two years they received a number of design awards. Production continued until 2004 when a total of 107,633 cars had been made, just over 10½-thousand of which where right-hand-drive versions.

Initially 4-cylinder 2-litre and V6 3-litre engines were available, the latter offering a top speed of over 140 mph along with an impressive acceleration time of 0-60 in 7∙8 seconds. Even these figures improved when an uprated V6 was introduced in 2002, but along with that came a 2∙2-litre turbo-diesel version which had marginally more sober performance.

Apart from the Coupé’s overall high quality construction, which was evident to those who examined and test-drove examples when they were new and then wrote about them, they also have very good handling characteristics. An additional appealing feature is that when travelling at a steady 80 mph – on the autoroutes of course, not British motorways – wind noise is non-existent. So whilst Pininfarina may have produced a visually restrained body shape, they did indeed get its aerodynamics absolutely spot on.

A Coupé copes well enough with driving in snowy conditions but the attraction of this particular element of the weather wore off long ago, and I know one person who will not be joining in with Mr Crosby’s dream.


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