There was a time when you could trust the French. And I don't mean in terms of supplying white flags and cheese. I'm talking about French Presidential cars.
The French, lets be honest, have never been that much cop at selling big cars in big numbers. This is not because they're rubbish - they aren't - but because they either have a habit of breaking down or an Eiger-esque approach to depreciation.
Neither of which, of course, bothers French Presidents who don't travel very far and have always shown big French limos at their very best - black with a flag. Arguably French Presidential limos are the best in the world - smart but effortlessly stylish, like our Gallic cousins of course.
Which makes the news that Francois Hollande darts around Paris between mistresses while riding a moped all the more unedifying. I'm not sure whether the fact that he is a stranger to commitment or that he rides a moped is worse. No, it's rides a moped. Definitely.
Paris students ride mopeds. French Presidents need big black cars. With, in Mr Hollande's case, big black windows.
Since France isn't building many big black limos at the moment and those that it does perhaps don't fit Mr Hollande's revised automotive criteria, here, as a simple act of public service, is Great Escape Cars' list of ideal alternatives to that embarrassing moped for Mr Hollande.
Our criteria is simple. The car must be zippy, in the Paris moped fashion, enabling the bed-hopping Hollande to maximise trist time. It may draw attention to itself but not the occupant (a clever deterrent). It must be stylish. It mustn't be French, because nobody would suspect a French President of not driving a French car. It must be British, for the same reason.
With that in mind, here we go:
1. Rover SD1 Vitesse
With its low roof and high belt line the SD1 minimises glass area thereby maximising cover for Hollande. It also has low seats, so that'll help too. The Vitesse is also quick albeit not very zippy. But then its attractive Daytona-esque lines will have all of Paris stopping to stare at this style icon (without being able to see the driver crucially). So Hollande can simply zip through the stationary traffic. Voi and indeed la.
2. Austin Maxi
The car with its own double bed in the back. If the Maxi ain't the ultimate love shack, what is? No need to risk the paparazzi waiting outside your lover's door, simply drive away to where they are not, drop the back seats and, well, enjoy. If Mr Hollande can find a 1750 twin carb model he can probably out-run the press pack too. Probably. If they were on foot. If he had a head start. As for style, the Maxi has it in spades. Well it looks like it's been hit with something anyway.
3. Reliant Robin
Nothing, repeat nothing, zips like the Tamworth tearaway. As Jeremy Clarkson proved the resin rocket does what no other car can do - it corners, it's indestructable and it's environmentally friendly, using 25% less rubber per mile than comparable modes of transport. The simple application of some tinted windows - or Les Fenetres Noire as the French call them - will create the perfect Hollande-mobile.
4. Triumph TR7
Thanks to Harris Mann, famed TR7 stylist, the TR7 coupe is perfect for the wayward President. That stylish reverse-rake rear window effectively hides the driver and passenger's upper bodies. Add in the low roof/high beltline nexus that was virtually patented by BL in the 70s and you have a car that delivers for the President much like the SD1. It's also compact and, for Paris' heaving traffic, zippy, at least theoretically. Naturally its peppy 2 litre engine will break down a lot, but that will enable an incognito Mr Hollande and partner to simply roll out the tartan rug, unwrap the Boursin, pop Le Piat D'Or, grab the baguette and enjoy a typically French impromptu Le Picnique, roadside.
5. MG Maestro Turbo
Shaking off the baying press pack surely lies at the root of Mr Hollande's car choosing concerns. And few cars shake like a Maestro. But if he can see past the relaxed, typically British approach to build quality he'll discover in the boosted MG version the ideal motorised companion. Most MG Maestros have been chaved to death so he won't need to worry about fitting tinted windows. Just jump in and go. And go it does. The MG Turbo has more lag than a van full of loft insulation. This is ideal for the President. As the paparazzi pull in behind he can simply floor the throttle. The minutes of delay before anything actually happens will lull the newshounds into a false sense of success before the spirited MG boosts off towards the horizon, a no doubt giggling Mr Hollande at the wheel. Ideal.
Hopefully all this is useful to the beleaguered President. In the interests of Anglo-Franco relations we need more focus on fine wine production than bed hopping. So get it together Francois!
For the record, I like the French. A great country with great cars, people and stuff. And hopefully, for my sake, a sense of humour.