In Quebec, Les Bazous Bruns have their own Facebook page. They are searched for by loving, willing-to-buy car aficionados, mostly young ones. More and more colleagues of mine own one… two… five of them. Even if, from any design standards, d’hier à aujourd’hui, they are unappealing.
Jeez, some of those Bazous Bruns can be so ugly… or are they?
First, let’s make this clear: DO NOT try to translate Les Bazous Bruns. It would give something like old brown jalopy, or rust bucket wreck. Brown Lemon wouldn’t do either. So maybe the closest thing is The Drab, um, well, you know… fill in the blank with whatever you want: beaters, crapcans, rattle traps…
However, the fact is: Les Bazous Bruns are not always wrecked or rusted. And they are not always brown. They could be grey. Or beige. Or off-white/eggshell. Even avocado, you know that green shade found on Frigidaires in the ’70s? Yes, that horrible green.
Les Bazous Bruns could be four-doors sedans of any nondescript style. But a significant number of them are station wagons — that venerable eight-passenger ancestor to 1990’s minivans and this century’s SUVs and crossovers.
Ah, the good ol’ days, when you could sit 3 in front…
Some Bazous Bruns are not only brown (or grey or beige or green-fridge), sometimes they are adorned by woody panels. And you know what? Those generally unloved cars from the past are taking their revenge.
Revenge of the Nerd (on wheels)
They’re like a plague on the road, at least in Quebec: More and more prominent automotive journalists from La Belle Province are claiming to have finally found, after months and even years of (re)quest, THEIR Bazou Brun.
Among them, Antoine Joubert: Two years ago, he bought for $4,500 a 1978 AMC Matador — a station wagon born within a year of his own naissance. Dubbed la Grosse Brune, (translation: The Big Brown), the car’s first mission (after repairs basically doubling its acquisition price…) was to drive the Route 66 — nothing less.
Oh, so many thumbs-up he gathered along the way: “My Grosse Brune recalls memories to people, or they just enjoy seeing something different on the road.”
But still: When your garage already welcomes as many diversified vehicles as a 1991 Mazda Miata, a Honda CRX of the same year, a 1984 Toyota Celica Supra (it’s for sale, by the way…), a 2007 Mercury Grand Marquis, a 2005 Volkswagen Touareg and some cool other stuff like a 2012 Mustang Boss 302 (with its VHuit Vanity Plate…) or even a 1949 Ford Panel Delivery, why the trouble with La Grosse Brune? Especially since the car, in Antoine’s own words, “is not sexy, not even attractive”?
“Precisely and absolutely because the brown is synonymous of an era,” says Joubert. “My car, with its velour seats, its wood trim and its 3rd inverted-row, is like a caricature. It’s like a mascot of these times when people were living in beige and in brown and when everything had faux-bois – everything except maybe the Walkman.”
“Honestly, I bought the AMC Matador for its cool factor and it’s giving it back to me: It attracts more head-turning looks than a Porsche 911! Funny to think nobody was buying ‘that’ at that time… or those who did consume it quickly discarded it. ”
When you buy a Bazou Brun… unintentionally
Also funny to think: Our colleague , who got his hands this Spring on a (absolutely gorgeous!) 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, brown and woody and all, wasn’t at all looking for a… Bazou Brun. He only wanted something different from modern vehicles.
And oh: he also wanted to “cure my affliction, my virus, my Jeep Problem”.
The result? After a year of debating (“yes… no… why should I… but why shouldn’t I…”), here’s what he finally parked last spring in his driveway: this HONCHO vanity-plated GW that is — coincidence, coincidence: Brown.
If he couldn’t really explain why before, now he knows, and this is how explained it in a : “It puts more smiles on my face than any vehicle I’ve piloted in recent memory. It has the patina of an aged warrior, with the single-stage brown paint faded at the edges just enough to let you know it has lived a little, but managed to avoid any permanent damage in the mosh pit.”
Not bad for a gas-sucker — think 9-miles per gallon — that has no cupholders (nada, zero, zilch) and forces you to “either balance a beverage in your lap or trust its safety to the three millimetre of circular lip on the glovebox door.”
When you’re 23 years-old and browner than the brown…
The latest colleague to fall (again) into Les Bazous Bruns is Germain “Gégé” Goyer, who offered himself a nice Father’s Day gift – although he’s only 23 years old and not a father (yet).
Please, meet with Germain, himself browner than the brown. If you have a moment to hear explaining why there was wood on cars in 1970s and 1980s… but also in 1920s, you would think he’s 60 years old turning 173 — and not only because of his ancient first name.
Before satisfying his “plywood per-version”, Germain had already bought a 1972 Chrysler Newport Custom (dubbed Brownie), a 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis (named Freddie – yes, for the Queen’s singer) and a VW Jetta, “exactly like the one my father used to own.”
At 23 years-old, Germain doesn’t need a house… he needs a garage!
Now, you might think all his car dreams are fulfilled with his new-to-him 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser SL, with the traditional faux-bois [How is it that ‘fake wood’ actually sounds fancy in French? –Ed.] splashed on the doors and, therefore, named Woody (“for the moment”).
After all, “Gégé” got it all: It’s kitsch, there’s nothing resembling “that” on today’s market, and it is as authentic as it is unique.
Oui, oui, unique: Ask yourself when’s the last time you saw an orange 1969 Chevrolet Camaro with white stripes on the road… and now, ask yourself when’s the last time you saw an Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser wagon.
So, this is the perfect Mal Aimé car for Germain. And you would think that Germain is happy.
Nope. “Now, I’m looking for another woody station wagon, this time with rear-wheel drive and a V8. Would love a Mercury Colony Park, with its body-on-frame chassis.”
And you know where Germain will probably find it? On the Facebook page.
“I want to save them all”
Auguste Drolet is from Sherbrooke in the Eastern Townships, another young lad sporting a 1890’s first name although he’s only 25 years old. Auguste is the administrator of the 550-member Facebook page he created three years ago and where, since then, he posts its classified ads findings. “It’s nothing big, it’s just me shopping daily, since I was 15 years old, for Bazous Bruns on internet or on the street…”
Auguste is a fan of , the auto-proclaimed instigator of the Malaise Motors, a 10-year-old North American phenomenon that spread to the . And where our automotive journalist colleagues mentioned above are trying to explain their craze by nostalgia, authenticity or cool factor, Auguste knows exactly why he’s having it: “I want to save as many of them as possible.”
Them? “Yes, ‘them’,” confirms Drolet. “’Them’ who survived although they were only convenience goods. ‘Them’ who inspired such ugliness their owners were in a hurry to buy something more modern. I always loved antique cars, but I also always loved cars that people loved less — a trend in other aspects of my life, by the way. And to keep ‘them’ on the road is, for me, a form of contestation: The Archaïque continue to serve.”
The funny part is, Auguste wasn’t even born when Les Bazous Bruns invaded North American driveways. “But I saw them disappear. And already, they were bazous.”
Not only Drolet has the ambition to save “them all”, but he’s got the skills to do so: he’s an auto-body mechanic…
His first salvage happened to be a 1978 Laurentian Safari.
Yes, a brown station wagon, the cheap Pontiac version. And no, nothing his father ever drove, because: “My dad never drove a car in his life. He prefers the bicycle!”
Now, imagine the surprise of this said father when Auguste, barely 15 years old and without a driver’s license, brought back home a looong and all-rusty Safari. Crazy? Maybe. But a decade later, the salvaged first is still part of Drolet’s collection, side-by-side with a 1979 Chevrolet Chevette, a 1987 Nissan Multi, a 1986 Volvo 240 and a 1993 Toyota Tercel.
Oh, and his newest acquisition: a 1984 AMC Eagle wagon four-wheel drive — respect, please, for this Survivor!
Over the years, Auguste freed more than 20 Bazous Bruns from their rust and their pain, “but because I can’t keep them all, I’m always trying to find them a nice home. I did succeed for all of them, except for one: A 1993 little Safari van — but it wasn’t a great loss…”
Were all the rescapés brown, Auguste? “In my heart, yes they were!”