Ever heard of Venturi? Maybe not, but even if you havenâ€™t, just look at itâ€¦
It was back in 1984 when two French car designers, Gerard Godfroy and Claude Poiraud, showed off their first car design, called Ventury. People liked it, so they took things further. They started working on putting it in production, using bits from the French car industry parts bin: a Peugeot 505 engine, for example, and Renault Fuego windows.
Launched under the MVS banner, things grew quickly. Enthusiastic customers wanted more power, so they launched a 2.5-litre V6 turbo version. By 1987, they were building four cars a week. Come 1991, after dropping the MVS bit and becoming simply â€˜Venturiâ€™, they moved to a new factory, launched a racy special and a one-make race series, entered F1 and, a few years later, entered seven Venturi 500LMs in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Wow.
The racing activities created 1994â€™s 400GT, the most powerful French car ever at the time of its release, and actually the worldâ€™s first production car with carbon brakes as standard. But that wasnâ€™t the only car on Venturiâ€™s launch list: in 1994, it also launched the Atlantique 300.
Again, it was the work of Godfroy, and he created it in just six months. The base car was more of a cruiser than a performance car, with a 3.0-litre 24-valuve Peugeot V6 engine producing a smooth 210hp. But at the top of the range lay a very different beast â€“ a 285hp Biturbo model, rather like the one weâ€™ve spotted here.
Itâ€™s a beautiful machine, whose suave mid-90s design has stood the test of time well. To these eyes, itâ€™s part Lotus Esprit, part Ferrari 355, and all kinds of beautiful. The colourâ€™s called Hunter Green and it has a sand interior with rich dark walnut trim. We fell for it the moment we spotted it.
As did the person whoâ€™s owned it for the past decade, and clearly cherished it â€“ thatâ€™s why itâ€™s done just 55,000 miles. This looks a sound machine and a super investment for such a rare and special car, one that a contemporary review said was more relaxing, smoother-riding, better-built and quieter than the Lotus Esprit V8 it was tested against.
Why is it rare? Because Venturi had, by the mid-90s, over-extended itself. It went bankrupt, after running out of cash. A Thai consortium bought it and tried to turn it around, but failed. Leaving the Atlantique as one of the last major cars from this fascinating brand.
Venturi is still around, competing in Formula E racing and making crazy electric cars such as the 300hp Fetish roadster. But the 1990s will always be its most fascinating period. Why not take the opportunity to grab a bit of it with this wonderful Atlantique 300?