White 4L with a beacon, which is expelled by a police inscription, is parked a few meters from the presidential palace of the renaissance style Antananariva. "There is no doubt that he is chasing him, but he has the advantage of not driving too much," explains pragmatically the policeman in the uniform he is driving.
At the end of the street, in the shade of bright jacarandas flowers, several Renault 4L, as well as 2 Citroën CVs, wearing the "Taxi" sign, are waiting for customers.
Destroyed or legendary in Europe, these popular vehicles after the war in France still wander the steep trails of the capital of Madagascar and the dusty roads of the Big Island. To the extent that they have almost become its national characters.
Rijason Randrianantoanina, a 37-year-old taxi driver, is proud of his "spectacular" "Deudeuche" (the short name of two biographies, known as "two horses") that makes him sixteen years of life. "He was released in 1978, it's a solid car," he says.
Yes, the body shows several signs of advanced rust and the fuel gauge no longer works, but "I have a gauge in my head, you just get used to it, that's all," he explains. natural disarmament.
Reservoir 2 CV – Cream, as well as all taxis "Tana", the capital – contains only 28 small liters. And Rijason Randrianantoanina is visibly good at mental calculation: he never got out of gas.
– "it's everywhere … just pick it up" –
Since the 1960s, many 2 CVs and 4Ls have been imported from Europe, especially from France, the former colonial power. But the models were also gathered in Big Island until the 1980s.
It was here that Elysée Rakotondrakolona was established until the closure of the Somagoda Automobile Construction Company (Somacoa). He is now a reference 4L automotive mechanic in Antananarivo, in the popular Antoamadinika district.
"The 4L was the first 4X4 and even where there are no modern SUVs, it took three people to lift it!" Explains phlegmatic.
In their open garage, wedged between the "aesthetic hairstyle" salon and the street donut shop, only 4 l of body are accumulated.
Here, reign is inventive. "I will take part of Renault 5 on the front 4L," says Elysee Rakotondrakolona, in a blue job almost as old as his models.
"Our specialty, Madagascar, is that when we see two similar pieces, we know how to adapt, it's a D system," he says.
A specialist does not give up in a particular case: when the transmission is interrupted. "There is nothing to do."
– "Nothing electronic" –
Exact or almost, easy to repair, economical: it's a recipe for 4L and 2 CV success in Madagascar.
No data is available, but Madagascar, the very poor island of the Indian Ocean, is certainly a thousand times a day.
And regardless of the pollution caused by these old models that are not compatible with environmental standards …
In the Elysée Rakotondrakolona garage, the worker patiently straightens the very ductile 4L bodywork with small chisels. Others remove the engine from the orange model to modify the chassis.
Bruno Rasolofomanantsoa, a rice farmer, also gave the "doctor" Rakotondrakolon his valuable tool, his van 4L, to be deferred and poured into a traditional 4L body.
"There is no complication in the car, everything is manual, nothing electronic," says the 1950s, which carries its 4L fertilizer on its paddy fields. "If you have a problem in the middle of nowhere, make a diagnosis, just open the hood."
Riri, taxi driver, approved. "I'll fix it myself, I learned at work." At the sign Antananarivo pulled out the powder. But its 4L, which dates back to 1975, is "muscular". "It's everywhere, even if there's plenty of water because the ignition is high," he says.
However, the original pieces are increasingly rare, says Riri.
Traders are well-specialized in importing coins from Europe, and Indo-Pakistanis who have settled in Madagascar have also cleared the vein, he says.
"But we do not know whether they are copies or not, I suggest to the French to renew the production of spare parts!"