The white 4L with a flare, banned by police signs, was parked a few meters from the Renaissance palace style of Antananarivo. "There is no chase problem, but it has the advantage of not consuming a lot," he explained, pragmatically, uniformed police officers who drove.
At the end of the road, under the shade of bright Jacarandas, some Renault 4Ls but also 2 CVs from the Citroën brand, use the "Taxi" sign, waiting for customers.
Wasted or legendary in Europe, these popular vehicles after the war in France still roam the steep streets of the capital Malagasi and dusty streets on the Big Island. Until it almost becomes a national symbol.
Rijason Randrianantoanina, a 37-year-old taxi driver, is proud of his "majestic" "Deudeuche" (the second name of 2 CV, aka "Two Horses") which made him live for sixteen years now. "It was released in 1978, this is a solid car," he said.
Yes, the body shows some sophisticated rust marks and the fuel gauge doesn't work anymore, but "I have a measuring device on my head, you just need to get used to it, that's all," he explained by disarming nature.
Tank 2 CV – cream color, like all taxis "Tana", the capital – only contains 28 small liters. And Rijason Randrianantoanina looks good in mental calculations: she never runs out of gas.
– "It's everywhere … just lift it" –
Since the 1960s, many 2 CVs and 4Ls have been imported from Europe, mainly from France, former colonial rulers. But the model was also assembled on the Big Island until the 80s.
It is precisely here that the Elysée Rakotondrakolona was formed until the closure of the Malagasy construction company (Somacoa). He is now a 4L car mechanic in Antananarivo, in the popular district of Antoamadinika.
"The 4L is the first 4X4, and even where modern SUVs don't come in. It takes three people to lift it!" He explained, phlegmatic.
In an open garage, sandwiched between a "aesthetic hairstyle" salon and a street donut shop, only 4L carcasses pile up.
This is where the power of resources. "I took part of the Renault 5 for the front 4L," said Elysee Rakotondrakolona, in blue works almost as old as the model.
"Our specialty, we are Malagasy, is when we see two similar parts, we know how to adapt. This is system D," he said.
The expert does not give up in certain cases: when the gearbox is damaged. "There is nothing that can be done there."
– "There is no electronics" –
Timely or almost, easily repaired, saving fuel: this is a recipe for the success of 4L and 2 CVs in Madagascar.
There are no numbers available, but the numbers must be thousands to circulate every day in Madagascar, a very poor island in the Indian Ocean.
And no matter the pollution created by this old model is not compatible with ecological standards …
In the Elysée Rakotondrakolona garage, a worker patiently straightens his body with a very soft little chisel of 4L. Others remove the engine from the orange model to modify the chassis.
Bruno Rasolofomanantsoa, a rice farmer, also gave "doctors" Rakotondrakolona a valuable working tool, a 4L car, to be purified and transplanted into a traditional 4L body.
"There are no complications in this car. Everything is manual, there is no electronics," said the fifties carrying 4L fertilizer in their fields. "If you have a problem in the middle of nowhere, to make a diagnosis, just open the cover."
Riri, a taxi driver, agreed. "I fix it myself, I study at work." In the sign, N from Antananarivo took the powder. But the 4L, which originated in 1975, "was fat". "It happens everywhere even when there is a lot of water, because the ignition is high," he said.
But the original pieces are increasingly scarce, said Riri.
Traders who specialize in importing coins from Europe and the Indo-Pakistan who settled in Madagascar have also been exploring blood vessels, he said.
"But we don't know whether this is a copy or not, I suggest to France to continue the production of spare parts!"