Car Nostalgia – Citroen 2CV

I never owned one of these and saw very few of them but the 2CV represented sophistication back in the 60’s when even France was cool.  Citroen never put the money into the 2CV so it didn’t get the attention and world market of Germany’s people’s car.  It was more versatile than the bug with four doors and a sliding canvas roof and its original market was French farmers. The car was manufactured for over 40 years with only minor tweaks over time.  The first model appeared in 1948 and the last car was made in 1990.  The only places I remember seeing 2CV’s in the US were college campuses during the 60’s.

This quote from Wikipedia sums up this remarkable car:

The Citroën 2CV (French: deux chevaux vapeur, literally “two steam horses“, from the tax horsepower rating) was an economy car produced by the French automaker Citroën from 1948 to 1990.[1] It was technologically advanced and innovative, but with extremely utilitarian and deceptively simple Bauhaus inspired bodywork, that belied the sheer quality of its underlying engineering. It was designed to move the French peasantry on from horses and carts. It is considered one of Citroën’s most iconic cars. In 1953 ‘Autocar‘ in a technical review of the car wrote of, “…the extraordinary ingenuity of this design, which is undoubtedly the most original since the Model T Ford.”[2] It was described by CAR magazine journalist and author LJK Setright as “the most intelligent application of minimalism ever to succeed as a car.”[3] It was designed for low cost, simplicity of use, versatility, reliability, and off-road driving. For this it had a light, easily serviceable engine, extremely soft long travel suspension (with adjustable ride height), high ground clearance, and for oversized loads a car-wide canvas sunroof (which until 1960 also covered the boot).

One of the enjoyable aspects of watching classic European movies from the 50’s and 60’s is catching some of the wonderful cars of the era in action.  Take for example this scene from Breathless.  As Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg stroll down the middle of a Parisian street, look for the 2CV’s on either side.

Even James Bond couldn’t keep his hands off the 2CV.



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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Matthew Needham March 6, 2010, 6:06 am

    Ralph, I love you love of cars, which I share. Although, personally I’ve never liked the 2CV and was not one to mourn it’s demise.

    I see where you’re coming from in terms of practicality over the Beetle. But it’s a bit like Betamax and VHS. Betamax was (probably) the superior product, but VHS won the war.

    Maybe there will be a renaissance like there has been for the Mini with BMW or the New Beetle?
    .-= Matthew Needham´s last blog ..The secrets of becoming rich =-.

  • Ralph March 6, 2010, 8:04 am

    Matthew,
    You have just got to love ugly practical cars like the 2CV. It is so French. And it is so easy to hate France but even as you hate their smugness, there is a presence that few countries manage and they hate style in buckets.
    Don’t know what got me so animated about the 2CV but modern cars are so uninteresting. Can you imagine feeling nostalgic for a Camry?
    Renault (I think they own Citroen) should really think about a revival as you suggest.

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