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Citroën 2CV

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Citroën 2CV
Citroën 2CV
Citroën
aka Dyane
Mehari
FAF
Ami
Production produced from when to when+total units made (optional)
Class Economy
Body Style 4 door, 4 seat Sedan
Length length - type here
Width Width - type here
Height Height - type here
Wheelbase wheelbase - type here
Weight Weight - you get the point
Transmission transmission + drive
Engine 0.4 litre opposed 2
Power N/A hp @ N/A rpm
N/A lb-ft of torque @ N/A rpm
Similar similar (competition)
Designer Pierre Boulanger

The Citroën 2CV (deux chevaux - French, literally "two horses", from the tax horsepower rating) was a small automobile produced by the French manufacturer Citroën from 1948 to 1990. Including the commercial versions of the 2CV, Dyane, Mehari, FAF, & Ami variants, the 2CV design spawned over 9 million cars.

See Wikicars' comprehensive Citroën 2CV Review.

Contents

History

The 2CV belongs to a very short list of vehicles introduced right after World War II that remained relevant and competitive for many decades - in the case of the 2CV, 42 years.

Pierre Boulanger's early 1930s design brief - said by some to be astonishingly radical for the time - was for a low-priced, rugged "umbrella on four wheels" that would enable two peasants to drive 100 kg of farm goods to market at 60 km/h, in clogs and across muddy unpaved roads if necessary. France at that time had a very large rural population, who had not yet adopted the automobile due to cost. The car would use no more than 3 litres of gasoline to travel 100 km. Most famously, it would be able to drive across a ploughed field without breaking the eggs it was carrying. Boulanger later also had the roof raised to allow him to drive while wearing a hat.

André Lefèbvre was the engineer in charge of the TPV (Toute Petite Voiture - "Very Small Car") project. By 1939, the TPV was deemed ready and several prototypes had been built. Those prototypes made use of aluminium parts and had water-cooled engines. The seats were hammocks suspended from the roof by wires.

During the German occupation of France during World War II, Michelin (Citroën's main shareholder) and Citroën managers decided to hide the TPV project from the Nazis, fearing some military application. Several TPVs were buried at secret locations, one was disguised as a pickup, and the others were destroyed, and Boulanger had the next six years to think about more improvements. Until 1994, when three TPVs were discovered in a barn, it was believed that only two prototypes had survived. As of 2003, five TPVs are known. For long it was believed that the project was so well hidden that the all the prototypes were lost at the end of the war (in fact it seems that none of the hidden TPVs was lost after the War, but in the 1950s an internal memo ordered them to be scrapped. The surviving TPVs were, in fact, hidden from the top management by some workers who were sensitive to their historical value).

After the war, internal reports at Citroën showed that producing the TPV would not be economically viable, given the rising cost of aluminium in the post-war economy. A decision was made to replace most of the aluminium parts with steel parts. Other changes were made, the most notable being an air-cooled engine, new seats and a restyling of the body by Flaminio Bertoni. It took three years for Citroën to rework the TPV and the car was nicknamed "Toujours Pas Vue" (Still Not Seen) by the press.

Citroën finally unveiled the car at the Paris Salon in 1948. It was laughed at by journalists, probably because Citroën had launched the car without any press advertising. Boris Vian described the car as an "aberration roulante" (rolling aberration) and the car was qualified as a "Spartan car" by many. History has confirmed that the car was charming in a lot of people's views, and a revolution in consumer transportation, at least on the French market.

The 2CV was a great commercial success: within months of it going on sale, there was a three-year waiting list. Production was increased from four units per day in 1949 to 400 units per day in 1950. Some of the early models were built at Citroën's plant in Slough, England. A coupé version was even produced briefly, called the Bijou, and in 1967 Citroën built a new car based on the 2CV, the Citroën Dyane, in response to the direct competition by the Renault 4. At the same time, Citroen developed the Méhari 4x4.

A rare Jeep-esque derivative, called the Yagán, after an Aborigine tribe, was made in Chile between 1972 and 1973. After the Chilean coup of 1973, there were 200 Yagáns left that were used by the Army to patrol the streets and the Peruvian border, with 106 mm cannons.

A similar car was sold in some west African countries as the Citroën "Baby-brousse".

A very special version of the 2CV was the «Sahara» for very difficult off-road driving, built from December 1960 to 1971. This one had an extra engine mounted in the rear compartment and both front and rear wheel traction. Only 694 «Sahara»s were built.

The purchase price of the 2CV was always very low. In Germany in the 1960s for example, it cost about half as much as a Volkswagen Beetle.

As time went on, this rural horse-substitute gained favor with a new audience: European nonconformists who protested mass consumer culture. At the time, a popular joke was that 2CVs came from the factory with Atomic Power - No Thanks! bumperstickers. Owning a 2CV was like being in a club - 2CV owners would wave to each other on the road.

The 2CV was mainly sold in France and some European markets. In the post war years, Citroën was very focused on the home market, which had some unusual quirks, like puissance fiscale. The management of Michelin was indulgent of Citroën up to a point, but was not prepared to initiate the investment needed for the 2CV (or the Citroën DS for that matter) to truly compete on the global stage. Consequently, the 2CV suffered a similar fate to the Morris Minor and Mini, selling less than 10 million units, where as the Volkswagen Beetle, which was sold worldwide, sold 21 million units.

Only a few thousand 2CVs were sold in North America when they were new - the car was so small and inexpensive that the cost of transport alone put it into a different and uneconomic price category. The 2CV was built in Chile and Argentina to address this issue for South America.

Construction

A late Citroën 2CV with square headlights
Enlarge
A late Citroën 2CV with square headlights

The level of technology in the 1948 2CV was remarkable for a car of any price in that era, let alone one of the cheapest cars on the planet. While colors and detail specifications were modified in the ensuing 42 years, the biggest mechanical change was the addition of front disc brakes in 1980.

The 1948 2CV featured:

The suspension of the 2CV was almost comically soft - a person could easily rock the car back and forth dramatically. The swinging arm, fore-aft linked suspension system together with inboard front brakes had a much smaller unsprung weight than existing coil spring or leaf designs. This made the suspension more responsive, enabling the 2CV to indeed be driven at speed over a ploughed field. Since the rear brakes were outboard, extra shock absorbers or tuned mass dampers were fitted to the rear wheels to damp wheel bounce.

Front wheel drive made the car easy and safe to drive, and Citroën had developed some experience with it due to the pioneering Traction Avant.

Large hydraulic inboard brakes ensured that brake failure on one side left steering and braking largely unaffected.

It was powered by a flat-twin air-cooled engine designed by Walter Becchia, with a nod to the classic 'boxer' BMW motorcycle engine (it is reported that Becchia dismantled the engine of the BMW motorcycle of one of his friends before designing the 2CV engine).

The car had a 4-speed manual transmission, an advanced feature on an inexpensive car at the time. Boulanger had originally insisted on no more than 3 gears, because he believed that with four ratios the car would be perceived as complex to drive by customers. Thus, the fourth gear was marketed as an overdrive, this is why on the early cars the "4" was replaced by "S" for surmultipliée. The gear shifter came horizontally out of the dashboard with the handle curved upwards. It had a strange shift pattern. The first was back on the left, the second and third were inline and the fourth (or the S) could be engaged only by turning the lever to the right from the third.

In keeping with the ultra-utilitarian (and rural) design brief, the canvas roof could be rolled completely open. The original 2CV had one rear light and one stoplight, and was available only in grey. The windshield wipers were powered by a purely mechanical system: a cable connected to the transmission, to reduce cost, this cable powered also the speedometer. The wipers' speed was therefore variable with car speed. When the car was waiting at a crossroad, the wipers were not powered, thus it was also possible to power them by hand. The body was constructed of a dual H-frame chassis, an airplane-style tube framework, and a very thin steel shell.

The reliability of the car was increased by the fact that, being air-cooled, it had no coolant, radiator, water pump or thermostat. It had no distributor either because both spark plugs were fired at the same time, on every two strokes. Except for the brakes there were no hydraulic parts on original models as the shock absorbers were based on an inertial system.

Engines

Citroën 2CV 18 HP 425 cc flat-twin engine
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Citroën 2CV 18 HP 425 cc flat-twin engine

The car featured an air-cooled, flat-twin, four-stroke, 375 cc engine, with the notoriously underpowered earliest model developing only 9 bhp DIN (6.5 kW). A 425 cc engine was introduced in 1955, followed by a 602 cc (giving 28 bhp (20.5 kW) at 7000 rpm) in 1968. With the 602 cc engine the tax classification of the car changed so that it became in fact a 3CV, but the commercial name remained unchanged. A 435 cc engine was introduced at the same time in replacement of the 425 cc, the 435 cc engine car was christened 2CV 4 while the 602 cc took the name 2CV 6 (nevertheless it did take the name 3CV in Argentina). The 602 cc engine evolved to 33 bhp (24 kW) in 1970; this was the most powerful engine fitted to the 2CV. A new 602 cc giving only 29 bhp (21.5 kW) at a slower 5750 rpm was introduced in 1979. Despite being less powerful, this engine was more efficient, allowing lower fuel consumption and better top speed. The last evolution of the 2CV engine was the Citroën Visa flat-2, a 652 cc featuring an electronic ignition. Citroën never sold this engine in the 2CV, however some enthusiasts have converted their 2CVs to 652 engines.

Around the World

The 2CV has also been used for travel around the World. In 1958 - 1959 two young Frenchmen, Jean-Claude Baudot and Jacques Séguèla Started at the Paris Motor Show on October 9 1958, headed South and crossed the Mediterranean by boat from Port Vendres to Algeria. Through the African continent and crossed the South Atlantic from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, criss-crossed South America and the United States, by boat from San Francisco to Yokohama. Back in Paris on November 11, 1959. During the 13 months, they drove 100,000 kilometre, consumed 5000 litres of gasoline and 36 tires.

Nicknames

Popular French nicknames were "Deuche" and "Dedeuche". They also called it "an umbrella on wheels" and "the big beast"." The Dutch were the first to call it "de lelijke eend", the ugly duck, while the Flemish called it "de geit", the goat. In Germany it is called "die Ente", the duck. English nicknames are Tin Snail and Dolly. In the former Yugoslavia the car was called "Spaček" (pronounced "spa-check," meaning--affectionately--"oddity" or "abberation."). In Spanish-speaking countries they were nicknamed "patito feo" ("Ugly duck"), "citrola" or "citroneta" (derived from "Citroën"). In Finland, the 2CV is known as "Rättisitikka" (Finnish for "rag Citroën") because of its canvas roof.

Outside France, the 2CV's most common nickname today is "The Duck," which seemed to be endorsed by Citroën which released a stuffed toy animal in the 1980s representing a duck with Citroën on its side and 2CV under its right foot. It is commonly referred to as the "Deux Chevaux," and in Britain it is also known as the "upside down pram" or the "Tin Snail".

The end of the 2CV

The 2CV was produced for 42 years, the model finally succumbing to customer demands for speed and safety, areas in which it had fallen significantly behind more modern cars.

Style alone no longer justified its retention in the Citroën range. In 1988, production ceased in France but was continued in Portugal. The last 2CV, gray with chassis number VF7AZKA00KA376002, rolled off the Portuguese production line on July 27, 1990.

Total production

In all, a total of 3,872,583 2CV sedans were produced. Including the commercial versions of the 2CV, Dyane, Mehari, FAF, & Ami variants, the 2CV design spawned over 9 million cars.

The 2CV has earned a unique place in motoring history as one of the most radical production car designs ever.

Rebirth?

The company Sorevie of Lodève is building 2CVs today. The cars are built from scratch using mostly new parts. But since the 2CV no longer complies with safety regulations, the cars are sold as second-hand cars using chassis and engine numbers from old 2CVs.

The 2CV-Méhari Club Cassis also recondition 2CVs and Citroën Méhara. Recently they entered a 2CV prototype in the Paris-Dakar Rally; this was a twin engine car (like the 2CV Sahara) powered by two 602 cc engines. [1]

Models

1978 Citroën 2CV AK400 van
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1978 Citroën 2CV AK400 van
1958 Citroën Radar
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1958 Citroën Radar
1960 Citroën Bijou
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1960 Citroën Bijou

Sedan

  • A (1948-?)
  • AZ
  • AZAM
  • AZL
  • AZKA (2CV6, ?-1990)
  • AZKB (2CV4)

Utility

  • AU
  • AZU, AZU 250
  • AK 350
  • AK 400, AKS 400
  • AYCD (Acadiane)

Cabriolet (Radar)

Robert Radar designed a fiberglass body on the chassis of a 2CV in 1956 and built a few prototypes in his Citroën Garage in Liège, Belgium. Citroën Belgium was enthusiastic about this model and decided to produce it as an official Citroën 2CV in its Forest (near Brussels) factory. They manufactured about 50 bodies and added the model called 2CV "Radar" on the price list. They were assembled on order, and in 1958 and 1959, only 25 were sold and production ceased. The remaining bodies were destroyed later. There are 5 or 6 of them left, one in the Netherlands and four or five in Belgium.

Coupé (Bijou)

Main article: Citroën Bijou

The Bijou was built at the Citroën factory in Slough, UK in the early 1960s. It was a two-door fiberglass-bodied version of the 2CV. The design was thought to be more accessible in appearance to British consumers than the standard 2CV sedan. Incorporating some components from the DS (most noticeably the memorable single-spoke steering wheel), it did not achieve market success, possibly because it was heavier than the 2CV and thus not a brisk performer, reaching 60 mph only under favourable conditions. Only 207 were built.

Four-wheel drive

One novel model was the 2CV Sahara, a four-wheel drive car, equipped with two engines (12 hp each), each one having a separate gas tank. One was mounted in the front driving the front wheels and one in the back driving the rear wheels. A single gear shifter, clutch pedal, and gas pedal were connected to both engines.

It was originally intended for use by the French colonies in Northern Africa. As well as a decreased chance of being stranded, it provided four-wheel drive traction with continuous force to some wheels while others were slipping because the engine transmissions were uncoupled. Therefore it became popular with off-road enthusiasts.

Between 1958 and 1971 Citroën built 694 Saharas, but only 27 are known to exist today. The top speed was 65 km/h (40 mph) on one engine, but this increased to 105 km/h (65 mph) with both engines running.

The Méhari was also built as a 4x4, but with only one engine. Various 4x4 conversions were built by independent constructors from a Méhari 4x4 chassis and a 2CV body. Although the terminology is sometimes confused, 2CV 4x4 generally refers to these models, whereas 2CV Sahara refers to the two-engined Citroën vehicle.

In popular culture

A yellow 2CV is the basis of a Citroën C4:Alive With Technology ad parody. Like the C4, the 2CV transforms as a break dancer and dances but when it transforms back into it's form, it crashes into the ground and is wrecked. The ending scene presents "Old Citroën 2CV - Zero Technology".

In Clarkson: Heaven and Hell, a decorated 2CV (regarded as one of the 7 sinners according to Jeremy Clarkson) appeared. Jeremy made remarks claiming that these cars can kill more whales than the Norwegians, make a hole in the ozone layer than all air conditioners worldwide and ran on rat poison. When he turned the car off, the engine kept running so he had to stall it to stop the engine. Then, a large steel crate was dropped onto the 2CV.

Sources

  • Drive around the World by Jean-Claude Baudot and Jacques Séguèla. London 1960
  • Jan Eggermann, Citroën 2CV - Die Ente in Deutschland, Lüdenscheid 2005, ISBN 3-9809082-2-4


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