I’ve long been interested in utilitarian, economy cars. Since before I was old enough to drive, I considered the cheap, serviceable runabout fascinating. Of course, I was inclined to be biased; my Dad worked on air-cooled Volkswagens as a sideline job, and we had one as a family car from the early 1980s on.
I remember first hearing of the Citroën 2CV when I was probably about 10 years old. I’d been reading the Noel Streatfield “Shoes” book series and sympathised with petrol-head Petrova from the Ballet Shoes novel. At a point in the story, she’s been obsessing about a revolutionary Citroën car she’d read about in a magazine (I’m guessing it was the TPV prototype, the forerunner of the iconic 2CV) and she strikes up acquaintance with a couple she spots at a filling station who happen to have one. These eccentric motorists turn out to be connected to the world of ballet, and Petrova’s automotive fascination turns into a networking opportunity for her older sister, who is a gifted dancer.
Anyway, I was curious enough about the Citroën make to go back to the library and check out some books on old, foreign cars, and, at that point in time (late 1980s) the Citroën 2CV was still actually in production! I thought it would be very cool to try one out someday. I also learned a lot of motoring terminology that was uncommon in the USA, such as the appellation “saloon car” which we here in the States would call a “sedan.” The 2CV particularly caught my attention because it had an air-cooled engine, as did the VW, was known to be odd-looking and underpowered, like the VW, but was overall a fairly sophisticated cheap car, with its four wheel independent suspension, hydraulic brakes, and standard-equipment heater.
Some years later, as a physically unfortunate Junior High student, I found myself in an orthodontist’s waiting room about to be fitted with braces and headgear. To pass the time, I leafed through a Car & Driver magazine, which was mostly full of boring family cars, expensive sports-coupes, and comparisons between one dull BMW and another stodgy Mercedes. Bleh. But on one of the news-snippets pages, there was a column announcing the end of production of the Citroën 2CV. I remember feeling a bit sad about the end of an era, thinking that another so interesting car would probably never again be produced.
And this post wouldn’t be complete without a bit of video hijinks so here you see “TV’s Oz Clarke” offroading one:
And here is Bill Bailey recounting the misadventures he visited upon his first car, which was a 2CV:
I still haven’t gotten a chance to test-drive a 2CV – they’re a bit thin on the ground here in the States, but I expect that someday I will.