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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My Vehicles: Citroen 2CV "deux chevaux" Part 1

I have had many different vehicles and I am going to periodically blog about the cars/trucks I have owned. I was 20 years old when I got my first one. It was a 1969 Citroen 2CV. When I think of it as being my first one I often compare with what kids (at 20 I was a kid) are driving today – fancy automobiles which were even out of reach for most well-established families in those days.
This was exactly my 2CV in dark-red and white painted headlights
Now, the Citroen brand is French and only once I have seen one in North America. It was made from 1948-1990. The first cars looked a bit like …a prototype.
Citroen-2cv-prototype download
Left: 1948 2CV w. one single headlight  Right: 12hp 50 version
Conceived by Citro├źn Vice-President Pierre Boulanger to help motorize the large number of farmers still using horses and carts in 1930s France, the 2CV is noted for its minimalist combination of innovative engineering and utilitarian, straightforward metal bodywork — initially corrugated for added strength without added weight. The 2CV featured a low purchase cost; simplicity of overall maintenance; an easily serviced air-cooled engine (originally offering 9 hp); low fuel consumption; and an extremely long travel suspension offering a soft ride, light off-road capability, high ground clearance, and height adjustability via lengthening/shortening of tie rods.
Citroen made 3.8million of these cars.

But why did I choose such a crazy vehicle? Well, back then insurance posed a major financial obstacle for me and since rates were assessed after the engine’s
horsepower I had to choose a vehicle with very limited engine performance. The 2CV of 1969 had a 2-cylindered engine (hence the “2CV”) and an output of 16 hp which is less than most of today’s riding lawn tractors have. But the car was extremely light-weight, (1300 Pounds) so even with only 16hp it could get up to 65mph (110km/h). Of course, it was important that there would be no headwind nor any hills to climb. Likewise, it was important not to get involved in any collision. The car would simply fall apart. I remember the steel quality being so thin that one could have cut it with a simple snips.
Most memorable was the pistol-grip-style gearshift. It had 4 gears and the shifting would happen by either pulling or pushing the “pistol”, then turn it sideways. and if the clutch would be released too sudden the car would start jumping up and down. In spite of all its primitive construction the car provided an extremely comfortable ride – once you got it going that is. It also was a fantastic summer vehicle as the roof could be rolled back all the way to the rear window, making it almost a convertible.
images (1)Front side windows were split horizontally where the lower part was top-hinged to the non-movable upper part. Whenever I tested out top speed the air pressure inside would increase to the point that the side windows would pop open and one would ride along with flapping window-halves. The illuminating capacity of its headlights could be compared to using a dim torch light with dying batteries. They were pretty much useless.

The Citroen 2CV became the most popular car for university students. Germans called it “Die Ente” (The Duck) It was the cult-car, the anti-car to the establishment. 2CV car ownership meant that meeting 2CV-owners were always greeting each other.

Soon after I was done with my 2CV, Citroen came out with a 2CV-4. It had rectangular headlights and bigger taillights. It also had a 21hp motor.

Some of these cars are still in service. As former cult-cars they have become quite expensive. It is even possible that there are a few in French-speaking Quebec.

My 2CV developed quite a few troubles, like on the suspension and clutch, but it will always remain my “loved first one”. After 2 years of Citroen adventures I went and bought a VW-Bug brand spanking new.

1 comment:

  1. That was the car my wife had when I met her in Rotterdam in the late 70's. Not my favorite car and never really got the hang of that in and out shift handle:(


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