Citroën 2CV: The Campest Car in The World

Stuart Pekin and his 1984 Citroen 2CVOUTinPerth talks to Stuart Pekin about his love of the Citroën 2CV

Why I love My Car…

The car is the campest thing on earth – it’s hilarious they’re so fun to drive. The suspension is unbelievably soft. Essentially they’re designed for unpaved roads, cobbled roads and ploughed fields.

One of the principle design briefs when it was under development was that it had to hold a pig or a cask of wine in the boot; 4 people, with the driver wearing a top hat; and be able to drive over a ploughed field with a basket of eggs in the back and not break them. As a result the suspension is very soft, but they are impossible to turn over. They body roll like you wouldn’t believe, people following in the car behind start taking evasive action, sure this thing’s gonna roll but they never do.

It’s a bit noisy but, they are so much fun – everybody loves them. Driving down the street in it everyone stops and looks, everyone waves. Women and children just love it and keep on pointing the car out ‘Look at that! Funny old car!’

How could we replace it? Nothing that gives us as much fun to drive, you know – throw the roof open in the anything but the height of summer.. it’s fabulous and just delightful!!! It puts a smile on your face as you’re driving… and not many things do that.

Stuart describes the 2CV as ‘cheap however never crude’; the car is brilliantly machined with very fine tolerances. Fragile looking and yet built to survive rugged agricultural conditions, the 2CVs are easily fixed with parts that are still widely available, making it the home handyperson’s dream car. Stuart pointed out some of the other features of the 2CVs…

Interchangeable Panels
Back in the seventies and eighties they had some fairly adventurous people-power flower-power colours. Lime greens, bright yellows, blues, reds the brightest colours you can think of. And of course since the panels are so easily changed, people used to swipe other people’s panels. So you’d come back and all of a sudden your bonnet was a different colour! Again the bonnet’s on a finger hinge so you would just open it, slide it sideways and put another bonnet on there and all of a sudden there are these multi-coloured cars. Lots of fun…sort of!

Easily Unhinged
Initially all the doors hinged from the centre pillar and they were on finger hinges so you’d move just move one little catch and front and rear doors would just lift straight up on the hinge and off the car.

The seats were designed again with one little catch one some of them, even less on others, to just lean forward and be taken out of the car and become picnic chairs. They still can be, just slide them forward out and it’s a fully tubular frame picnic chair.

2CV engines – Small But Effective
The  engine is very tiny , it started off at 375cc, producing 9 hP. It grew to massive 602cc producing 32hP, the strongest ones.

Unrollable
Citroen actually had a competition, through the ‘80s I think it was, that if you could roll 2CV on their test track you could have any car that they produced – no-one ever claimed it.

When I look at modern car design, I think of the pseudo-economies of even something like a Prius – admirable although it is – the amount of time, energy that goes into the battery and the non-recyclable parts just makes it rather an expensive proposition for its entire life.
[2CVs] are no longer the most fuel efficient cars by any means but then you look at most of the fuel efficient cars and they’re dead within ten years. This car’s over twenty five years old, it’s going strong and will continue to do that. My earlier one, which is a 1955 model, that’s still going strong.
Now you consider time and materials that went into that car going over fifty years plus… Where’s the equation to a modern car that’s dead in ten years? The amount of processing, metals, plastics machine engineering it just doesn’t add up in the long term.

2CV – A potted history….

The 2CV was produced from 1948 to 1990… an epic production run for a car. Stuart gives us a potted history…

The car itself started development prior to the Second World War. The designers were principally aeronautical men from the First World War so a lot of the ideas came as aircraft design principles incorporated into a car. The Second World War interrupted – ever so slightly! – and the car basically started proper production in 1948.

It was fairly heavily derided at the time but within the Paris Motor Show, I think it was the first week, they had something like eleven thousand orders. It was designed as an agricultural vehicle; cheap, utilitarian, fixed by pair of pliers and a bit of rusty old wire and you had to be in a reserved occupation to get one. People would wait for years and years until they got it. It became a cult car late seventies early eighties because by then it was still basically the cheapest car in production. It became THE student car of Europe.

They finally ceased production in 1990 principally because it could it could no longer comply with anti-pollution laws in Europe. Which is a bit of a pity, because the simplicity of the design – both the engine and the body just makes them virtually unkillable.

Want more of the mighty 2CV?

Super keen

A vintage Citroën in good condition will set you back somewhere around the $12k mark. Though it looks like prices are on the rise, with current 2CVs on the market in the $16k to $18k range. Stuart says only five months ago one went for $42k at auction in Sydney. For 2CV enthusiasts, the car’s former advertising slogans have it though – it’s not just a car… it’s a way of life.

Not that keen

The National knees-up  of the Association of Citroën Enthusiasts, the Cit-In, is gathering in Busselton for the Easter long weekend. While much of the weekend is for dedicated enthusiasts there is also a display so get yourself down there and get more Citroën than you can handle.. See www.citroenwa.com

Keen, but let’s face it, lazy

Check out the crazy antics of 2CV-Cross on YouTube. Strip these babies back and you’ve basically got yourself a finely machined lawnmower flaunting all the aerodynamic prowess of its heritage as it dominates rugged terrain and ‘70s hairdos in a quest for line honours, world 2CV domination and a chance to finally flip this vehicular stalwart belly-up.

Zoe Carter

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Stuart Pekin about his love of the Citroën 2CV

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