Simple Motoring Pleasure – Citroen 2CV
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
The Citroen 2CV is a comparatively rare sight on our roads these days.
Conceived by Citroen to help motorise the large numbers of farmers still using horses and carts in 1930s France, the 2CV combined innovative, simple engineering and utilitarian metal bodywork.
Designed to be easy and cheap to maintain, the original air-cooled engine pumped out a heady 9hp. Simple servicing and low fuel consumption were the order of the day.
The long travel suspension offered a soft ride and some ability to travel off-road.
The convertible bodywork features a full-width, canvas roll-back sunroof which allowed oversized loads to be carried.
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More than 3.8 million 2CVs were produced along with over 1.2 million 2CV-based delivery vans, known as fourgonnettes.
The range expanded too to include Dyane, Ami and Mehari variants and these are now even rarer today.
To celebrate the 70th anniversary of this French motoring icon, Citroen arrange for my good friend and Citroen aficionado Malcolm Bobbitt to bring his prime example to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders annual Media Drive Day at Millbrook Proving Ground.
Eschewing all the shiny new metal available to drive, I made a beeline for the 2CV when the event opened.
Malcolm waxed lyrical about his delighted 2CV and though he intended to only offer the throng of journalists a passenger ride, he was happy for me to take the wheel.
Before we set off, I needed a few lessons in how to drive the offbeat French machine.
The gear lever sprouts from the dashboard and once you understand its quirky ways, it all makes perfect sense. A dog left first gear gets things underway, with second and third occupying the same horizontal plane. Changing between these two gears is a simple push-me, pull-me action.
Pedals are delicate but smooth in operation and the steering reasonably light. The soft-travel suspension soaks up road imperfections in a manner which would shame most new cars produced today. If there is a downside, it is the amount of lean when cornering, but as speeds are low this all adds to the charm of 2CV motoring.
The air-cooled engine makes a distinctive and familiar sound and I gather from Malcolm allows for a relaxed 50mph cruise. With the fabric roof folded back on a summer’s day, what a mighty fine way to travel.
2CV prices are rising and finding a good example is certainly becoming a challenge. Cars are available for as little as £3,000, but beware the dreaded rust. More sensible to spend £5-6,000 on a car with a galvanised chassis and evidence of a caring maintenance regime.
A top example will set you back over £10,000 and a very early car with the corrugated bonnet, perhaps even more.
I must confess to a quick peep at the classifieds after the event. I might just have a chat with Malcolm and see if he knows of any good ones for sale.
Simple Motoring Pleasure – Citroen 2CV, 25th May 2018, 10:42 AM