Can there be a car more associated with a country and its personality than the 2CV and France? With over 9 million variants produced this truly was the car of the French people, perfect for the farmer taking his eggs to market or the young students tearing across Paris.
Originally conceived in the 1930’s the 2CV was intended to be the car for every need, cheap and reliable and able to go almost anywhere. Introduced in 1948, it followed the original design brief of carrying four people plus 100 lbs of farm goods at 30 mph across muddy rural roads. Famously, the mandate also set out that a farmer would be able to drive a eggs across a plowed field without breaking them, suspension was always a critical element with Citroen. Although it met with criticsm from the press, the 2CV was an instant hit with the French public, desperate for simple transportation after the war, in fact it was not uncommon to find used 2CV’s for sale with a higher price than new ones, because they could be had immediately. The simple body, with folding windows made the 2CV a cheap car to produce, and was always a cheap car to buy. The straightforward, air cooled 2-cylinder engine may not have been massive, but it was reliable and easy to work on. Combined with the light weight, it also returned excellent fuel economy. As often with Citroen, the 2CV featured a number of advanced technical components, including front wheel drive and a four speed transmission. The suspension utilized a set of suspension cylinders connected to springs which worked with each wheel to keep the car level. This system has the interesting side effect that the wheelbase lengthens as more weight is added to the car, and in a hard corner the outside wheelbase is longer than the inside! In 1963, the AZAM Luxe model was introduced in the face of competition from Renault. The car received visual floursishes such as additional chrome on the trim, bumpers and hubcaps. Inside the upholstery was a softer cloth, the steering wheel was coated instead of bare metal. Further luxury touches to the interior included a vanity mirror on the passenger sun visor and electric windshield wipers, replacing the vacuum operated wipers of previous models. Engine power was also increased to 16 hp, with a claimed 85 KPH top speed.
Although the 2CV was produced for over 4 decades, they are relatively rare in the US. Recent popularity of micro-cars and similar small European cars has made the 2CV more popular, leading to companies importing and restoring them.
The 2CV falls solidly into the category of cars which should be measured in smiles per mile. The tall stature combined with the springy suspension make for a highly entertaining ride as the car leans at what feel like wild angles through corners. Despite its low power, the gearing in the 2CV make it surprisingly quick and great fun in town or on country roads. This very original example would benefit from some TLC but will make a delightful survivor example of these quintessentially French wheels, all you need are the eggs!