USA Krantenartikel uit 1988, CliCk here to read txt.

Citroen 2cv

 

Citroen's Deux Chevaux- the ugly car that everybody loves

By William G. Miller
Globe Correspondent

The advertising flier says it all: "No wind-up windows. No retractable headlights. No cigar lighter. No turbo charge. No fan belt. No remote control door mirrors. No cruise control. No electric sunroof. No radiator.
And then the punchline: "No wonder it's so reliable. There's nothing to go wrong."
If you haven't guessed it already, it's Europe's beloved and ridiculed Citroen 2CV - the Deux Chevaux which is marking its 40th birthday this year.
What does this minimalist car, an invention as French as the beret and the baguette, look like?
Some have said it is a cross between a frog and a camel. A tin croissant. A humpbacked bug. An umbrella on wheels. A rag-topped rubbish bin. As aerodynarnie as an aardvark. The epiphets go on.
The point is, however, it just can't be insulted. It is so ugly, it's beautiful.
In America, people had a love affair with the Volkswagen Beetle, which has some similarities with the Deux Chevaux - but in Europe, the Beetle never had the same appeal. This has been explained by the fact that the Beetle Iooked too much like a car; it had a real roof, rolldown windows, a heavy metal skin and proper door handles.
The four-seater 2CV, on the other hand, weighing in at 1,300 pounds, has an almost wafer-thin metal covering; its canvas roof is simply rolled back and pinned down whenever you need a sunroof, its two front windows fold out and up so that the driver can stick its hand out for signalling; the other windows don't move at all; the gear shift looks like an umbrella handle sticking out of the dashboard; the headlights are fully exposed and bolted to a metal tube that runs through the hood.
Speed? It can hit 71 mph maximum (more with a following wind); clubs around the world have the motto: "Zero to 60 in the same day. "
Stories about it are legion: Two explorers ran out of transmission fluid, packed the gearbox with crushed bananas and continued on their way; the British bolted guns to them and dropped them from helikopters for use by marine Commandoes; French firemen cut two in half and welded the front halves together so that they could get out of trouble the same way they got in.
The 2CV was the pre-WW II brainchild of Pierre-Jules Boulanger, Citroen's president, who wanted a small, economical car for people for whom the auto had been too expensive; basically, the farmers.
Boulanger set his requirements: a car that could carry two people and 1 00 pounds of potatoes at a top speed of 40 miles an hour. And there had to be enough headroom for a man to drive while wearing a derby (or as the French say, a chapeau melon). As one engineer recalls, 'The suspension was to be so good that a crate of eggs could be transported safely across a plowed field."
The first prototype, which was put together in 1939, had a single headlight and a hand-operated windshield wiper and hammock seats slung from the roof.
Then came the war, and work was suspended. When the Germans occupied France, they scoured the country for the car since they had their own plans for a simple, people's car - the Volkswagen. But Boulanger had crated two 2CV's and hidden them, after destroying all the rest. They were never found by the Germans.
After the war, Boulanger went back into production and was ready to unveil the 2CV at the Paris Auto Show of 1948, only to be greeted with derision by a press that wanted to know if it came with a can opener. The 1948 version, which came in any color as long as it was gray, looked little different from the 1939 version, except that it now had two headlights. Today's model looks very much the same.
The name Deux Chevaux (two horse) is a bit of a slander on its real power; the CV actually stands for cheval vapeur (horse power) and is rated as two horsepower under the arcane French taxation system. The two-cylinder 2CV engine is in fact, capable of 29 h.p.
Since production was started, 6.5 million 2CVs have been sold. the "Deuche" booming in the oil crisis of the 1970s when thousands saw the advantage of driving a car that gave 50 miles to the gallon. Once the car sold at 170,000 units a year, but sales dropped to 43,000 in 1987 and prompted Citroen to announce that the line would be discontinued.
Enthusiasts around the world protested. For instance, the British, who still buy 7,000 a year, stripped a 2CV of its doors, panels, hood and fenders and sent them around the globe to Deuche clubs to be covered with signatures: the car was then reassembled and presented to Citroen.
The French manufacturer relented, but only to the extent that it agreed to carry on making the Deuche at a single Portuguese plant.
The 2CV, beset by a general public's switch to more substantial cars and environmental concerns about unleaded gas, is not yet at the end of the road.
To which one can only say, Vive Le Deux Chevaux.

(Editor's Note: The writer once drove a rented 2CV from Paris to Paris by way of Rome to the south and Helsinki to the nortk a 3,000 mile jaunt in which the car required nothing more than the required oil change. He now owns a 2CV in England, where he lives.)

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