If you must drive this one (you must, you must!) the place to go is rural France. For this was not so much the French ‘People’s Car’ as the ‘French Country People’s Car’. This versatile little machine was a godsend for rural folk, many of whom were still following a 19th-century way of life after World War II. The Citroen 2CV changed all that, serving as an affordable multi-function passenger car, van, pickup truck, off-roader and small livestock transporter.
The 2CV is one of Citroen’s most iconic models, and the key to its success was brilliant simplicity. It had a light air-cooled engine that was easy to work on, soft suspension with adjustable ride height, high ground clearance and a canvas top that could be folded forward to accommodate larger loads. The winning nature of the formula may be judged by the fact that it remained in production for nearly half a century, with scarcely any modification along the way.
The design brief related directly to the target market, and would have made today’s politically correct jobsworths shudder with horror. The new low-end vehicle should be an ‘umbrella on four wheels’ that could convey two large peasants (wearing clogs) and 100 kg (220 lb) of assorted goods to market along unpaved roads, and drive across a ploughed field with a full load of eggs without breaking any. And it did all that and more.
When production ceased in 1990, over 3.2 million 2CVs had been produced (plus 1.2 million examples of the camionette truck version) from factories in six countries. Sadly, the rapid advance of (relative) prosperity in the vast French countryside swiftly led to a situation where the once-ubiquitous 2CV was seen less and less in its homeland, to the point where this little Gallic gem has become something of a rarity.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
375 cc Flat Twin
Top speed of early models was 39 mph (63 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The 2CV was so popular upon launch that there was soon a three-year waiting list, quickly rising to five years, ensuring that buyers who couldn’t wait had to pay considerably more than the price of a new car for their coveted transport.