History of the Citroën 2CV

Everyone’s friend

There is no other car that has so many nicknames as the 2CV, whose name (deux-chevaux) refers to its two tax horsepower. The Dutch were the first to call it the Ugly Duckling, English nicknames include Tin Snail, Dolly and Upside-down Pram. But this is the clearest indication that the 2CV left no one unmoved. Most people know someone who owns or owned one, but many people also were proud owners themselves. Interestingly enough, the car was the subject of much derision at its launch on 7 October 1948 at the Paris Motor Show. A Swiss magazine was the only publication to predict a great future for this tiny Citroën. And how right they were. By 1950, prospective owners had to wait up to six years for their 2CV to roll off the line.

The car’s jaunty appearance suggests that the designer came up with its design one happy day, but nothing could be further from the truth. The 2CV was the result of far-reaching market research combined with an excellent idea of what customers really wanted. Namely a cheap car that labourers or farmers could afford, that was large enough to transport a fifty-litre barrel of wine, but with a sufficiently flexible suspension that allowed you to pass a field with a basket of eggs on board without breaking a single egg. Equally important, the car had to be high enough to avoid farmers from having to take their hats off when they drove to church on Sunday mornings.

It took some aiming, but the 2CV hit the mark. The almost utilitarian Dolly became an icon. Better yet, driving a 2CV became a way of life. The result: more than 4 million 2CVs had rolled off the line by the time production stopped in 1990. The last 2CVs were built in Portugal and were often made using parts that were sourced from various locations. During its long career, the 2CV was also built in Belgium. The Belgian 2CV stood out in France because of its exceptional production quality, prompting Citroën to build a more luxurious version, called the AZL.

The 2CV is also easily converted because of its simple construction (the bodywork can be easily detached from the chassis). This gave rise to the Méhari and the 2CV vans as well as the Vanclee Mungo and kit cars such as the Lomax, Le Patron and Burton. Regardless of what it looks like, the 2CV still has a large fan base, as evidenced by the thousands of owners and fans that gather every two years at the international 2CV meeting. Because the 2CV continues to be the perfect car for a relaxed ride through the countryside or in the mountains. And even on the motorway, where it can reach a top speed of 110 km/h.