The Story of the Citroën 2CV

The design of the Citroën 2CV began in 1937 and introduction of the car was planned for the Paris Motor Show in October 1939. The outbreak of World War II led to cancellation of the show and plans to produce the car, and it did not go on sale until 1948. The model remained on the market, remarkably unchanged, for forty-two years, until the 1990 model year, by which time more than 3.8 million 2CVs had been produced in France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Portugal, Spain, and Yugoslavia. The 2CV was the first car to use radial tires, developed by Michelin.

Counting derivative models, notably delivery vans, more than 9 million vehicles based upon the 2CV design were manufactured.

I still occasionally see 2CVs on the road in Switzerland. After all, my own car was only made a year after the 2CV ceased production.


With a young Jeremy Clarkson


I owned one of these in Lausanne in 1969. Among the remarkable attributes were the gear shift (hard to describe - a hockey-stick rod with a ball the operator grasped); the driver pushed or pulled and rotated the end to shift. The seats were also noteworthy in their flimsiness. They most resembled patio furniture - the kind where the woven plastic fabric is suspended from the frame by plastic cords through grommets in in the fabric. These seemed to improve the ride, functioning as second-order shock absorbers. Fortunately, I never had any experience as to the crash-worthiness. I was (and remain) a very defensive driver. I still have the “plaque Z” required for foreigners in those days: VD 103573Z (VD, always remarkable for its connotation back then, stood for Canton Vaud).

Addendum: As I recall, to replace the front brakes, it was necessary to remove the engine!