Citroen 2CV 1948-90: Buyers' Guide
A simple French farm-hand is now a serious collectable...
1948-1990 Citroen 2CV
WHAT IS IT?
Citroen’s Deux Chevaux (2CV) was conceived during the depths of the Great Depression as a car that would bring cheap and versatile transport to the more rural regions of France.
The key to the 2CV’s design was ingenious interconnected suspension that would, according to legend, allow the car to carry baskets of fresh eggs across a ploughed field without breaking a shell.
By rights, the 2CV should never have reached production. Yet by 1990 when the model was discontinued, more than six million cars and commercial derivatives had been built.
The original engine was a ridiculously under-sized 375cc, and the most common early motor displaced 425cc and produced 9kW. Independent testers rarely urged 1950s versions beyond 70km/h.
The ladder-frame chassis was topped by lightweight steel bodywork. The full-length folding roof was there to save on expensive steel and enhance load-carrying capability.
Commercial types favoured the 2CV-based Fourgonette utility or van; there was also an innovative all-wheel drive, twin-engine Safari – only 697 examples were built.
The post-1960 range included a plastic-bodied Mehari utility, an AMI-6 sedan and the AMI-8 wagon, the only 2CV-based model with a four-banger.
Australia saw a few 2CVs during the 1950s but an expensive list-price pitched the Citroen against the more practical Standard Eight and Fiat 600.
A 1960 restyle updated the panel-work and from 1964 centre-hinged front doors changed to front-hinged. They and the seats could still be easily removed and the fold-back roof was retained.
The 2CV-6 model announced in 1970 brought a 602cc engine, followed later in the decade by 12 volt electrics and improved headlights.
During the 1980s, Citroen marketed some low-volume 2CVs with special paintwork and features. Two of them – the Charleston and Dolly – would remain available until the 2CV finally ceased production.
ON THE ROAD
Even in-era, the little Citroen would have constituted a road-block.
The car tested way back in late 1955 by Wheels managed 44mph (71km/h) and hit 50km/h in 15.7sec. It would be downright dangerous on the freeway now.
Very few original 425cc cars survive here, although numbers have been bolstered by ex-European imports. 1970s-90s versions with 602cc engine and 21kW are more common. Well-maintained cars can be driven at maximum engine speeds for long periods.
Front and rear suspensions are interconnected and long leading arms (front) and trailing arms (rear) allow extraordinary wheel angles.
Tubes that run longitudinally beside the chassis contain springs that transfer the load of a front wheel hitting a bump through to the corresponding rear wheel, minimising pitch.
The gear-lever is horizontally-mounted below the dash with a pattern that is initially strange but actually quite logical. First and reverse are adjacent, making parking and low-speed manoeuvring easy – with frequently-used second and third gears in the one plane. Top is aligned off to one side.
Early versions with their hammock-like seats are reputedly comfortable but the seating doesn’t provide significant support.
Ensuring that a 2CV is rust-free can be difficult. Exterior panels can conceal a rotten structure. Hoist inspection is essential, looking for damage to chassis ribs and axle mounts. Check sill, firewall and windscreen supports. New galvanised chassis are available in Europe but freight charges are prohibitive. Body rust attacks comprehensively and demands careful examination. Rear mud guard attachment points are hot spots and look for bubbling around weather-stripping. The roof covering can be replaced but ensure that it doesn’t sag.
Some parts for early engines are difficult to find, but mechanical parts for 2CV-6 cars are available and affordable. A full engine rebuild costs less than $2000. Frequent oil changes and an effective oil cooler are essential to engine preservation. Light tapping from the valve gear is normal but listen for bearing rumble. The gear-lever action is notchy but any need for excessive force points to internal damage or a misaligned chassis. The transmission needs regular correct-grade oil changes.
Sheer simplicity makes the Citroen suspension easy to neglect. Worn king-pins cause the wheels to ‘chatter’ but new ones are cheap and easily fitted. Creaking from the springs indicates a lack of lubricant; vegetable oil will quieten it. Inboard-mounted brakes can be contaminated by oil leaks.
Windows should slide easily. With the engine warm, activate the heater to check for any exhaust fumes. Electrical components for six-volt cars are both difficult to find and expensive, though newer 12-volt alternators cost less than $200 and are easier to find.
1948-90 Citroen 2CV
BODY Separate body/chassis, all-steel four door sedan, two-door van and utility
ENGINE 375cc, 425cc and 602cc horizontally-opposed twin-cylinder, ohv, 8v, single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE 21.5kW @ 5750rpm, 42Nm @ 3500rpm (602cc)
GEARBOX Four-speed manual
SUSPENSION Independent with locating arms, longitudinal springs, friction or telescopic shock absorbers (f); Independent with locating arms, longitudinal springs and friction or telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES drum/drum or disc/drum
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