Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 16th January 2018

Everyone has their own idea of the perfect vehicle. One person might say their ideal car is the original Mini, while someone else could say they want to own a Porsche 911. Some motors simply have a cult appeal, and the Citroen 2CV is one of them. Created to help French farmers transition from horses and carts in the 1930s, the Citroen 2CV became popular around the world. Its popularity came down to a number of factors and we’re examining why the Citroen 2CV became so successful.

From bankruptcy to brilliance

The genesis of the Citroen 2CV started in 1934, when Michelin took over the bankrupt Citroen company. New management conducted a survey and found France’s large rural population couldn’t afford cars. Citroen used the results to design a vehicle that could transport four people and 50 kg of farm goods. Chief engineer Pierre-Jules Boulanger sent the brief to the engineering department and work began on a prototype.

By 1939, the prototype, then called the TPV, was considered ready. It was renamed the Citroen 2CV and preparations were made for it to debut at the Paris Motor Show in October 1939. However, the outbreak of World War II halted production and the Citroen 2CV was abandoned until 1948.

Citroen introduced the car at the Paris Salon in October 1948. Despite critics poking fun at it, the 2CV became a hit with the target audience. The rural French population had found a car that worked for them and the 2CV turned into a commercial success. This caused the international press to develop a grudging respect for the car.

An innovative design

A reason for the Citroen 2CV becoming successful was down to its design. It featured technology that was advanced for the time period. It had a easy to service air-cooled engine, radial tyres, soft suspension and a spacious interior. The car could accommodate a large volume of items, which demonstrated that Citroen understood what its audience wanted.  

The 2CV was also very affordable compared to other motors on the market. For example, during the 1960s it cost half as much as VW Beetle in West Germany. It could be argued that the 2CV kicked off the economic car market by creating a need for other manufacturers to beat its low price.

The design was improved on over time, with front disc brakes being added and the colour scheme receiving an update. Engine size gradually increased from 375 cc to 602 cc. The off-road capability coupled with its fixed-profile bodywork caused the 2CV to be referred to as an “umbrella on wheels.”

Over its lifespan, the 2CV has been called “the most intelligent application of minimalism ever to succeed as a car” and “a car like no other.” It’s undoubtedly one of the most important classic cars of all time.

What’s your opinion on the Citroen 2CV?

Credit: Mick CC-BY-SA-3.0

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