July 27, 2008


The Cité des Sciences in Paris is hosting a 2CV exhibit to honor the car's 60th anniversay. Honestly the exhibit itself, which lasts until November, is disappointing, save for two cars, there isn't anything you won't see at a car show.

The two cars, however, are very worth seeing, and worth putting up with the herds of screaming German and English 12 year olds.

One is a 1939 2CV. If you're familiar with 2CVs, you're probably thinking "hey, the 2CV only came out in 1948!" It was originally planned for release much earlier. This is actually one of the prototypes for the 2CV. At the time it was dubbed the TPV, for "Très Petite Voiture" (Very Small Car.) A number of these were built between 1937 and 1939, including 250 pre-series models built just weeks before WWII. The Citroën factory was bombed when France was invaded in WWII and for fear that they would wind up in the Germans' hands, the prototypes were either destroyed, dismantled and/or hidden in various places.

Engineers secretly worked on the 2CV during the war using whatever materials they could get their hands on. Even with that, the production version of it wouldn't be ready until 1948. A lot of design cues were carried over from the prototype-- the headlights mounted on the fenders, the flat 2 setup, the long, sloping hood and the canvas top, just to name a few.

One of the prototypes was later used by Michelin to test tires and retired in 1946. Then, in 1997, 2CV enthusiasts gasped as the news was announced: three more had just been discovered in an attic. Two of those were restored and one was left original.

The car pictured here is one of them. This one has a flat 2-cylinder but unlike regular production 2CVs it's water cooled. The rear brakes are cable operated, the windshield wiper is manual and it was good for about 60km/h.

The second car I want to mention is a 1961 2CV Sahara. Citroën wanted to make a four wheel drive version of the car but, not wanting to get involved with transfer cases and the like, they saw another way to do it: they installed a second drivetrain in the rear of the car to drive the rear wheels. It was the exact same as the one in the front, just facing backwards.

The spare was relocated the top of the hood. The car now had two gas tanks and they were relocated to under the front seats, with the filler hose popping out of either front door. Few were ever sold and these are a rare sight today.


Ian Scott said...

There's a concept about the Sahara that confuses me- it would make sense that just one drive train would be used when 4x4 isn't needed right? How in the world are the gear boxes rigged up? Is there some easily accessable/disconnectable linkage that connects both gearboxes to one shift lever?

Ronan said...

You know, I actually don't know.. I'll look into it and get back to you.

I. R. Rothwell said...

After looking at the prototype, it would appear that perhaps they fit the second headlight into the budget after they realized they could get by with only three wheel bolts...