The Citroen 2CV has been out of production for over 30 years, but it’s still one of the most recognizable cars of all time, and this year the humble Duex Cheveux celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Had it not been for the outbreak of WWII, we’d already have marked that milestone a few years back. Citroen started its “TPV” (“Toute Petite Voiture or very small car) project in the mid-1930s and was due to unveil the finished car at the 1939 Paris Motor Show, though with just one headlight and all the style of something knocked together on Junkyard Wars, it neither looked finished nor much like a car.
Small matter of a global meltdown settled, the 2CV finally made its debut at the same motor show in October of 1948. Under the nose was a 375 cc, air-cooled flat-twin developing just 9 hp (9 PS) and giving a top speed of 31 mph (50 kmh), which sounds like a joke today, but thousands of low-income French families were finally able to realize a dream of car ownership.
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And though it wasn’t fast, the 2CV was useful thanks to clever details like its removable benches. Demand was off the scale. Forget waiting a couple of years for that new Ferrari: Citroen says the delivery times had hit six years by 1950.
The 2CV evolved over the years, gaining a little more power and comfort, while still always remaining slow and basic. There was also a popular 2CV van and a twin-engined Sahara – don’t get too excited, it was two 12 hp / 12 PS engines. And Citroen used the same platform to create a Mehari beach car, a Bijou coupe, and more modern, more civilized spinoffs like the Ami and Dyane hatchback. But the stock 2CV sedan outlived them all. By the time production finally ended in 1990 a total of 5.1 million cars had been sold.
To celebrate the anniversary Citroen has produced eight portraits of noteworthy 2CVs, including a 2CV A, one of 250 prototypes built in 1939 for the Motor Show, a 1950 2CV A Berline identical to the one one unveiled at the 1948 show, and one of the twin-engined Saharas. It’s also putting together a special display of 75 different 2CVs at the Conservatoire Citroën in Aulnay-sous-Bois, France, on October 7, exactly 75 years after the 1948 debut.