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Citroen 2 CV

Published: 15th Nov 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Citroen 2 CV
Citroen 2 CV
Citroen 2 CV
Citroen 2 CV

Buyer Beware

  • You can buy a new galvanised chassis for around £400, just as well as originals rot no matter how much care is taken to preserve them. Most cars will have a new chassis fitted; pre-1984s generally last longer.
  • The factory chassis is really one big box section (aftermarket ones tend to be two C-section side rails with removable top and bottom plates), and rot starts on the inside. The area where the front axle is located is the most important place to check.
  • It’s the same for the rear chassis legs; they can’t be patched and because the bumper is bolted directly to them, accident damage is common, so look and feel for rippled metal.
  • If the chassis is badly rotten behind the axle, as it twists the steering gets very heavy and it’ll be hard straightening the car out when exiting a corner. If it’s rotted in front of the axle, it’s harder to detect – the headlights rising as you apply power is the first sign.
  • The bodyshell rusts badly; first port of call is the top of the rear wings, which rot along the seam; look for rust stains here. Check the seatbelt mount at the lower front of the inner wing – it’s a rare car that hasn’t been welded here - ditto box under the rear seat, boot floor and number plate panel.
  • The sills rust readily, and floors will either have been patched at the front or replaced by now and have a good look around the windscreen surround.
  • The 2CV’s engine relies on its oil to keep cool. The oil cooler that’s positioned behind the engine-driven fan has to be kept clean, but its location ensures it gets filthy – guaranteeing it’ll run hot. In a bad case, a piston can partially seize. It should be changed every 3000 miles and the filter every 6000 miles. A small amount of oil weeping is okay, but if there are large pools of lubricant beneath the car it’s bad news.
  • The transmission has an easy time. The first thing to give trouble is normally third gear synchromesh, listen for howling from the gearbox. If the change is uncomfortably stiff, it’s probably because the bushes at the base of the gearlever have been greased; but the bushes should be sprinkled with talcum powder to reduce friction. Slop can be due to bushes on the link between the two levers – it’s easy to fix at less than a tenner.
  • Heavy steering can be down to a twisted chassis or seized kingpins, if they haven’t been greased every 1500 miles. Jack up and try rocking wheel at the top and bottom. There should be a small amount of play, but anything significant means they need replacing, which is best left to a specialist.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Hardly fast, but it’s how you drive a 2CV that counts and it’s ideal as an urban run-about.

  • Usability: 3/5

    Extremely versatile and practical but too rudimentary for many who are more used to a modern unless upgraded.

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Simply made but the 2 CV’s quirks mean it’s not as DIY friendly as a Fiesta. Great aftermarket support though.

  • Owning: 4/5

    It’s a car you grow to like and becomes part of the family.

  • Value: 4/5

    Not dear for what they offer and you can have a ‘new one’ if you wish and provide a great long term bet.

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A snail’s pace is the best pace for those after frugal but fun motoring. As a logical daily run-about, the 2CV is fast becoming the ideal classic says Alan Anderson

Okay – so we may dream of owning a Ferrari but for most of us daily life and responsibilities get in the way and something less exotic has to be chosen. Now we are not saying that a 2-CV is the perfect alternative – but for those who must mix fun with frugality then the ‘Tin Snail’ Citroen is just as appealing. And you don’t have to live on turnips to justify owning one either…

Which model to buy?

The beauty of a 2CV is that, while (like the Mini and VW Beetle) it enjoyed a production run of many decades, the car always remained a classic, so you can buy a late model from the 1990s and still take pleasure in the Citroen’s many quirks, but with the benefit of useful refinements!

There’s a split though; officially the Slough-built models were stopped in 1960 (there was a rare glass fibre-bodied ‘Bijou’ version which survived until ‘64 with just 211 built) and UK imports didn’t restart until 1974, as a result of the fuel crisis. For most, these are the best models, due to popularity, parts supply and welcome upgrades such as rectangular headlamps, disc brakes (1981) and so on. The first special edition 2CV went on sale in 1976; the Spot and many followed (see history section). At the same point, the front dampers became hydraulic units. By 1980 there was another special edition, the Charleston, which later became a standard production model. The higher-spec Club retained square lights for a few years in the UK, and until the end of production. The end was in sight in 1988, when the Levallois factory in Paris closed with production transferred to the Mangualde plant in Portugal. Two years later it also closed, and where the final 2CV was produced.

If you hanker for something even less conventional in 2CV terms, there was a van option; the Fourgonette AU, which lasted until 1978 and accounted for a third of 2CV production. In 1953, assembly of right- hand drive cars began, at Citroën’s Slough factory; the following year saw the arrival of the AZ, with a 425cc engine and 12bhp.

Often overlooked when talking 2CVs but worth considering are the more upmarket Ami and Dyane offshoots, offering more conservatism, practicality, performance and refinement, if less character. First to arrive was the Dyane, which ran from 1967-74. It looked like a modernised 2CV, which it was and intended to replace the Tin Snail, but still retained the fabric sunroof. One magazine called it a 2CV without the gimmicks and draughts, and it’s a great family hack. The hatch-backed quasi-estate Ami ran from 1969-79 and in contrast was conventionally- styled. From 1973-76 it could also be had with the GS’ air-cooled 1015cc engine and was quite a hot hatch for its day, but all Amis are rare finds now.

If you fancy something truly modern, perhaps as a daily driver, then consider the Citroen Visa which was as close to the 2CV as you can get.

Behind the wheel?

‘It ain’t what you do but the way that you do it’ - went the song and it could have referred to these Tin Snails. There’s virtually no power on offer, even on the later 602cc unit, but you don’t need much as you whiz round the bends in complete grip and safety – even if the body roll is somewhat alarming for onlookers, who will assume that the car is about to become inverted.

The hilarious cornering antics are courtesy of the ultra-soft suspension, which also gives the Citroen its fabulous ride. To go with that magic carpet is an amount of grip you wouldn’t have thought possible from such narrow tyres – some modern mountain bikes have wider tyres than this old Citroen!

The gearchange (all cars were manual) is via a lever that sprouts from underneath the dash, and, although the change pattern isn’t immediately obvious, you soon get used to it – don‘t let It put you off, as it has done to many. Also, thanks to the car’s amazing feather weight (it tips the scales at just half a ton), the brakes don’t have to work hard and as a result, there’s plenty of bite and they’re certainly effective, disc or drum. The 2CV and Dyane will get up to 50-60mph and will hum along nicely, even it takes an age to get there.

Owning and running?

Given its simplistic make up, as well as its age, you’d be fooled into thinking that the 2CV (inc Ami and Dyane) are a DIYers delight. But you’d only be half right. On the one hand the ability to strip the bodywork to its bare skeleton means easier DIY repairs, but some of the mechanical jobs are far more complicated than on say a Morris Minor. The inboard front brakes are a particular swine to service for example, while the rears require an extractor. Even items such as the c.b points are well tucked away - indeed sometimes it’s easier to remove the engine for certain work but this is no hardship as just four bolts secure it. Happily, parts supply and specialist support remain extremely good and you’ll rarely see this Citroen ‘VOR’ due to lack of spares. And, being a Citroen, the 2CV seems to thrive of lack of care – 2CVs just keep going – it’s the bodywork that goes first (see our Buyer Beware section).

That said, there are improvements worth making. The most useful upgrade you can make is a 123 electronic ignition system, for around £125 (from Halogen headlights are also worthwhile; you’ll need a special ring to take the modern bulb, but you can convert for around £30. Meanwhile, a stainless steel exhaust is £425 and a heated rear window is £125. And join the 2CVGB club if you want to make the most of ownership. It’s a great club full of help, encouragement and enjoyment which is what a 2CV should also be about. It knows of the top cars for sale, too.

The Daily Option?

You still see plenty of 2CVs being used as daily drivers, and why not? It’s an easy to drive penny-wise family car that would suit many households well – once they overcome their prejudices. Gutting the cabin out liberates more space when needed, the standard sunroof means high loads can be easily carried, while the Dyane (once the rear seat is removed) provides more space than a Mini Van!

If you want a hatchback then the Dyane is the better bet but there is a hatchback conversion for the 2CV; this is an original Citroen offering that can be tracked down for around £30 on a used basis. It connects the boot lid and window to each other, with the latter hinging at the top to become a tailgate; it increases the car’s practicality no end.

Heating is adequate (an electric heater for £90 stops you getting Hypothermia in winter if you wish), ventilation could be better, of course, and the car is surprisingly adept to longer journeys once the little air- cooled engine has got into its stride.

If you like the idea of a 2CV don’t want such an oldie, then it’s as well to remember that a number of specialists sell ‘remade’ cars which are as new as you can get from around £8000 and built to your own spec (Try The 2CV Shop 01985 841327 - Email: info@ for more details). Not cheap when most 2CVs sell for between £2000-4500, but prices are on the rise so perhaps worth it if you intend to keep yours for decades.

Of course, the 2CV was designed as an economy car and it’s still a main reason for having one. More than 40mpg is a given. In fact, in the wake of the 1970s fuel crisis Classic Cars (then Thoroughbred & Classic Cars) ran a brand new 2CV to conserve fuel and reckoned that this £1500 eco car would pay for itself in petrol alone after 40,000 miles compared to the Aston its user normally ran. Nearly 40 years on it’s an idea that still holds water!



Launched at the Paris Motor Show with 375cc engine (9bhp), known as the ‘Tin Snail’.


Car launched in UK, built at Citroen’s Slough plant, but sales are slow; 425cc engine for ‘54 ups power to 12bhp.


Oddity time. AZLP is most luxurious 2CV yet plus has a boot lid. Whacky Sahara is a 24bhp all-wheel drive thanks to two engines, transmissions, etc.


As UK cars effectively die off, car gains facelift as well as Bijou which was a GRP bodied 2CV but sales are minimal.


602cc engine now fitted for 22bhp plus body get ‘six window’ treatment.


Dyane 6 introduced using 2CV make up with more conventional hatchback body. Range rationalisation. 2CV4 uses new 435cc engine while 2CV6 features 602cc unit.


2CV6 relaunched in UK with revised look and updated trim, costing some £3000.

1980 /81/82

Charleston model launched with snazzier trim and look with two-tone paint job. Special 007 car promoting ‘For Your eyes Only’ introduced. Disc brakes replace drums upfront in ‘82.


Special Dolly announced with distinctive paintwork.


Production switches to Portugal, where final 2CV is built on 27th July 1990 after more than 3.8m were made over the decades.

We Reckon...

The case for owning a 2CV is as strong as it ever was – chiefly to enjoy economy motoring. But with this Citroen comes a fun factor even a Ferrari can’t surpass. As a second car that made tremendous sense when new, it can still carry out this role as a classic.

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