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Citroen 2CV

Published: 14th Jul 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Citroen 2CV
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You’re unlikely to turn a Citroën 2CV into a GTI-eater but you can sure make one a lot more fun and useable on modern roads at little cost; the looks on other drivers’ faces will be priceless! IMAGES BY MAGICCARPICS.CO.UK

Let’s be honest – the Citroën 2CV was never designed to do the ton or chase Ferraris across country.

But there’s a surprising slice of hidden performance in these ‘tin snails’ yet without compromising economy or reliability. Or you can go the whole hog and build a racer for £3000 or less – watch out Lewis Hamilton!


The chief concern is to make sure that the car is up to setting new land speed records. Rust is the major worry but the good news is that new chassis frames can be had for less than £500 or a fully galvanised, better, tougher and stiffer alternative for £550 from Ken Hanna (01757 638469). If the chassis is past it or distorted, especially if bad behind the front axle, then its ‘twisting’ has an adverse effect on the steering, as well although it’s more likely to be seized king pins. Also check the chassis legs can be prone to break if that far gone.

Before you start tweaking the engine, make sure it’s in decent shape. It relies on its oil to keep cool and overheating ruins the pistons. A recon engine from specialists ECAS 2CV Parts costs around £1000 and may be a cost-effective investment. The transmissions can be weak but it’s mostly down to the selector rings becoming unscrewed.


Don’t expect dramatic gains from the 30bhp 602cc engine – you are looking at 10-15bhp at best but that’s a big percentage gain. The lazy way out is to buy a fully tuned. reconditioned engine and German experts STP sells a Rallye unit boasting 720cc packing some 40bhp. It costs around £2000 however but one benefi t is that it will run smoother as the crank will be balanced, something Citroën wasn’t too fussed about, it seems! Don’t assume that the similar 652cc Visa engine is a simple swap either because it’s a different shape and so entails a lot of mods to fi t properly say the experts. The engine has a different performance characteristic warns ECAS.

Somewhat cheaper tuning starts with modifi cations to raise the compression ratio to 9.0:1. ECAS 2CV Parts sells new pistons and barrels for this at under £200 and, along with some porting work, is said to make a signifi cant improvement although leave the valve sizes standard. You can go higher but then the fuel and ignition settings are more critical to prevent pre-detonation and not worth the hassle for many owners. Unlike other engines where simple upgrades of the air fi lter and exhaust are worthwhile, the 2CV doesn’t respond as such claims ECAS, although better jets are available. A twin carb set up is available from Lomaz & Blackjack Avion (who make 2CV-based kit cars).

What does make an appreciable

difference is an electronic ignition along with extremely careful setting of the ignition timing. Misfi res can be caused by poor timing (the points are hideous to get at and require a special tool), so fi t a 123 system for around £125; cheaper systems such as the race-approved Lumenition set up also work well. Actual timing settings are critical. According to ECAS, the optimum setting is eight degrees static with the max advance at 33.6 degrees, which usually equates to 10 teeth of the fl ywheel before top dead centre. Setting the tappets to a wider 0.30mm gap is the best gap for power, if not noise or smoothness.

Taking the engine out to over 650cc is low cost; ECAS sells the required piston and barrels for around £300. A brace of racier camshafts (from Kent Cams) are available to take the rev limit to an amazing 7300rpm but the 2CV engine is happiest at 6500-6750rpm reckon many.

More involved tuning is possible and there’s no shortage of tuning gear in Europe. Not France but Holland and Belgium, where the latter we have heard of a tuning company making special stroked crankshafts for further engine enlargements although a fully fledged fuel injection system seems to have fl oundered.

Another rather hairy option is to fit the engine from a BMW R1100S motorcycle which can be mated to the standard transmission, although not for too long if you use the considerable performance potential warn 2CV experts!

Note that while there’s fair scope for road tuning, if you wish to race your 2CV in the race championships (http://www.2cvracing., only strict uprating is allowed to contain costs. Finally, according to Roy Eastwood of ECAS, a spot of improving the performance will also help the engine’s economy as well, simply because most 2CVs are run out of sorts by their owners…


Roger Moore may have made a 2CV the fastest snail on four wheels but for us mere mortals, we need to tune the suspension to match the new found power, although again for racing the changes are more limited to comply with the rules, such as tyre sizes.

Uprated dampers for the 2CV and Dyane have been around for decades from Koni, Spax etc and naturally adjustables are the ultimate. AVO sells dampers to racing spec and fronts are around £80 but Gaz seems to now be the preferred choice – speak to a specialist.

The soft springing will have to be addressed and ECAS markets 100 per cent harder rear springs but to normal ride height – lowered racing types are available, uprated by no less than 170 per cent from Arrow. For racing, the suspension bump stops are removed and the front anti-roll bar from an Ami 8 is substituted. Watch a 2CV race and the sight of these snails cornering ‘fl at’ through corners without the usual undue roll is a sight to behold! One thing you can’t buy but have to mod yourself are the front wishbones to alter the camber and castor settings. These are known as ‘Belgium style’ and adds a touch of negative camber plus also realigns the castor angle, altered after all that lowering, so the steering isn’t compromised.

The arms need to be welded and reinforced so it reduces cornering loads on the king pins and consequently steering effort. This is all a bit bespoke so speak to a 2CV specialist or go to the Classic 2CV Racing Club’s website where full details of this mod are published plus there’s people in the club who carry out the welding for you.

Brakes are the least of your worries because the car weighs so little; discs were fitted after 1981 and harder pads usually suffi ce (just £13 for EBC types from 2CV City), while tyre sizes needn’t go further than the 145 section rubber used in racing.

ECAS sells sporty looking spoked alloys (£550) while the tyre sizes are the same as those found on the original Smart cars.

Oh, and if you want to make your tin snail look super sexy then you can fit a front spoiler which is mandatory for racing. Again the club has all the details and they cost £49 from ECAS or just £27 from 2CV City.

Fancy a racier set of ratios? Well there used to be a Swiss enthusiast called Weber who developed a fi ve-speed gearbox but the imputes has largely died with him. What you can have is a higher ratio transmission using the Dyane’s differential – 2CV City sells them for £450 exchange.

A ’box from an Ami or Dyane 4 is said to be better for acceleration with a Dyane 6 Ami 8 better for real world motoring; bear in mind that wider 145 tyres will also raise the gearing slightly. Lightening the flywheel (no more than a third, mind) improves response rather than poke.

• Tune up with optimum timing
• Electronic ignition
• 9.0:1 compression ratio
• Second-hand AM2 engine

• Larger barrels and pistons
• STP performance engine
• Modifi ed camshaft
• Motorbike engine or turbocharging

Handling the power
• Uprated dampers
• Lowered, uprated springs
• 145 Section tyres FULL POWER
• Racing spec Belgium steering
• Welded wishbones
• Camber and caster changes

The 2CV Shop produces some 20 ‘new’ 2CVs each year, although most are straightforward restorations done to factory specifi cations with light modifi cations built in. The build is undertaken completely in-house and takes about 12 weeks. Prices begin at around £14,000 for an entirely ‘new’ 2CV. Restored, as opposed to completely rebuilt, cars are a fair bit cheaper. The Citroën 2CV Shop, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7BZ /01985 841327

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