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Citroen 2CV

Citroen 2CV Published: 29th Mar 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Citroen 2CV
Citroen 2CV
Citroen 2CV
Citroen 2CV
Citroen 2CV
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Practical, pragmatic yet offers more smiles per mile than any other cheapie

h3>Any suggestions for a runaround classic costing pennies to own?

We take it that it’s going to be used as a ‘townie’ school run or train station special?

Yes, something used as a hack… with a difference

There’s a few which spring to mind, not least our evergreen Mini, but we reckon as a classless classic go few can beat a Citroën 2CV, one of those rare classics not so much a car but a way of life – perhaps for life.

Yeah, why is that?

Because it is several cars in one. For a start, it’s an ideal urban dweller that’s small so, easy to park yet family-sized plus just about the most frugal thing on four wheels. But what we like best is the Citroën’s sheer versatility where, by removing the rear seat it becomes a make-shift van in a trice. That roll-back canvas roof not only provides wind-in-thehair motoring but again further adds to the car’s practicality and appeal.

A hatchback conversion was an original Citroën accessory that can be tracked down for around £30 used (try a 2CV club). It connects the boot lid and rear window with the latter hinging at the top to act as a tailgate. When closed nobody can tell the difference, but it increases the car’s huge practicality no end.

The 2CV has long passed over from contemporary to classic status with ease and, like our Minor, has become one of the most usable and sensible daily drivers of them all, not least because of a great club and specialist back up plus 2CVs were made up to the mid 1990s.

But why are they called ‘tin snails’?

Well, you only have to look at one don’t you – but that’s part of the car’s charm – plus performance is at a snail’s pace, at best, but if you are only using it around town, it’s not the bone of contention you’d anticipate.

Do they drive as bad as they look?

Not at all – once you’ve learned how to drive one that is; a trip round the block would put 90 per cent of people off, especially the odd dashmounted gear-change (which is easy to master) and the 2CV’s roly-poly nature. Performance from the twincylinder, air-cooled 602cc engine is understandably leisurely and yet once wound up, a good 2CV lopes along with ease and the ride comfort feels like a Rolls-Royce compared to our Mini or Morris Minor. To go with that is an amount of grip you wouldn’t have thought possible from such narrow tyres – some mountain bikes run on wider tyres!… And as Roger Moore proved as James Bond 40 years ago you can outrun almost anything in a 2CV!

What can i get?

The 70-year history of the 2CV can be a bit confusing but suffice to say that although the Deux Chevaux that finally left the production line in 1990 was a more powerful and far more comfortable vehicle than the design displayed at the 1948 Paris Salon, it was still virtually the same car. The 2CV flittered in and out of the UK market before finally returning in 1974 in the wake of the Fuel Crisis the year before.

The best models are post ’76 and, preferably versions from 1980 with their front disc brakes and hydraulic front dampers at last matching the rears. The reintroduced Citroën was labelled the 2CV6 Special: Watch out for proper specials, such as the Charleston, which later became a standard production model.

Finally, there’s the Bamboo limited edition and Spot (Special Production Orange Tenere); join an owners club to help you find one, which can include the wonderful commercial range that usually carries a price premium.

Anything else?

Sort of. Worthy if far rarer offshoots of the 2CV theme are the larger Ami and Dyane ranges which were marketed in the UK from 1967. The excellent Dyane ran up to 1985 while the more conventionally-styled, estate looking Ami’s last hurrah was the Super of 13 years earlier.

Super it was too as it’s powered by the same perky 1015cc aircooled engine, taken from the excellent larger GS, making this Ami a zippy Q Car that belies its appearances. Also don’t overlook the 2CV-powered Visa from ’78 as it’s an evolution of the Snail but modern where it matters and don’t dismiss the diesel-powered vans.

Do 2CVs live up to their ‘tin’ name?

They may look ramshackle but are more robust than you’d give credit for. Rust is the main threat as they crumble everywhere but panel supply is excellent with improved chassis frames costing around £400-£500. You may need one; if it’s badly rotten behind the axle, as the frame 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, as is fair difficulty when opening the bonnet.

Check the seatbelt mount at the lower front of the inner wing – it’s a rare car that hasn’t been welded here. The box under the rear seat, the boot floor and number plate panel often rusts terribly, too.

Mechanically, they are tough. On the test drive make sure the cylinder heads aren’t leaking; there are no head gaskets and the heads have to be lapped in to seal them.

It’s usual for the engine to sound clattery, but don’t confuse this with rattles or knocking from worn out bearings – a complete new engine is around £2000. Heavy steering can be down to the aforementioned twisted chassis or seized kingpins if they haven’t been greased regularly.

DIY friendly?

Generally yes (and access can be improved by removing the wings), but it’s not a patch on a Ford or even our Mini; cars with drums at the front often have a braking system in poor condition as it’s such a pain getting to the brakes to maintain them, for example. On the other hand, 2CVs have been around for yonks and club members will let you in on the numerous tips and trade secrets…

How much should i spend on buying a good one?

All good classics cost money these days and 2CVs are no exception but you can find a pretty good one for around £3000 making sub £1000 projects more a labour of love over logic; Dyane and Amis are priced similarly but are rarer find and panel supply is not so widespread. Very early models from the 1950s and early ’60s can command well over £10,000 particularly the hens’ teeth Mokestyle Mehari, which lasted in production until 1987; usually sold with two-wheel drive but fourwheel drive was offered from ’79.

For a similar outlay, you can buy a renovated 2CVs from one of the numerous specialists such as The 2CV Centre and 2CV City (see news pages) – sounds pricey but the Tin Snail will only make money, unlike a new supermini (like a Citroën DS3?) purchased on a tempting if money-losing PCP…

DO they have to be so slow?

No! They race 2CVs you know ( and there’s no shortage of go-faster gear for the snail. Even if this aspect doesn’t interest you, fitting a 123 electronic ignition system, (from makes a real improvement especially with further attention to the timing by a 2CV expert. German experts, STP, sells a Rallye engine enlarged to 720cc packing some 40bhp. It costs around £2000, however, but it will run smoother as the crank will be balanced, something Citroën wasn’t too fussed about, it seems!

Somewhat cheaper tuning starts with mods to raise the compression ratio to 9.0:1. ECAS 2CV Parts has new pistons and barrels at under £200; taking the engine out to over 650cc is low cost too; ECAS sells the required pistons and barrels for around £300. Or you can slip in a BMW R1100S motorcycle engine which mates to the gearbox!

There’s a full range of suspension mods including a better, tougher and stiffer chassis for £550 from Ken Hanna (01757 638469). Motoring at a snail pace indeed!

I’m sorely tempted

And so you should be, as they are quirky and totally classless classics. There’s never been a more fun way to tell the world that you’re a bit skint than with this Citroën!



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