Classified Hero: Citroën 2CV Charleston
Craving a slice of French automotive enchantment? We’ve found this 1968 Citroën 2CV in the AutoClassics classifieds
There are very few cars out there that stereotypically symbolise a country as a whole. From Britain we have the Mini, Germany proudly boasts about the VW Beetle, America has the Ford Model T and Italy enjoys all things Fiat 500. Cars that develop huge and brainwashed unities of followers, such as these, are almost always vehicles that help the masses to move around; usually for the first time. It comes as no surprise, then, that France’s little darling is the humble Citroën Deux Chevaux.
However, outside of Paris, it wasn’t all plain sailing. For decades, the Citroën 2CV was deemed the laughing stock of the road by those who never understood the model's appeal. It was compared with an upturned pram and dubbed the ‘tin snail’ – but now, the 2CV is enjoying a monumental surge in value.
In 1990, the idiosyncratic French creation rolled out of British showrooms for £4552 (the equivalent today of roughly £10,424), yet a refurbished example can now set you back nearly £11,000. Don’t despair quite yet, however, as they aren’t all out of your price range. A decent example is around £5000, while a bit of hunting around will secure you a project for a couple of grand.
As with any insanely popular car, such high regard is inspired by crafty engineering and uncomplicated design. The specification laid out for designer Andre Lefebvre was relatively simple; the car should be capable of lugging 50kg of luggage plus at least two occupants, while also being able to carry a basket of eggs over a ploughed field. All eggs should remain intact afterwards. It also had to be tall enough for the occupants to wear a hat comfortably while driving. Speed? Not important. Utilitarianism? Indestructible.
Unveiled to the public in 1948 as a follow-up to the Traction Avant, the 2CV's remarkable 40-plus years in production saw five million cars making appearances as vans, Dyane hatchbacks, 4×4s, twin-engined cruisers, pick-ups and convertibles. A truly versatile vehicle indeed.
The long-travel suspension gave an outstanding ride, and while the handling may have been a bit wallowy the car's grip on the road was exhilarating, if not slightly terrifying. Lean was so intense at some speeds that the side windows would flap open, while strong cross-winds encouraged the Deux Chevaux to re-enact the boulder movements from an Indiana Jones film.
Not that you could get to exciting speeds, as even the very last examples churned out a paltry 29bhp. The 12bhp 425cc version could manage 45mph on a long, straight road, while later ones could hit 60mph in the same length of time as it takes Stephen King to write a new book. A lengthy 29.8 seconds to reach 60mph in 1990 proved how outdated the Citroën Deux Chevaux was.
However, the engine could run at high revs for over 50,000 miles before it needed some TLC, while fuel economy often exceeded 50mpg. Engines from the 1970s onwards are also happy to run on unleaded, according to 2CV experts.
From the classifieds
Wearing a two-tone burgundy and black exterior with grey interior, this example of France’s finest is located in California. The 2CV is in outstanding overall condition, with minimal wear or damage. The ‘twist’-style manual four-speed gearbox is apparently unique, with a new clutch and fresh top having been recently installed. The full-length, sliding, cloth sunroof is also in perfect working order.
As a prime example of an automotive masterpiece, this 2CV ticks all the boxes.