The Citroën 2CV was designed in the 1930s for French farmers who relied on horse drawn carts for travel. The little car was tasked with carrying four small farmers and 110 lbs of their produce to market at 30 mph, over muddy, unpaved roads. It was supposed to do this while maintaining 78(!) mpg. It was given long suspension travel for carrying eggs through ploughed fields and simple stamped body panels to keep costs down. It had wipers whose speed depended on the engines revs and were hand cranked when the car was standing still. By 1939, the 2CV was ready to launch at the Paris Motor Show. Then World War II broke out.
With France occupied by Germany, Citroën’s staff were worried their creation would be misappropriated by the Nazi industrial war effort. The company’s VP, Pierre-Jules Boulanger, refused to collaborate and actively encouraged sabotage against the occupiers. To ensure the 2CVs secrecy, Boulanger had several of the prototypes buried around France, one converted into a pickup truck, and the rest destroyed. Through Boulanger’s cunning the design was successfully hidden, and when World War II ended the public could finally meet the 2CV.
Although it was initially laughed at for its tiny engine by the motoring press, the 2CV was a massive hit with buyers. Within a few months of its launch there was a five year waiting list for one, so the car was sold only to the people it was designed for at first. Citroën performed occupation checks on 2CV customers, and preference was given to doctors, midwifes, priests, and farmers, who loved it for its mountain goat-like ability to go anywhere (very slowly) and its endless adaptability. 2CVs have been pickup trucks, four door saloons, cargo vans, and literal globe-spanning offroaders. It’s a masterpiece in minimalism.
Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, March 9th 2016.