Saturday, January 20, 2007

Inspiration series 3: Citroen 2CV

When Citroen launched the 2CV (known as Citroën "Baby-brousse" in most of West Africa) at the Paris auto show in 1948, it was laughed at by journalists for being too Spartan. Nevertheless the rest of the French population fell in love with the styling, affordability, and ruggedness. It was the car that put France on wheels. It would go on to become one of the greatest small cars ever built with passionate fans all over the world. The car used innovative features like an H-frame chassis similar to airplanes of the time, front wheel drive, fully independent suspension, lightweight air-cooled flat twin engine.

The car used a simplistic approach, adopting many mechanical and few electrical parts. Even the side windows would flip-up rather than wind down; a very cheap, yet effective feature. The roll-up fabric roof allowed for quicker roof assembly and provided open air motoring. The air-cooled engine had no distributor and required no radiator and the accompanied complex piping. This made for a very reliable engine not even the VW beetle could match.

Today this car gets praise, but it is good to know that it met some hurdles during its development most notably world war 2. Prototypes were ordered to be destroyed for fear of German acquisition of the technology, but some well deserving engineers, buried some of the prototypes, preserving what would become the iconic 2CV. Development started in the mid 1930’s, but it was not until after the war in 1948 that the world first gazed eyes upon the car.

Of all the cars in my inspiration series, the 2cv is the one I admire the most; mainly because it was not just cheap, but technically innovative. No other car in history has inspired countless engineers working on affordable mobility more than the 2CV. Its final success as well as the struggles in early development harbors some vital lessons for any car envisioned for a developing country.


Duncan said...

The good old 2CV was largely laughed at in Britain, yet you have managed to make me feel wistful about them, and almost wishing I had one!

Tonami Playman said...

nice to share your appreciation. Like any good functional design, its usefulness is often overlooked by many only to be rediscovered much later. I still think the 2CV has a greater symbolic role today than it is being granted.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

black baseball cap said...

cool you blog !
I think... I agree with you but I disagree this..