Pierre Jules Boulanger took charge of Citroën in 1935 and had the idea to create a car for social classes with low income. He wanted something simple and practical that could transport people and their goods on any terrain in an economical way.
Boulanger wrote the specifications, mentioning he wanted "to make a car that can carry four people and 50kg of potatoes or a keg, at a maximum speed of 60 km/h, with a consumption of 3 litres per hundred kilometres and low maintenance costs."
He enrolled André Lefebvre as engineer and Flaminio Bertoni, nicknamed "golden fingers", as stylist. The project was named TPV meaning 'very small car'.
At first, a single-cylinder engine was considered before deciding on a twin-cylinder, air-cooled unit. The suspension used a torsion rod bundle, rubber blocks, vertical or horizontal springs and hydropneumatic. The start-up was performed, according to prototypes, by a crank and twine starter.
On 2 September 1939, the first prototype was ready to be shown. Unfortunately, several days later, the Second World War was declared and the assembly line used for military equipment.
Development continued in private. The air-cooled engine was chosen along with a 4-speed overdrive. The suspension combined lateral interaction and drummers for each wheel and the main brake links to the rear axle. The equipment becomes more practical with a second headlight, an electric starter and conventional seats.
In October 1948, the first 2CV was presented at the Paris Motor Show. To begin with opinions were divided, but eventually it became the star of the show. Production started in June 1949 and named 2CV A, it's a real success. The press were full of praise on 2CV's ease of use and robustness. In 1951, a van version of the 2CV was launched, it weighed 250 kg with a 375 cm3 engine.
In 1956, the AZL - "L" for luxury - was launched with a large rear window, a large soft top in synthetic fabric and trims with striped cloth seats. Ten years after its appearance, 2CV had a different look: a blue glacier colour, 380mm steering wheels and a new dashboard.
In February 1989, the French production line stopped. With 5,114,940 2CV vehicles produced worldwide, 2CV is an iconic car and a symbol of joy!
In January 1938, Citroën ran the first road tests on TPV "Toute Petite Voiture", the prototype with one headlight that will become the famous 2CV.
Citroën presented the 2CV 4x4 or 2CV Sahara. A four wheel drive with two 425cm3 engines, it had amazing off-road capabilities. Even when fully laden, it could climb a slope with a gradient of over 40% in the sand.
The AZ version could reach 70 km/h thanks to a 425cm3 engine and 12 horse power. Customers could choose door panels and seats, including Scottish pattern fabrics.
The AZAM type was an improved version of Type AZA : comfort was improved. In 1964, the 2CV lost its "butterfly" doors for conventional ones.
Its design features were strengthed and special equipment added : dry air filter, front crossmember and reinforced suspension arms, bumpers and reinforced platform and a guard plate under the engine, all of which are useful in rugged terrain.
The 2CV Charleston stood out with its colours. Initially only available in red and black paint, the thread highlighting the curve of the doors was simply made from grey adhesive.
2CV Cocorico was designed to support the qualification of the French team at the FIFA World Cup in Mexico. With a white base, the car featured red rear doors and blue stickers allowing the gradient Blue White Red.
• In early production of 2CV, the same type of screw was used on the majority of the car. The engine started up very easily and was held together with 4 screws. This was the same principle for the car body.
• Pierre Boulanger wanted to create a car that could be driven by farmers and could quickly start in the morning without any worries after a night outside. Comfort was not the priority and with the poor state of roads at the time, the 2CV had to have a very flexible suspension. It was expected that the 2CV could cross ploughed field with a basket of eggs in the trunk without breaking any. Because of its basic features, the 2CV was described as “four wheels under an umbrella”.
• The 2CV prototype had only one headlight. At that time, the traffic laws didn't require two! The 2CV was nicknamed "The Cyclops" and, initially, the headlight was placed at the centre of the bonnet. Later, the headlight was placed on the left of the car.
• To run studies and tests on the 2CV, and because Pierre Boulanger feared someone would copy his ideas, he bought a secure property on the west side of Paris. 49 prototypes were built and tested within this special area with a 2.5 kilometer track and all types of terrain.
• In 1959, a removable radio is launched: the Radioën. It is detachable in order to be used somewhere else.
• In 1982, the 2CV becomes James Bond’s car during a scene in the movie "For your eyes only". The car is featured on the poster. On the occasion of the promotion, Citroën launched a limited edition of 500 cars, the 2CV 007 complete with 'bullet hole' transfers on the windows.
It wasn't all plain sailing for SeaLion (Pete Sparrow, Jon Davis, David O'Keeffe and Alec Graham) who actually broke their chassis at one point in the race, but the mechanics managed to fix it in just 17 minutes to avoid the possibility of a non-finish.
2nd place finishers Porky Boys (Richard Lambert, Matt Lambert, Francis Rottenburg, and Steve Jacques) looked like strong favourites for a time, but also had struggles with reliability, succumbing to a broken driveshaft which was fixed after a lengthy stop in the pits, although they still managed 742 laps.
3rd in the UK Class was Rent Boys Racing 2 (Nick Paton, Philip Myatt, Meyrick Cox) who had a strong charge but needed pit repair time late on, finishing only one lap behind Porky Boys, while 4th was Franglais Racing (Peter Rundle, Ali Topley, Laurent Dallet) who completed 739 laps.
The race was incident packed with safety-car periods reaching double figures. Many of the cars suffered problems due to the wet weather and others suffered damage as a result of collisions or from going off-track.