This past Sunday was the 70th anniversary of the debut of the beloved Citroën 2CV at the 1948 Paris Motor Show. I think we’re all a little familiar with the Deux Chevaux’s story. Designed as a cheap and rugged people’s car that could carry eggs across farmland without cracking any. Hidden from the Nazis during WWII. Almost 4 million (9 million if you count the many variants based on it) sold over the course of 42 years. It was one of the most popular, and important cars ever manufactured.
But, what did people think of it when it was unveiled? It’s always looked like nothing else on the road. And, besides the innovative suspension, it was also a pretty primitive automobile. For a country that had produced some of the world’s most elegant cars before World War II, the little Citroën was a drastic, but necessary, change.
The 1948 Paris Motor Show was the first one after the war that had a significant number of brand new cars. Along with the 2CV, Renault brought their 4CV, Panhard had the Dyna, Peugeot the 205, and Ford the Vedette. Over 1.5 million car starved Frenchmen and women visited the Grand Palais that year. For ten days, the magnificent Beaux Arts building was packed to the gills.
The new 2CV was a main attraction. Citroën was France’s most famous brand and rumors about the car had been circulating for several years. But, as Ran When Parked documented last year, its reception was decidedly lukewarm.
Some of the comments, per Citroën’s own report from the show, were not kind:
It’s not a car, it’s a swing set for kids.
It’s not a car, it’s a boat.
I wonder if you get sea-sick riding in the 2CV.
They’ll have to re-design the suspension before it hits the market.
I bet this thing literally takes off if you go over a speed bump too fast!
The gray paint reminds me of a hospital room. What an odd choice.
It’s a sardine can on wheels.
I wonder if it comes with pedals.
And probably most worrying: I’d rather buy a motorcycle.
The car was shockingly austere, but once that shock wore off, people began to see it for it was: novel cheap, comfortable, and practical transportation. It was the butt of jokes for a while. Only 850 made it out of the factory the first year and there was a 9 month wait to take delivery. But, it put its even more primitive microcar competition to shame, and Citroën was an automotive giant in France and they promoted the heck out of the car. It wasn’t long before the 2CV was ubiquitous on French streets. By the 60's, it was being built on 4 continents and was truly a world car.
This is a 1:43 by Vitesse. It’s a 2CV Spot, one of the many many special editions Citroën made over the years. The Spot is probably my favorite because it came in the best color.
Released in 1976, the Spot was the first limited edition 2CV. Built to commemorate 5 million 2CV based cars built, it was an instant success. The two-tone paint was complemented by a great decal package, and orange and white striped door panels and “sun shade.”
Vitesse didn’t include the sun shade part, but it was a translucent part of the roof that covered the front so you could pull the main roof back a little for some extra light, I guess.
The Spot was based on the entry level 2CV4 with its controversial square headlights. They also had the smaller 435cc flat twin engine.
All 1,800 French market Spots sold out almost immediately which prompted Citroën to produce more for foreign markets. Today it’s one of the more sought after 2CV variants.
This model is nice for the price. Definitely not flawless as the grille and lights are mounted a little wonky, but it looks good on the shelf. There are better 1:43 Spots out there, though.
Vive la 2CV! Bon anniversaire Dedeuche!