22 June, 2007

The 2CV, Not a Bike

Working around bikes all the time, I occasionally find the need to get away from them. A couple of days thinking about something else clears the mind and gives a new perspective. Perhaps the blog needs a break too. Last weekend I got away by attending the Citroen Rendezvous in Saratoga Springs (click to see the photos). You see, my car is now a 1982 Citroen 2CV, or Deux Chevaux.

Now I know that many readers are anti-car, but I think the real issue is how we use our cars. I love to travel, by bike, sail boat, train, plane, and, yes, car. Having a car for longer trips, long errands, carrying heavy stuff, etc., makes perfect sense. It's the daily commuting and taking a car on little errands that could be accomplished on a bike or by foot that really bugs me.

But back to the 2CV, it carries four people very comfortably, has a top speed of 70mph, and gets, by my calculations, 54mpg around town. It does this with a 2 cylinder 602cc engine that is so simple almost anyone can fix it. But since the car was designed in the late 1930's for French farmers, who had never owned a complicated machine, it is amazingly reliable. They have been driven on several round-the-world, trans-Asian, and trans-African expeditions

The seats come out with the flick of a lever to turn it into a sort of van, or so the seats can be used for a picnic. Oh yes, the roof rolls back to become a convertible. There is even a commercial "truck body" version. It is also fairly safe, based on crash tests done in the '70s.

So why is it that we need SUVs? It may not be a bike, but the 2CV is the next best thing.

The last photo shows a very odd 2cv made for French fire departments. Can anyone guess it's purpose?


Goon said...

Funny you should post this on the day after Congress legislates higher fuel economy requirements . . .

35 mpg in ten years? Pathetic. Put a 1.6 liter direct-injection engine or turbodiesel in every car and go from there*. Problem solved. Today.

(* = Yes, that means not everybody can have a land barge.)

Anonymous said...

A 2CV Bicephale! If I remember correctly that model was made specifically made for a Fire Dept. in the Var region of France because of an Inspecteur who was once blocked on a narrow mountain road in the region and could not turn around!

When we lived in France for a few years, I had a friend with a 2CV and it was a great car. I saw the Bicephale at a show somewhere, but the one in your photo is in much better shape.

Brett G.

keithwwalker said...

The 2CV is nice, but give me a Panhard 24 anyday!

Anonymous said...

Amen brother.

With very few being used for Sport or Utility, I can understand the confusion.

We "need" SUVs for the following reasons:

a) 4 wheel drive helps us feel safe in snow

b) with all those activities our kids must have on their college resumes, we need a place to put gear

c)since most of our meals are gotten from windows and eaten in transit, we may as well have a roomy dining room

d)extra power ensures we can accelerate to safety when idiots insist on driving dangerously at the posted speed limit

e)SUVs project machismo better than minivans or economy cars

f) all of the above

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is your CV2 the same color as the VO blue?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Keith, Ha, Panhards are cool and more advanced. But try to find parts for a Panhard 24 anyday. Almost every 2CV part is in stock at at least four US warehouses and can be had overnight.

How about a DEUTSCH-BONNET as an example of an advanced and lovely French car? And with a Panhard engine.

It's amazing that someone, Brett, responded so quickly with the Bicephale info.

david_nj said...

How hard is it to get parts for a 2CV? And, what with global warming and all since they were initially designed, is there an A/C solution?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Anon, The VO blue is a little darker and more gray.

David, See my comment above. In fact, there is a place that has every part 1 hour from you and does all the mechanical work too. After all, there are not that many parts in a 2CV so even a medium sized garage can stock them all. Plus parts are super cheap. Heck, an entire engine is only $2000.

As for AC, you obviously didn't notice that little opening flap under the windshield?

Alan said...

"It does this with a 2 cylinder 602cc engine that is so simple almost anyone can fix it."

You sir have never witnessed my mechanical skills firsthand.

James said...

If you live in Canada you could buy and register a used japanese market Nissan S Cargo, figaro or one of their other neo-retro models. I've seen a few in SF and LA probably using plates from another car.

Anonymous said...

Interesting you should post this just now! I literally just came to your blog from this page!


Weird. The car in the above link, and the timing.

Doug said...

Chris, the 2CV is your only car? Super cool, but here in AZ something without decent A/C is really not an option for daily/regular year round use. It is a winter toy :^( That said, what is the best resource for 2CV shopping here in the U.S?

Thanks, Doug

Joel said...

You make a good point about versatile interior vs. massive size.

I don't own a 2CV - in fact, I own no car - but from time to time use the local Zipcar.

Fortunately, the lot nearest me has a Matrix or Vibe (forget which, they are the same anyhow) It is amzing how much stuff you can put in those little, but tall cars when you put the seats down.

Dan G said...

This brings back memories. When I was a kid living in Chile my dad had a citroen 2CV. This was back in the mid 60's. It looked similar to the one in the second picture. It was kind of a pickup/van, with only two seats up front. My sister and I would sit in the back on the wheel well covers. I remember the front seats where real basic, they where actually nothing more than metal frames with fabric stretched over them, like lawn chairs.

Kevan said...

Like us older folk, we still have our spunk, but pay for it later:

'Brian' aka 'BG' said...

My late wife loved her 122 Volvo which she named 'Betsy'.
The Volvo 122 wagon, as well as the 210, 445 and 540 were easy to work on and a blast to ride in. It's nice sometimes to feel that elusive connectedness to the road and your environment that older vehicles provide, as opposed to the isolated feeling of modern vehicles.
We had a couple 2CV's motoring through out neighborhoods in the Mid-Hudson Valley - one with a color similar to yours. Whenever we took a road trip from NYS to Vermont we always passed by Hemmings Auto News which just felt right riding in an old classic.

Mathieu said...

It is so nice to see that American people like our French classics.

I come regulary on your blog :)

The 2CV is my first car.

One thing is missing : the beautiful lovely sound of the engine : like the song of a dove.

Thank U

J-architectes said...

Thank u for all nice things you say about French classics.

I often check your blog wich is part of my favourites !

The pictures should be agremented with the dove sound of the engine.

As you say it is an "all terrain proof automobile", even better than 4WD plastic cars.

Engine so simple !

So easy to repair !

Ryan Newill said...


You would have enjoyed my experience in Italy back in early May of last year. I was driving through Chianti up the climb of the Coltibuono when I got stuck behind some sort of 2CV club outing. Maybe 15 of them that I saw, plates from all over the EU. It was great to see them all out there -- the only problem was that I was covering the Giro della Toscana at the time, and needed to get to the top of the climb well before the race. They were moving at a reasonable speed on a serious incline, but at the time, I needed to move at an unreasonable speed...

Wish I had some pics to share, because it was quite a sight, but I already had my hands full getting around them in true Italian driving style.

Best regards,

Annette said...


A bit off topic, but I just couldn't resist, picturing your joint amusement/frustration.

On our first trip to Italy, Chris and I quickly learned the unwritten rule of driving on narrow rural Italian roads...

"An oncoming car is no reason not to pass."