Citroen's iconic 2CV celebrates 60th birthday

History often repeats itself with the Citroen 2CV this year celebrating its 60th birthday as a car that lives up to every need currently deemed to be the up and coming trend among experts - the cheap car with minimalist requirements.

When the 2CV was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show on October 7, 1948 the basic idea of building a cheap car for every Frenchman was already more than 20 years old.

Legend has it that Pierre-Jules Boulanger peered out of the window one day in the mid 1920s, wondering why farmers were still transporting their goods to the market in handcarts. Those with a little more money at least could afford a horse carriage.

Boulanger's idea was born to build a practical and cheap car for the mainly rural population. At the time, however, Boulanger was still working for the tyre production company Michelin. But as fate would have it Michelin gained a majority stake at Citroen in 1934 with the result that Boulanger switched to Citroen and a few years later became its CEO.

Boulanger at last had the means to realize his dream. The instruction to his engineers was simply that to create a design "to transport four persons, a sack of potatoes or a large cask at a speed of 60 kilometres an hour".

By 1939 some 250 prototypes of the TPV (Tout Petite Voiture or very small vehicle) were built featuring a bonnet and front grille that looked like a cattle grid. Only a single headlamp protruded from the side.

When World War II broke out, the managers ordered the prototypes to be destroyed to prevent the Germans from getting hold of them. Some were hidden and the last models were discovered in 1994.

After the war the lack of raw materials delayed production. But it still became a unique example of thrift and cheap production. The only luxury were the two headlamps. The fabric roof was installed primarily to save expensive and heavy material. Flap-up windows were installed because roll-down windows were deemed too expensive.

While the VW Beetle came out with four cylinders, the 2CV only had two producing just nine horsepower. Performance was only increased to 12 hp in 1955. Even the most powerful 2 CV in 1980 only managed 29 hp.

Laughed at initially in 1948 the 2 CV was an instant success not only in France. In Germany it was nicknamed "Duckling". English nicknames were included "Tin Snail" and "Dolly".

Several different versions were built until the last example left the production line on June 27, 1990. The 4 x 4 Sahara had a second engine in the boot. The Mehari was a pickup truck built on the 2 CV platform.

The 2 CV also had a box added to it turning it into a delivery vehicle. The Dyane launched in 1967 was a pepped-up version designed to succeed the 2 CV but only survived until 1983. Meanwhile the 2 CV continued until June 1990 with some seven million vehicle having left the production line.

While Boulanger saw the 2 CV mainly as a means of transportation in rural areas it instead became a cult vehicle among the student and hippie movement in the 1960s and 1970s who saw in it an expression of an "alternative way of life.", dpa reported.

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