Citroen Sighting in Wisconsin

Citroen 2CV in Wisconsin

It can be a challenge trying to decide what cars should grace the pages of this site. We want to make sure we don’t ever show a bias to one make, model, or origin. We strive to make sure we feature things that are interesting, unusual, or just plan cool. So when we hear from a reader who is excited about spotting a car that they had never heard of until they started following the site, it brings a big smile to our faces. Part of what we love so much about our jobs is learning and sharing with other car guys! It doesn’t matter what cars are your into, what matters is that we all learn something new and maybe even gain a new respect for something you would have otherwise overlooked. Reader Brandon P is a muscle car kind of guy, but when he spotted this Citroen 2CV, he knew he had to share it with us!

Citroen 2CV

Brandon hadn’t even heard of Citroen until he started following the site, but in his defense he didn’t grow up around any and we doubt there were many roaming the streets of Wisconsin. We are just glad that he recognized that this was something worth a closer look! While we have featured Citroens in the past, we haven’t featured many 2CVs. This particular one isn’t for sale, but we thought this might be a perfect opportunity to talk more about the 2CV. Citroen built this bare bones and minimalistic car for nearly 47 years, proving just how popular and enduring these ugly ducklings really were. The 2CV was introduced in 1948 with the purpose of building a car that was cheap, durable, and capable of being used on the rural roads out in the French country side. The design is best described as quirky, but nearly every aspect of the car served a purpose. To keep prices down, Citroen had to keep weight to a minimum, which meant forgoing features like roll up windows and just about every other creature comfort for that matter. While the design might not be visually appealing to everyone, the engineering was quite brilliant and is still impacting front wheel drive cars today.

Citroen 2CV Ad

Citroen built and sold almost 4 million base 2CVs, which is incredible when you look at the limited features and underwhelming performance. The car was powered by Citroen’s boxer two-cylinder motor mounted up front. Displacement started out at just 375 cc and grew in size as the demand for a higher top speed increased. The final years of the 2CV were powered by a 30 horsepower 602 cc unit and had a top speed around 70 mph. It certainly wasn’t a fast car, but it wasn’t ever meant to be. It was supposed to be inexpensive and efficient transportation, which it excelled at. 2CV enthusiasts will tell you that while they are slow, their low weight and fully independent suspension make them a blast to drive. We have no doubt about their claims, but we would certainly want a later model with the more powerful engine. They were so slow that Citroen even poked fun at their own car. They took what would have normally been a weakness and tried to use it as a selling point, which strangely enough worked. They were so fuel efficient that during the ’70s fuel crises, sales jumped up drastically and stayed surprisingly high through the ’80s.

Citroen 2CV sighting

There weren’t many of these sent to the US because they were just too slow for highway duty. We don’t imagine there are many left on the roads here, but we are glad to see this one is still being used on a regular basis and it looks to be well cared for. Keeping it on the road shouldn’t be much of a challenge, as just about every piece of the car can easily be removed for better access. And with so many of these having been built, parts should be easy to find. We wouldn’t mind going out for a spin in one of these little cars, even if it’s just to know what they are like. Our thanks goes to Brandon for sending his sighting in and we are glad that we were able to introduce him to one of the many interesting automobiles that people typically overlook! Hopefully we have stirred a new respect and interest in you for some of these great cars, even if they still aren’t your thing! If you spot a car you’ve never seen before, please snap a couple photos of it and send them in. Maybe it will be something we’ve never seen or heard of before.

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Comments

  1. Amber

    Nice find Brandon P. in Wisconsin! Interesting story.

  2. Barry Thomas

    I still see these around Torotno from time to time. Often they are the “fancier” models with burgundy/black paint schemes. They seem to have become trendy. Originally these were built for French farmers, so that they could take their small livestock to market. Initially, they only had one headlight. They weren’t around as long as the VW bug, but as simple transportation with a French ride, they excelled.
    Barry Thomas’ “Wheel to Wheel” blog

    • Tony Gilmore

      You are right, the burgundy and black model was owned by one of the owners of a Restaurant on Bay Street called Bistro 990 which has now been torn down to make way for more condo’s.
      I remember following one in France and as it went over a bump it would jump up in the air and the rear wheels would hinge by the diff and it would look so funny as it acted like a hinge and the wheels would go in and out, I think the shock absorbers had gone.

      • Barry Thomas

        Tony…..I know that car as they are clients of mine. Still see it around or one like it. Funny how a car becomes trendy, when back in the day, the French farmers probably couldn’t wait to get rid of theirs and move up.
        Barry Thomas’ “Wheel to Wheel” blog

      • Viking

        @Tony Gilmore: “..as it went over a bump it would jump up in the air and the rear wheels would hinge by the diff and it would look so funny as it acted like a hinge and the wheels would go in and out..”

        Nonsense. Must have been a different car . There is no rear wheel ‘diff’ .
        The wheels move up and down like this. Not “in and out”

  3. Dave Wright

    I once traded a carton of cigeretts for one of these when I had my shop in Germany……..the seller got the best of the deal. These are truly junk cars…….The Yugo of there day.

  4. frank Opalka

    Great 2 hp car. I had 2 and loved them both, once u drive one u wont go back. Saw one going down Outer Drive in Chicago with 4 up, wind grabbed frt edge of top and peeled it rite back, everyone was lafing hard, French restaurant in Evansotn, il, owner still drives a 2CV. A truly great car. Speedo and wipers extra.

  5. Dave Wright

    There were several of them in a local junkyard in Germany……We were in the French sector……when picked up with a forklift the cheep spot welds would break and huge body panels would just fall off…….

  6. Jim-Bob

    These are interesting cars because the engineering is just so…French. The original prototype has the seats hung from the roof like a hammock, instead of being bolted to the floor! Also, the ignition system is like that of a Trabant or Wartburg in that it has one coil per cylinder and no distributor. The suspension is also unique in that it used an interconnected system with the springs in the middle of the car so that the motion of the front wheel would preload the rear wheel.

    Interesting fact: one of the main characters in the movie American Graffiti has a blue 2CV that won’t start. I always found that odd since the movie was meant to be such a slice of Americana and there couldn’t have been that many 2CV’s in the US at the time.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I sure remember that 2CV that Kurt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) drove in American Graffiti. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a car it was. A co-worker (from Netherlands) told me what it was and that he’d actually owned one. He and his friends called them: ‘Ugly Duckling’ but it sounded like they all had a lot of fun with it.

    • Juan

      I always tought the same thing! About the movie I mean.

  7. Dave Wright

    There was nothing that made you appreciate German engineering more than working on a Citroen…………………with Puegot as a near second.

  8. Dolphin Member

    “The French are different”, in this case in a good way if you live in a place with real bad roads. I have never fulfilled my wish to drive one of these Two Horsepowers, but I have seen a few videos of these running on rough dirt roads and they are truly amazing. They probably have the longest suspension travel of any small car, which lets them soak up dips and bumps amazingly well. And they lean waaayy over in turns. The small horsepower they have still allows them to travel fast on bad roads or rough terrain, which from the pics and videos I’ve seen, is where a lot of these were used.

    The Wikipedia entry contains a lot of remarkable information, like a 42 year production run (1948-1990), almost 3.9 million sedans made plus another 1.2 million tiny delivery vans, plus millions more similar vehicles based on the 2CV (Ami; Menhari; Dyane; Acadiane) for a total procuction of about 8.8 million.

    The 2 horsepower was ‘tax’ horsepower, I guess like the horsepower numbers of many vintage British vehicles. Most models produced from 28 – 33 actual HP. I think they were mostly used in places that weren’t awash in oil, so their economy was a big factor.

    It’s great to see such an unusual car kept up and used in No America.

    • Jim-Bob

      Yeah, I don’t think it ever had only two horsepower. However, the original 2CV came reasonably close as it only had 9 hp, if memory serves. Renault also produced a 4CV, which was seen as a step up from this, but only barely.

  9. jean lecointe

    I am a french Citroën addict, I owned four 2CV and still has the oldest built in 1957;
    There are several funny stories about the 2CV, one is that, as the steel sheets were so thin, it was told that they were built with tin cans. So Henry Ford sent four tin cans to Citroën and asked for a car. Citroën sent him a car with two tin cans in the boot telling that two cans were enough. Driving a 2CV is an experience which will make you either love or loath it. But if you fell in love, it will last for ever.

    • Dolphin Member

      jean, can I drive yours, please? Or just ride in it?
      That would be one more thing to cross off my bucket list.

      • jean lecointe

        Dolphin,
        you are welcome any time. So are the Barn Finders if ever they cross the atlantic.

    • Don Andreina

      Love that Henry story, Jean. Did any of those prototypes found in the roof hit the market?

      There was a limited edition released for the 007 movie For Your Eyes Only that came in yellow with optional ‘bullet hole’ stickers, but it got overshadowed by the Charleston. Nice find, Brandon.

      • jean lecointe

        The prototypes were “found” in La Ferté Bernard in an attic. Citroën had said for many years that they did not keep anything from their previous manufacturing. Obviously it was not true for beside the 2CV prototypes they were able to put together a huge collection of all the Citroëns built which are in a hangar in Aulnay sous Bois. That collection is not open to the public due to safety reasons in the building. You can find informations about that lot asking for “Conservatoire Citroën”.
        None of these cars are for sale. The 007 2CV is rather rare but you can buy the stickers and décoration through dealers in France or in Germany.

  10. Harrell

    I saw one in Charleston, SC two weeks ago. I couldn’t get close enough to see if it was a Charleston model.

  11. RIckyM

    An identical one drove past me on our way in to York (UK) yesterday whilst we are in holiday and my 8 year old lad had not seen one before in real life, only his toy one. Then on the way back out of the city we past it again !!

  12. paul

    A neighbor had one of these when I was a kid….. I am sure that if you live in Texas where the speed limit is 80 you wouldn’t be very happy with this car, but if you lived in a French city where the roads are narrow & parking is tough this would be the car to have. I wouldn’t want to own a new Corvette & live in Alaska that is unless I could afford to have that car but only drive it for 2 months a year…. For what it was I am sure it was great.

  13. jim s

    outside of Imports at Carlisle i have not seen one of these on the road in years. i too would love to test drive one. great fun and find

  14. alan

    By putting the engine in front of the driver the heat in winter naturally gets pushed back into the passenger compartment unlike the Bug’s rear engine layout struggling to push the heat through a long series of ducts to the front. Having driven both in cold weather the 2CV wins out by a long shot. Truly the sheet metal is paper thin but the car is a marvel of practical engineering. The B-pillar is a vertical rolled piece of sheet that the rear door drops into and forms a perfect door hinge system. The chassis system to which the body is bolted and which also creates about 50% of the interior floor also has the gas tank placed centrally between the rear wheels with the spare tire mounted in the car behind it providing a considerable buffer to the rear bumper for impact protection. Interestingly the car has no brake hoses. How can you manage that considering the great suspension travel of the car, you might ask. The metal brake line is coiled in the transverse direction running through the rear suspension and gets twisted back and forth every time the suspension goes up and down like holding a slinky at each end and twisting it back and forth.

    For those wanting a little more traction the rare Safari model is the one to get with twin drivetrains.

  15. manta73wi

    Nice car! There are actually a few 2CVs running around Wisconsin. I see a gray one fairly regularly on my morning commute in the north-eastern suburban Milwaukee County area, and there’s a delightful yellow and black one buzzing around Door County. I’m impressed that the gray one runs throughout the varied Wisconsin seasons; that is one dedicated owner!

  16. Richard Member

    We were travelling the Autobahn last summer heading from Munich to Hamburg, and I was doing about 100mph in the middle lane. Cars were passing me on the left like I was standing still. Up ahead bobbing along in the right lane was a powder-blue 2CV, no doubt with pedal to the metal, doing probably 55mph tops. Truly an unexpected sight on the autobahn.

  17. John

    Everything you wanted to know about the Citroen and more can be found at this link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_2CV.
    “During a production run of 42 years between 1948 and 1990, 3,872,583 2CVs were produced, plus 1,246,306 Fourgonnettes (small 2CV delivery vans), as well as spawning mechanically identical vehicles including the Ami: 1,840,396; the Dyane: 1,444,583; the Acadiane: 253,393; and the Mehari: 144,953, a grand total of 8,756,688, of which there are still 3,382 on the road in the UK as of January 2013.”

  18. MikeH

    I used a 600cc Charleston as my daily driver for 10 years. I bought it new in ’86, drove it around Europe a few weeks, had it disassembled into parts and shipped to the US. The car was illegal because 2CVs weren’t sold in the US after ’67 because of smog laws. They are engineering marvels even though they certainly aren’t fast. The 2CV motto is 0-60 in the same day. I have a ’56 400cc model in my garage that will get a complete restoration starting this summer. Parts are amazingly easy–you can even buy a repro frame.

  19. MikeH

    Having just said that parts are easy to get, I receive notification from one of the big parts houses in Germany, Franzose.de, that they will no longer ship to the US because of strict new rules in the Product Liability Act. I hope this is not a harbinger of things to come. Damned lawyers!!!

    http://www.franzose.de/en/News/PaName-No-more-delivery-of-any-parcel-in-the-USA

  20. RetroGreg Member

    Including the original 2CV there were four variants; the 2CV or Deux Cheveau, the Dyane, the Ami and the Mehari (Fiat Jolly or Mini Moke-like) but a very limited special production model the Sahara was la crème de la crème, rally intended with4 WD, it had both a front AND rear engine (yes, a total of two) mounted engines – nice samples of these are now north of $100K! See if you can get to drive one, they are wonderfully playful and teach the driver the importance of maintaining momentum :-)

  21. Dave Wright

    I realize that I have a natural aversion to all things French………one of my distant grandfathers was an English privateer famous for killing them…………and I lived for several years near the border on the German side, so experienced there natural insanity first hand, But these cars bring to mind something that my Dad told me when I was a teenager ( he was actually referring to a Studeabaker) he said……..They weren’t a good car when they were new, Why would you want an old one………

    • jean lecointe

      My poor Dave,
      Please trust me I am sure that there are a lot of “insane” americans, british, germans, and all over the world. I imagine you are not a funny guy.Try to be a little more open minded.

    • Don Andreina

      Dave, that’s a bit harsh. Name a perfect car, and someone else will find a fault in it. Are you seriously asking why someone would want to own an old car on this site?

      • Dave Wright

        Old cars are wonderful…….I own many……….I just think good cars are worth the effort…….sort of like guns……only the accurate ones are interesting. Quality comes in all sizes and brands, these are just the worst on the planet. It costs the same to rebuild and refinish this car as my wonderful quality 50’s Mercedes. There is a good chance the people that bought them new only did so because they were the cheapest on the market. Not because of an enduring affection. It is tough when you start with a sub standard product to make it into a Gem.

      • Don Andreina

        Dave, this isn’t Pebble Beach. The cost issue has some bearing on things but its not the main reason we get into old cars. The 2CV is endlessly fascinating for the very reasons you deride it. Built to minimums; minimum power, minimum weight, minimum bum comfort, minimum illumination (check out the prototypes with one headlight on Jean’s link). I own a classic Mercedes for its durability, comfort, safety and because its a cool old car, so I’m not a partisan citroeniste.

        These 2CVs WERE a good car when they were new. Just like the Model T, these were a vehicle for farmers to get around in shelter and practicability. I just find the comment ‘why would you want an old one’ to be in opposition to the very idea of BF.

        Would you throw out a primitive early flintlock just because you couldn’t fire it?

  22. Capt. Doug

    For many years these 2CV’s were the common car of choice in St Barths – I would bet there are still a few sitting around there in some backyards. The locals drove these and the rental cars were Mokes – both were fun to drive on that small island.

  23. yanmarley

    Hey MikeH -it looks like they will still ship to Canada- I’m in B.C., and quite often go to WA. state, so if you are in the west could forward anything you need to get it back on the road, or if you are back east perhaps there is another willing participant lurking online. Just a thought. Good luck with the resto.

  24. TJ

    The model in the photo is a European gray market import. These cars were briefly officially imported in the States in the early 60’s, and that was that,

  25. Dominique Legeai

    Bonjour….so many comments about the 2cv; actually not surprising since this car is an icon of post war France and it does draw interest where ever it goes. I am of French origin, live in the Chicago area, have a place in AZ and also in Paris…I have a 2cv at each location! I drove the one that’s in AZ today, from Chicago last fall…..1,857 miles at an average of 49 mph and 42 mpg….slow? of course, what do you expect from 602cc? Yet I got to my destination with a smile on my face and so many thumbs up on the way. We use the one we keep in France (at my MIL) for annual trips organised by a specialized outfit that gathers old cars and owners for a 2 week “rally”….2014: Greece 2013: Southern Italy/Sicily 2012: England/Scotland 2011: Spain/Portugal 2010: Tour de France 2008: Nothern Italy…..I NEVER experienced a mechanical breakdown that would have left us stranded. Here in the US, besides the recent trip from Il to Az, we drove one to Boston and back, many week-end trips through Wisconsin, to Columbus Oh where my mother resides……a pleasure to own, to drive and it does put many smiles on onlookers faces.
    DL

    • jean lecointe

      How i do agree with you. Travelling anywhere at the wheel of a 2CV will today make people smile at you and I believe even more in the US. In 1952 the famous Jacques Segela who founded later the most important advertising company in France called “Publicis” made a round the world trip with a 2CV. Imagine a 2CV in the steets of New York in 1952….The book he published with his friend, I forgot the name, is worth reading. The 2CV is a way of life.

  26. Bard Boand

    If Dominique Legeai says that’s the way it is….IT IS !
    Dominique regularily sports his ” muscle cars” every where he goes and loves to show
    up in a French something or other, everywhere there are Corvette’s and Ferrari’s,
    with a string of “muscle shells” ( sea food shells ) draped around his front cowl with a
    note saying “this is a real muscle car”….Dominique, you rock !

  27. Dolphin Member

    Anyone is free to dislike any car they want, whether based on technical grounds or just about anything else. But consider the 2CV’s history: built soon after WW2 in a country that suffered greatly and had little hard materials like steel around, and little fuel. No Interstates, either. Mostly just country roads. So what to do?

    You build a vehicle that’s adapted to the conditions, using materials and fuel sparingly. Was the 2CV any good? The sedans and small delivery 2CVs must have done the job because many millions of people voted with their Francs by buying them.

    They were much smaller than a Studebaker, but that wasn’t unusual in post-WW2 Europe and most other places. In fact I would say they did as well at moving people and stuff around France, Africa, and many other places without interstates as the Model T did in No. America before interstates.

    Like them or not, the least that can be said is that the 2CV was well adapted to the circumstances and conditions and that it did the job that people needed to get done, often on roads that weren’t kind to vehicles. That’s a better outcome than a lot of cars that I can think of. And they stayed in production until 1990, by which time the vast majority of carmakers that ever existed on this planet had disappeared.

  28. Dominique

    …very well spoken Dolphin! you nailed it for the “deux chevaux”….so true for a number of other cars as well; my everyday car is a Jeep Wrangler because I wanted to own and enjoy an American iconic car, it is not the best car around I know that, but I feel so good driving it w/o top and doors on the forest roads of AZ….just can’t beat that. I will venture to say that the Jeep is as iconic (all wars up into the 60’s) to the US auto industry as the Beetle is to Germany and the 2cv to France, each for diverse reasons, matters not….
    DL

  29. jean lecointe

    Thank you Dolphin for your excellent analysis. I might just add that in the 70ies it was the solution for pennyless students to get on wheels and that the 2CV was funny and still is.

  30. Edward Brush

    Huh. Looks just like my car. Wait a minute… It is my car. In front of Farm and Fleet. In Madison.

    I feel obliged to point out that my wife and I have driven that car – the red one, in the pictures above – back from Seattle, where we purchased it. To Colorado and back, including a jaunt to the top of Pike’s Peak (got the ticket for half price, as the guy at the gate figured it was half a car). We have driven the Trans-Wisconsin Adventure trail from Iowa to Lake Superior (look it up, gorgeous drive). In fact, over this last Christmas season, we drove it all over the upper Midwest doing holiday family stuff, since the Jeep decided to eat yet-another power steering pump. It is an amazing car.

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