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Almost Great: Citroën 2CV

9 months ago

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David Twohig | Engineer


13 September 2023

I admit to some trepidation when I clicked on the ‘send’ button to submit this piece to Ti HQ. I am acutely aware that Andrew Frankel is a card-carrying member of the 2CV fan club, along with other heavy hitters of car journalism such as that Chris Harris chap off the telly. Since then, I have been anxiously awaiting the postman every day, to see if he’s got the pink slip of a P45 for me. If you are reading this, I guess Andrew just rolled his eyes and got Dan to edit it. The good news is that I may not have been fired… yet, anyway (the day is yet young – af).

Righto, the ‘great’ bit is easy here. The 2CV is undeniably part of an important family of cars designed just before World War Two, which helped pull post-war Europe out of the cataclysm that had killed millions, devastated the global economy and displaced whole populations. Cars like the Renault 4CV, Austin A40, Volkswagen Beetle and Fiat Topolino’ helped rebuild industries, revitalise civil economies, provided work for demobbed and traumatised soldiers and gave ordinary people the freedom to move outside their locality, many for the first time in their lives.

Quick nerdy bit about naming here. The 2CV’s original – internal – name was the TPV (for, remarkably uncreatively, Toute Petite Voiture or Very Small Car), and it’s not really got only two horsepower, although at times it may seem so. Even the earliest, wheeziest 375cc models kick out around nine chevaux – still not very impressive, granted. The 2CV label comes from the bizarre and far-too-long-to-explain French vehicle taxation system that came up with the wonderful invention of chevaux fiscal or ‘taxable horsepower’. The 2CV fell into the lowest road tax bracket of two fiscal horsepower: hence the label that’s stuck to it all these years. In France it’s affectionately known as the ‘Deudeush’ or just ‘Deush’, pronounced something like ‘dushh’.

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