Controversial, anti-status, ideal of freedom and loved everywhere. If there is one car to which these titles apply, it is the Citroën 2CV is. It is more than seventy years ago that the French rudimentary player underwent the public debut. We absolutely cannot and will not ignore the Duck. And therefore describe its history in a triptych.
The later knows before the Second World War Citroën Director Pierre Boulanger says it all. There is a demand for motorized mobility in France, but the answer has not yet been given a concrete form. The starting point is formed by the small French farmer and this will be at the center of market research. This leads to the outcome, which falls into several criteria: the car must have four doors, be able to transport two farmers and fifty kilos of potatoes and a basket of eggs must be able to survive undamaged on a plowed land. And everyone must be able to handle it, and fuel consumption must be kept to a minimum.
That's how the basis was conceived. Flaminio Bertoni is commissioned to translate the simple principles into a means of transport for farmers, citizens and outdoor people. Everyone should be able to own a car. Rather: every French or French person. The first drawings of the Toute Petit Vehicle are an indication of the future face of the 2CV. However, the Second World War caused a significant delay in development. The drawings and three prototypes by Bertoni, who worked on the 2CV concept together with engineer André Lefèbvre, are kept in secret and survive the war. Citroën can continue with her project for everyone.
The terror of the establishment
After the war, the new 2CV will be further developed. It leads to the car, which makes its public debut at 1948 in Paris, and rolls off 11 for the first time on July 1949. The French establishment is not impressed by the minimalist pur sang, who has to conquer the world with a "corrugated iron" hood, a long roll roof and an almost primitive outfit. In addition, the 9 PK-generating engine of 375 cc, which enables the 2CV to "run" to a top of 60 kilometers per hour, does not appeal to the imagination.
France embraces the 2CV
The international press is also skeptical, but the French people have a different idea about this car. It is unique, practical, equipped with a special spring system with pots on either side of the chassis and front-wheel drive. In addition, passengers can enjoy open and closed driving. The air-cooled two-cylinder engine is suitable for all weather conditions, the ease of use unsurpassed. The 2CV is a hit, and in such a way that there are long waiting lists. "Purchased today, drive tomorrow" is a utopian spell. Citroën recognizes success in their own country, and that tastes like more.
Order version and the arrival to the Netherlands
In 1951 Citroën a surprise for the small entrepreneur: it is launching the AU, a company car on an 2CV basis with a load capacity of 250 kilo. And in 1952, the Netherlands will be the first export country for the 2CV. The Dutch dealers know little about the arrival of the 2 CV, but the importer tells them that they have to take this car very seriously.
The Belgians and Duck Differentiation
The 2CV is taken seriously by the buyers, waiting lists are created. There is also a need for more luxurious types. Citroën Belgium plays an important role in "Duck differentiation" and is largely responsible for Dutch delivery. In France, the 2CV remains largely utilitarian. The Belgians, who have the 2CV assembled in parts and subsequently assembled in the factory in Vorst, take the opportunity to add several color combinations and - in several companies - an L version to the range. It is equipped with small lights under the windshield, a trapezoidal rear window, a metal boot lid and aluminum bumpers.
The AL version can also be ordered in the Netherlands, albeit in a more sober form. In 1954, the 2CV gets a larger engine, which measures 425 cc and generates 12 PK. The interior is also being changed, the benches are covered with a checkered pattern. This newcomer, the AZ, also forms the basis for the buyer who will be called AZU. Based on the orderer launches Citroën from Belgium also a lifestyle car avant la lettre: the AZUL, with aluminum details and a rear seat. The AZ is already available as an AZL for specific markets (including the Dutch one). It is also built in Belgium and has different specifications at the latest compared to the French AZ models. They will only be expanded in 1956 with an L version, which is given several aluminum accents. From 1957 it is possible to order the AZL with a metal tailgate (the AZLP). The Belgian AZL is replaced (in 1958) by the AZL2, which is given a normal boot lid.
Sahara, further adjustments and upcoming competition
Special is the arrival of the 2CV Sahara. It will be born in March 1958. The Sahara is equipped with two (separately switchable) engines, two transmissions, two ignition locks and two gas tanks. In fact, it has switchable four-wheel drive. In the meantime, the French and Belgian 2CV models are also becoming less and less distinctive in the cosmetic sense. Nevertheless, the Belgians have been using the third side window from 1959 (on the more luxurious AZL3), seven years before France introduces this application. The 2CV was - technically and cosmetically - adapted at the end of the 1950s, without losing the basic principles. The public has therefore embraced the Duck. And the 2CV is preparing for the 1960s, in which it faces new competition and growing prosperity.
You will soon be reading the second part: the 2CV from 1960 to 1974.