Citroën and tampering

ER Classics Desktop 2022

This year, 75 years after the German surrender, much attention is paid to WWII. And in that time many stories and anecdotes come into the picture. The cunning sabotage of Citroën is a good example of that.

Sabotage: the origin

The word sabotage was born during the major Liège strikes of 1886 in the Walloon industrial basin. It was discovered during the industrial revolution that in the event of an emergency while weaving dust, a clog (shoe) was put in the machine to bring the process to a halt immediately.

Sabotage works

But in the event of strikes, the improper use of footwear was only used structurally later. The workers destroyed the brittle cast-iron production machines with their clogs (French: sabot). Heavy industry workers wore very heavy-duty clogs, because they also had a safety function as a precursor to safety shoes. Power transmission at the time was mainly through gears. So shutting the case down simply happened by throwing a lump in between.

The sabotage at Citroën was just as simple and effective

After the occupation, French industry was used for the German war effort. Pierre Jules Boulanger, the boss at Citroën thought it would be of little use to throw the butt against the crib. Such actions were appreciated by the Germans submodally. But he lacked the real motivation to build vehicles for the hated Nazis. He would build the trucks that the Nazis were asking for. But he had a plan.

Simple, but effective

In John Reynold's book 'Citroën 2CV"Boulanger's plan is described. First, he instructed his people not to try to break production records. But the brilliant thing about Boulanger's approach, that was in a wonderfully subtle detail: he had the markings for the lowest oil level on the dipsticks set just a little lower than desired. The blocks were therefore running structurally with too little oil. And broke. And that while the German drivers and technicians were extremely 'gründlich' ensuring that the oil level never fell below the lowest mark on the dipstick.

That also happened with the trucks of the type we saw in an Indiana Jones movie last night. Only the Citroën in that wonderful bastion at the end because it was being shot at by a tank.

Of course the engine blocks only broke after a while, and under load - so if they really had to work - broke down. The dogmatically thinking German technicians did not come up with the idea that there would be madmen who could do such a godless thing if the dipsticks were provided with the wrong markings. So the extra control during the production yielded nothing.

With a lot of violence or with cleverness

The French resistance movement caused much damage during the aftermath of WWII by blowing up communication networks and railways. By damaging or destroying these vital means, the Germans were unable to offer sufficient resistance to the Allies. This gave the Allied troops enough time to create a solid base in Normandy. But so much subtle cleverness as with the action of Citroën? That was great!

In the meantime, the war is over 75 years and exists Citroën 100 year. And those are both things that can be celebrated.

Another tip for oil lovers: Search online for '710'er deckel'




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  1. Nice story, but the same story does about Renault; after all, he also had to build trucks for the Nazis (the AH series, yes) and there too the lines were too low on the dipsticks. Well maybe it both came to mind Citroën as Renault for.

      • Apparently I was mistaken for half a century… André already lived there thanks to his immigrant parents. Incidentally, his father's name was Levie.

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