(One of the posts I wrote on my Swell 24.7 blog in my previous life as a gift store owner in the busy tourist town of Provincetown on Cape Cod; posts that are grouped here under the category What Else Is Swell?, and are generally about life in Provincetown, life as a retailer, our fabulous dog Jack who sat outside the store for well over a decade, and other random things that grabbed me at the time.)
My friend Richard just posted on Facebook that he wants to tour Paris in a Citroen 2CV and it just brought back all these memories of my first car, the iconic somewhat bubble shaped French vehicle that came in a host of luscious colors. Mine was turquoise (duh – actually it was the only one available on the used car lot but if you know me at all you would know that turquoise suits me just fine) and I loved that car.
The shift stick stuck out of the dash board, the windows flapped up, and the roof rolled way down. It was the coolest convertible ever made. Totally functional, really simple, super cheap and very practical. I especially remember with fondness how the wings and fenders were bolted in place so when an auto challenged young lass (moi) scraped a wing she just unbolted it and put on a new one from the parts yard – voila, fixed in 10 mins with nothing more than a wrench and not a mechanic or can of spray paint in sight.
The whole construction was way ahead of it’s time, (front wheel drive, four speed gears, air cooled engine) despite the fact that it was far and away the cheapest car on the market. The design was barely altered in the 40+ years it was in production. The headlights changed from round to square, that’s about it. The 2CV, or deux chevaux, was the ultimate economy car (cheap to buy and got around 70 – 75mpg) so it didn’t have a lot of power, but what it lacked in oomph it certainly made up for in style and practicality. It was originally designed to be a vehicle that French farmers could use instead of the horse and cart to carry stuff across the fields. Pierre Boulanger, Citroen’s chief executive at the time, said that it should be able to carry a peasant and his wife across a plowed field with a basket of eggs on the hood without the eggs breaking. The unique suspension system achieved just that. Personally I found that it was very stable until you reached about 50mph, at which point I don’t think even a hard boiled egg on the passenger seat stood much of a chance. The back seat was all one piece and you could really easily take it out which, if you were a peasant farmer hauling potatoes about the fields, was probably quite a plus. For a student it was handy when we went on picnics and forgot to take a blanket – no problem we’ll just whip out the car seat instead!
I’ve lived in the US nearly 19 years and I’ve only seen one in that time. In the summer it’s often parked in the municipal lot near the Provincetown High School and I think it belongs to Ryan Landry. I have little pangs of envy every time I see it.