The name refers not literally to two horse power but to the tax category
into which the car fit and by extension the creatures whose services it supplanted
in rural France. The car became France
Driving in the country one day in 1935, the story goes, Citroen’s chief, Pierre-Jules Boulanger found himself in a small farming village on market day, surrounded by peasants and their animals. He said he immediately envisioned a car for peasants to take goods to market—a car radically simpler and cheaper than existing models, an “umbrella on wheels.” He ordered up designs: it should carry four people and 100 kilos of potatoes and have a suspension that could carry eggs across a plowed field without breakage.
Developing what Citroen called the Toute Petite Voiture—"Very Small Car"—was assigned to engineer André Lefèbvre, who had created modern front wheel drive with the 1934 Traction Avant, and pretty much bankrupted the company in the process. Before World War II, several prototypes were completed. They had single headlights, corrugated metal body parts and crank starters and were hidden away in 1940 and during the occupation.
In the three years
after the war, the design was completely reworked, the engine changed and the body panels reshaped by Citroen’s top
designer Flaminio Bertoni. A new air
cooled engine was devised, in part inspired by a BMW motorcycle engine. The car
was unveiled at the 1948 Paris
Chrysler offered a
concept of a vehicle for rural China
Two recent designs take inspiration from the 2CV.
They are by independent designers, the Italian Paolo Martin, a veteran of Bertone and Ghia and Frenchman David Portela, whose concept was created in 2005.
Meanwhile, 2CVs labor on in Partist tourist attraction and have inspired many fervent fan clubs.
Nothing says more about the 2CV than the fact that the only car Samuel Beckett seems ever to have owned was a gray 2CV. He refused for years to upgrade.