Little French Car Brings Back Memories

Your article in the View Section about the Citroen 2CV renewed memories of observing them in France 25 years ago (“They’re Going to Pieces for a Little French Car” by Paul Dean, May 24). From the picture, it seems that they have been modernized only slightly with more impressive-looking bumpers in place of the half-inch, thin-wall metal pipe that looked like electrical conduit tubing, and a slightly more rounded appearance.

Not apparent from the picture is whether they retain the very light, simple and effective hammock sling seats or the four-wheel independent torsion bar spring suspension. At its normal (read “slow”) speeds, these two innovations really soaked up the bumps on rough French country roads.

I was told that the 2CV made it possible for the average Frenchman to graduate from bicycle to automobile after World War II because of its simplicity and do-it-yourself maintenance features. Also I learned that whenever there was a long line of cars going slowly up a grade, there was always a 2CV at the head of it--in lowest gear at full throttle.

Despite all this, its capabilities so fascinated a U.S. Navy captain friend of mine on duty in Paris that he brought one back to the U.S. to use as an off-road vehicle and as a self-propelled duck blind (with the cloth top slid back).


One correction is needed to your staff writer’s coverage. The CV stands for cheveaux vapor , meaning steam horses. This is not a power rating in internal combustion engines. It is a displacement rating, derived from the fact that at some standard steam pressure, a certain cylinder displacement in a steam engine generates one horsepower. I understood that it was a unit used to determine license fees.