The Citroën 2CV (as in ‘deux chevaux-vapeur’ which means ‘two steam horses’) was launched at the 1948 Paris motor show and stayed in production until 1990. With its canvas roll back roof it was often called ‘an umbrella on wheels’. Between 1948 and 1990, more than 3.8 million 2CV sedans were produced and in total, Citroën manufactured 9 million 2CVs and variants. The 2CV has been compared to the Model T Ford for its ingenuity and was once described as ‘the most intelligent application of minimalism ever to succeed as a car’. It has also been compared to the Volkswagen Beetle, both conceived in the 1930s, bringing affordable motoring to the masses in their respective countries. Both cars sold into the millions for more that four decades.
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The largest production of 2CVs was achieved in 1974. Demand for a small, fuel-efficient car was fuelled by the outbreak of the oil crisis. Subsequently, the 2CV was more of a toy for young people than a real, functional vehicle. Citroën tried to maintain the car’s popularity by organising the 1,000-kilometer endurance rally, the Citroen Raid. Anyone could participate in them – just buy a new 2CV, equipped with a special reinforcing ‘body kit’ that helps to withstand a long run on bumpy roads and off-road. The most famous were the rally Paris – Persepolis – Paris with a length of 13,500 km – about five hundred 2CVs were going to them. Also in Europe were popular off-road circuit racing “2CV Cross”, where young drivers could crash their 2CVs with equal success without leaving their native continent.
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In 1970, the 2CV received an updated 602 cc engine, rectangular headlights, taillights from Citroen Ami and side windows in the rear pillars. From now on, all vehicles are designed to run on unleaded petrol.