Citroën 2CV – The ugly bug that wowed the world


Why did the Citroën 2CV remain so popular? A brochure for the mid-1960s Citroën deux-cheveaux gives us a clue to the conundrum

No single car has summed up the French concept of the Bagnole better than the Citroën 2CV.

Citroën wanted to produce a car that would be able to transport a cotchel full of duck eggs over a heavily ploughed field without causing in a crack in a single egg, therefore ruining your omelette. So goes the legend.

That may be an oeuful cliché, but it’s one of the many myths and legends about a car design that is as unique as it is inexplicable – and as a result it can tell us a lot about the French and the way they see their cars.

The Citroën 2CV is not exactly sexy. It’s not broody. The lines are not dynamic. You can’t call it rakish. There’s that tiny engine that sounds like an asthmatic sewing machine. Look at that bulbous, ungainly profile. The designers seem to have thrown out all the natural elements of aesthetically pleasing design.

What accounts, then, for its perennial popularity?

We haven’t got the answers to all the questions. But we can surmise one thing. The postwar necessities of cheapness, simplicity and reliability were absolutely nailed in this design and as a result the Citroën 2CV’s very ‘otherness’ was the thing that made it popular.

Perhaps there is something deep lying in the Gallic psyche that makes this sort of shrugging single-mindedness appealing.

Whether this sort of distinct design identity can survive in this CAD age, we doubt very much. It seems to have been a while since the French produced a car that has truly transcended expectations. And no, you can’t count the Bugatti Veyron.

Another powerful clue to the Citroën 2CV’s enduring appeal lay in the clever marketing that accompanied its long and storied career.

In conclusion, these pages from a late sixties brochure tells many stories, many ways of being Citroën 2CV.