90 Years of Citroen!
It's the 90th Anniversary of Citroen, the car company that once defined Frenchness. An excuse for those of us who have owned a 2CV, a DS or even a CX to reminisce, with dewy eyed sentimentality, about a time when cars were cars and Frenchmen smoked Gitanes.
Citroen was founded by Andre Citroen in 1919, becoming the first mass-production car maker outside of the United States. Ironic then that the company went on to make so many iconic, individualistic models. Citroen was always innovative. In 1934 it produced the worlds first mass produced front wheel car, the Traction Avant.
A great feat of engineering but with Citroen it's always been about the look, even with commercial vehicles. Take the H Van. Pure Clouseau, but practical and with an incredible shelf life. The first H Van was built in 1947, the last in 1981.
The Citroen models that truly deserve ‘classic' status, though, are the 2CV and the DS. The 2CV or ‘deux chevaux vapeur' (literally ‘two steam horses') was the French economy car, for over 40 years. Originally conceived to get French ‘paysan' off their carts and horse, the 2CV had a Bauhaus inspired body design, underpinned by superb engineering. Never mind the peasants - it wasn't long before middle class English couples were using them. Open roof top, summer breeze, picnic basket in the back. Nearly four million 2CVs were produced over 40 years.
The ultimate Citroen classic design, was undoubtedly the DS. Styled by Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni, the DS had a futuristic body design and incredible technology, including a hydro pneumatic self-levelling suspension. That's ‘smooth' by the way. The DS defined France like no other car. It belonged on a Paris boulevard. Driven by an obscure French actor, smoking of course, or a chauffeur with De Gaulle in the back. Citroen brought out different versions of the DS, including the SM which had a Maserati engine and later the model evolved into the CX - seen by most as the last ‘real' Citroen, before Peugeot took control of the company.
Modern Citroens are concessions to modern needs. That's the story with most makes of car these days. But this 90th anniversary, currently being celebrated with Citroen events worldwide, is worthy of note. Especially for those of us who ‘once had a Citroen'. Cue music for ‘French relationship drama'.