While more than a few designers inside and outside of the automotive sector own classic Minis, car journalists seem to fancy Citroën 2CVs. That’s partly because few things are more fun than testing a new Ferrari that can only be used to 20 percent of its capacity—maybe more on a race track—only to get home and experience driving in its most basic form. The Citroën designed during the war for French farmers is a different thrill on the road today, and frankly, a car that will never let you break the speed limit.
Six years ago, long before his Top Gear gig, Chris Harris was happy to show the world his 1957 Citroën 2CV, a car with a 12-horsepower flat-twin, the four-speed “umbrella” manual with a dogleg first gear layout, and a removable bench described by Mr. Monkey as a hammock. Apparently, in 2014, he used it for most trips under 10 miles, learning that the car would do 45 mph flat out with a tailwind.
Fast forward to 2020, and the already-battled Citroën some 63 years past leaving the factory is kept in a field littered with beer bottles, and of course, bricked by a completely flat six-volt battery. With such a well-prepared vehicle in his fleet, Harris had to make fellow industry veteran Andrew Frankel wait four days to shoot what’s undoubtedly the race of the year between their pair of 2CVs flat out towards a gate across a field.
The English countryside will never run out of foggy mornings and wet fields ready to be savaged by horsepower, be that only 12 perhaps doubled in this case. Wait for your very happy dogs and slightly less amused occasional runner to clear the way, and between two French cars designed to handle bumps and mud, it shall be the one with more traction who comes out victorious. There’s also the question of whether one stays in second or risks it all by shifting into third over such a short distance, yet aftermarket electric ignition from the Netherlands can also turn out to be the ace in the pack.
The British could argue that for every great French cheese, they have an impressive mature cheddar, or that mustard from Dijon has nothing on the punchy stuff they used to make so close to the Lotus factory up north. That leaves wine and the Citroën 2CV on the list of items keeping up a good relationship between France and England, with wet grass field 2CV racing arguably being a very close representation of the vision of the Normans during the conquest of England in the 11th century. A heroic battle across a field, with French success either way.
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