The Citroën 2CV is undoubtedly one of the most famous models in the history of the automobile. Created at the beginning of the last century, it was designed to meet a very specific need: to transport two farmers and 50 kg of potatoes at a top speed of 60 km/h, while consuming only 3 litres of petrol per 100 km.

The first prototypes

The history of the car began in the mid-1930s. At that time, Citroën had just been taken over by Michelin, and the new management commissioned the design and construction of a sort of French Volkswagen, a people's car similar to the German one, but a little more spartan.

Gallery: 75 Years Citroën 2CV

The first TPV (Toute Petite Voiture or Very Small Car) project was shown for the first time in 1936. The following year, in 1937, the first prototype was created: a full-size car weighing only 370 kg and equipped with a single headlight, a configuration permitted by the legislation of the time.

The war that changed everything

Citroën's aim at the time was to present at least 250 pre-production models at the 1939 Paris Motor Show, to show the public what the company was really capable of.

However, the outbreak of the Second World War prevented this and all the models built up to that point were destroyed. All but four examples were preserved at the manufacturer's test centre at La Ferté-Vidame and rediscovered decades later.

75 Jahre Citroën 2CV

Citroën TPV (1939)

Debut 75 years ago

The first Citroën 2CV proper, a completely revised model compared to the TPV prototypes, was presented just nine years later, on 7 October 1948, again at the Paris Motor Show. It is said that the French President of the time was not particularly enthusiastic about it, nor was the press, who dubbed it the 'ugly duckling'.

However, the French did welcome it. Indeed, they were enthusiastic and eager to place numerous orders for the car, which was considered a real revolution.

75 Jahre Citroën 2CV

Citroën 2CV (1949)

Citroën 2CV, 75 aniversario

Los primeros 2CV tenían un gran techo enrollable en lugar de una tapa de maletero

However, it took six years from the signing of the first contracts to the actual delivery of the cars, due to the lack of raw materials, a rather long wait. Nevertheless, the popularity of the model continued unabated.

9 bhp for 560 kg

To go into more detail about the mechanics, under the bonnet of the first models was a newly developed air-cooled twin-cylinder boxer engine, with an initial displacement of 375 cm3 and capable of producing a maximum of 9 bhp, managed through a four-speed manual gearbox.

Citroën 2CV, 75 aniversario

1948 Paris Motor Show: French President Auriol (wearing glasses) in the 2CV.

In the following years, the company introduced several more versions. In 1970, a new 602 cm3 engine with 28 bhp, but still with crank ignition, entered the range. Finally, in 1981, all new cars were fitted with front brake discs as standard.

Vans and special models

Throughout the model's successful history, Citroën used the 2CV chassis to create a number of special versions. The most famous is the van, first introduced in the range in spring 1951 and equipped with a higher B-pillar to facilitate rear load volume.

It was an ambitious project, which in the following years was adopted by the French breakdown service or as a postal vehicle in Belgium.

Citroën 2CV, 75 aniversario

Interior de uno de los primeros 2CV

Citroën 2CV, 75 aniversario

Chasis del 2CV (1960)

Citroën also created the Spot, Cocorico and Dolly special series. The best known, however, was the Charleston, which usually rolled off the production line painted black and brown.

Citroën 2CV, 75 aniversario

Citroën 2CV furgón

Citroën 2CV, 75 aniversario

El 2CV participó en una película de James Bond

A large production run

Over the course of its long history, a total of some 5,114,969 units were produced, of which 1,246,335 were vans. Production at the main plant in Levallois, near Paris, ended in 1988, and the last car left the factory in Mangualde (Portugal) 42 years after its market launch, on 27 July 1990 at 16:00.

75 Jahre Citroën 2CV

Citroën 2CV Cocorico

75 Jahre Citroën 2CV

Citroën 2CV Charleston

On the sporting front, the Citroën 2CV competed in the 1970 Paris-Kabul-Paris Rally (16,500 km), the 1971 Paris-Persepolis Rally (13,500 km) and the 1973 Africa Rally (8,000 km) from Abidjan to Tunis, all three of which were organised by Citroën itself.