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Citroen 2CV French flair

4 January 2008
 by 
, The Telegraph

And the French really hit the nail on the head with the Citroen 2CV, and not just because of its unique looks. Drive it and you'll notice its individual behaviour as it leans into the corner as much as an Olympic speed skater.

But for Rudi Annus, (above) his 1985 Citroen 2CV Charleston is the best way to travel.

“I have always been attracted to Citroens,” he says. “I'm a car nut and I like anything that's different, I don't like ordinary standard BMWs or Mercs. It's just a funny little thing. It's almost that ugly, [that] it's beautiful.”

Annus used to envy Australian fashion designer Peter Weiss driving around his area in this black and burgundy 2CV and knew he had to have it. And after a year or so of pestering Weiss, he finally got to call it his own.

“I have had it for about five years and paid $12,000 for it,” he says.

The first Citroen 2CV was released in Europe in 1948 at the Paris motor show and quickly earned the nickname Deux Chevaux, French for two horses. Another nickname was Escargot (snail) as in, as slow as one.

“The motor was only a 375cc and it only had two horsepower,” Annus says.

And while most cars change over years, the Citroen didn't get big makeovers, apart from a few cosmetic changes in the 1960s and a slightly bigger engine capacity.

“The engine got progressively bigger, to a 602cc engine, two cylinders,” he says.

“That's what mine has. It's the biggest engine they ever built and it has a top speed of 115.2km/h. It drives quite good for a 602cc, it's amazing — that's a small motorbike.”

The 2CV was originally conceived in the late 1930s as a cheap and economical car.

“Above all it had to be able to cross a freshly ploughed field carrying two farmers, a sack of potatoes and a basket of a dozen eggs on the back seat, and not break any eggs,” Annus says.

“It's incredible, such a basic and fundamental car. It has unique suspension, coil springs that are horizontal instead of up and down like normal cars.”

And Annus's love affair with the 2CV isn't a new obsession. In 1994, Annus's son, who lives in the UK, was considering buying a 2CV for some fun. Annus said at the time: “If you don't buy it, I'll have it.”

So, before he knew it he was pound stg. 400 ($908) poorer and the proud owner of his first 2CV, which he used regularly on European escapades. He then imported the model to Australia, where it now sits in “a million pieces” in his garage, waiting for a restoration. Something that may happen sooner than planned after Annus decided to sell this burgundy and black model.

“If I didn't have the grey one, I wouldn't have sold this, I have to have a 2CV Citroen in my life,” he says. “These people approached me, they were at me for about a year-and-a-half, but I hadn't considered selling it at all.”

Annus says he had always planned to restore the grey one and the new owners got him at a “weak moment”.

“It's going to a good home,” he says. “I wouldn't sell it to just anybody who doesn't love Citroens and I'll use the money to restore the other one.” Annus sold the car for the same price he bought it for. He hasn't delivered it yet.

So, in the meantime he's enjoying every minute and he's not the only one. Annus says the 2CV gets a big reaction from all onlookers.

“I drove past a $400,000 Bentley, the guy smiled and gave me the thumbs up,” he says.

And while Annus is also the proud owner of a 1990 Lotus Esprit he drove around Europe for a year before importing it Down Under, the 60-year-old says the Citroen is where he would rather spend his time.

“I spend about 70 per cent of my time driving my little 2CV, people can't understand that.”

Citroen stopped producing the 2CV in July 1990, after 42 years on the market and more than seven million cars.

They were never officially sold in Australia, but they weren't strictly a French or European car, with some models built and sold elsewhere, including South America.

SNAPSHOT

1985 CITROEN 2CV CHARLESTON

VALUE NOW: $10,000 to $18,000

VERDICT: This quirky French-mobile knows how to put a smile on people's faces, with soft suspension, umbrella-like gear-stick and a two-cylinder engine.

 

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