Thursday September 21, 2017
Watching an Ami 6 negotiate a roundabout was one of the most alarming, yet fascinating, sights ever experienced by my younger self - at one point it looked as though the body was at a 45-degree angle to the tarmac as its engine sounded like an irate banshee. A Citroen Dyane looked dramatic enough when cornering but the Ami 6’s distinctive styling made the entire process even more entertaining.
When the Ami 6 made its debut in early 1961, Citroen intended it to bridge the gap between the 2CV and the ID19 as well as providing a niche car that deliberately targeted affluent housewives. Its coachwork was by Flaminio Bertoni of the DS fame and the engine was a 602cc version of the long-established flat twin engine. By October 1961, the Ami had even gained sliding as opposed to fixed rear windows in the doors and the single spoke steering wheel and rich upholstery gave it a rather sophisticated image. Within a few years, French motorists some came to regard the styling and the rectangular headlamps to be the height of chic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLCIkxHleBg
Alas, on the other side of the Channel, the Ami 6 seemed to have been regarded with the same air of stunned amazement that often greeted Johnny Hallyday’s records, not least because of its appearance. The reverse slope rear screen was intended to maximise boot space but the Anglia 105E marked the outer limits for that styling trope as far as the great British motoring public was concerned. The Ami 6 was extremely comfortable and versatile - all the seats were removable, which was very useful for picnics, but there seems to have been no plans to assemble the Ami at Citroen’s Slough plant.
The first UK Ami 6 sold at £823, a price which elevated them into the Consul/Minx class, and imports were only by ‘special order’ from your Citroen dealer. British sales amounted to less than 1,000 over an eight-year period, many of which to the sort of driver who wore their sunglasses indoors and who pretended to understand Fellini movies. But in France, the Ami became the best-selling car in the country, with the 1964 ‘Break’ five-door estate proving to be extremely popular. The 6 was succeeded by the 8 in March 1969, with the saloon version now sporting slightly more conventional fastback styling and front disc brakes by the end of the year. It also promised that ‘every day is a carnival, each work day a pleasure, each holiday a delight, every day a fiesta’.
Four years later Citroen offered the Ami Super for those enthusiasts who craved slightly more performance. The station wagon version was especially suited to the role of Q-car, regularly leaving startled boy-racers in its wake at the traffic lights. Power for the Citroen ‘that just hums you along the motorway’ was from the GS’ 1,015cc ‘Boxer’ engine and transmission and the Ami’s standard dashboard gear change was replaced by a floor-mounted lever’. What Car moaned that the Super was ‘one of the most uncivilised cars we have ever encountered’ but Autocar thought that ‘There has been nothing quite like this Citroen since the original Mini-Cooper’.
Ami production ceased in 1979, its replacement being the Visa hatchback. During my distant youth in the 1970s, a polished Ami always seemed to be found occupying the driveway of a newly built ‘executive villa’ with an avocado bathroom suite. We never find out the make and model of car favoured by Ann Fourmile in George and Mildred but I am willing to bet that it was a Beige Albatros 8 Estate. And the Ami remains one of my favourite cars, especially in early 6 guises, for its idiosyncrasies are neither affected nor forced; it is a truly individualistic motor car. Especially on roundabouts.