Thursday January 16, 2020
My next door neighbour recently gained custody of a 1987 2CV6 Special, which gave me the opportunity to experience true economy motoring of the 1980s.
Anyone who complains about the sheer amount of distracting luxuries in modern smalls cars would surely appreciate the Citroën, as here is a car that proudly lacks nearly everything.
Yes, there is a heater, the air vent beneath the windscreen and the fabric sunroof but the Special is not just devoid of reclining front seats, a heated rear screen and reversing lamps. It also lacks armrests, sun visors and a courtesy lamp while the instrumentation is best described as ‘concise’.
French-built 2CVs were marketed in the UK from 1974 onwards and seven years later Citroen unveiled the 2CV6 Special; the “6” denoted the 602cc engine. The great L JK Setright once referred to the Deux Chevaux as ‘the most intelligent application of minimalism ever to succeed as a car’, which the Special elevated to new heights.
At a time when certain cars would boast of ‘trip computer’ or ‘electric windows’, this was a machine that delighted in ‘speedometer’, ‘removable seats’ and, best of all a ‘starting handle’.
In 1985 Car tested the 2CV6 Special opposite a Lada Riva 1500 GLS, a Reliant Rialto 2 and a Skoda Estelle Two 120 LSE: a fascinating cross-section of mid-1980s economy motoring. The contrast between the equipment lists of the Estelle and the Citroen was especially marked.
The former came with a tachometer, an already dated but smart vinyl roof, headlamp washers, alloy wheels and a stereo-radio cassette. The latter came with – well, not a lot really.
Of course, anyone who craved luxury could always opt for the duo-tone Charleston, which cost nearly 20% more than the £2,674 Special but at least offered an interior light and a rear parcel shelf as standard.
For those who preferred their motoring au naturelle, the entry-level 2CV6 boasted a ride that was ‘far better than any car within £2,000 of its price’ and steering that was ‘surprisingly sharp and quick’.
As for handling, Car believed ‘its drunken rolling in corners doesn’t interrupt its limpet grip on the road’ while ‘its modern brakes are of the best’.
In short, while the Deux Chevaux may have sported the oldest design of the quintet – the Lada was, based on the 1966 Fiat 124 and the Skoda owned an allegiance to the Renault Dauphine – it was eminently practical transport for 1985.
The Citroën was voted the best value for money of the four; few readers of Car will be surprised to learn that they were not fans of the Reliant.
Meanwhile, restoration of the neighbour’s Special continues, and, in the future, I hope to provide some photographs of the finished Citroën.
The engine now runs well, the roof is intact, and the upholstery is in surprisingly good condition. And when it is returned to the road, all of the village will once again be able to appreciate , to quote Autocar, ‘the extraordinary ingenuity of this design, which is undoubtedly the most original since the Model T Ford’. Especially now we are certain the interior is free of mice and unofficial other lodgers.