Those Strange 2CV’s

While on a recent trip to Nashville, we stopped at the Lane Motor Museum and viewed their French car exhibit.  For most Americans, French cars are a total abstraction.  For people in other parts of the world, it’s another story.  One of the most famous–perhaps the most famous–French car ever produced was the Citroën 2CV.  Produced from 1950 to 1990, more than 5 million of them were made.

The 2CV and its more luxurious offshoot the Dyane were both featured in the novel The Ten Weeks.  Unfortunately the cars at Lane and those in The Ten Weeks don’t quite synchronise in time, but they’ll give you a good idea about this interesting automobile.

A 1954 2CV, perhaps a little before the novel’s time (it was set in 1970-1.) Note the ribbed bonnet, which was good for carrying loads such as potatoes.

Luke did his usual magic getting Pierre, Raymond and their luggage into Pierre’s old Citröen 2CV—another of Pierre’s “trademarks”—and with Luke driving they puttered off to the hospital. (pp. 26-27)

And puttered was about it: the original 2CV’s top speed was 37 MPH.  By the time of the novel, the 2CV’s and the Dynanes floored it in the low sixties.  The upside was fuel economy, which wasn’t quite as high as the maximum speed but pushed it.

The Spartan dashboard. Great to cure distracted driving.

The 2CV was unharmed. “Papa, why do you think that they left our 2CV unhurt?” Madeleine asked as they puttered home.

“Maybe they didn’t think it was a car,” Raymond quipped. (p. 42)

A variant of the 2CV that probably didn’t make it to the Island: the 1962 4 x 4 Sahara,. Four wheel drive was done by putting one engine in the front and one in the rear, with two ignition switches and petrol tanks (two petrol tanks appeared in the Jaguar XJ6L, albeit for a different reason). Primarily made for off-road travel in Africa.
Newer than the novel’s time frame, this 1974 model is probably a little closer to the Dynane which the Ten Weeks’ heroine Madeleine drove.

Being with a medical excuse meant that she could leave school right after class and skip the athletics, a privilege she relished as she got into the Dyane and headed out. The day was beautiful and reaching its peak at 27°C. Madeleine was especially exhilarated by the nearly 5 kilometre drive across the Dahlia Bridge. Many Verecundan youth looked at the bridge as an extended over water drag strip. Although Madeleine’s Dyane’s capabilities in this regard were limited, it still felt nice to stash her hat and let the breeze to blow through her hair. As she took the straight shot back across the bay, she looked out to see the port, marina and ultimately the Verecundan skyline over the right guardrail. (p. 87)

A few more amenities for the driver, too, along with a proper door handle.

They got to the side walk. They could hear more protesters around the corner; they knew that they would come their way shortly. At this point they looked out into the street and saw Madeleine’s Dyane rolling down the street. The car crossed over and pulled up in front of them.

Madeleine lowered the window. “You need to go now!” she told Terry and Cathy. “They’re coming!” The two girls looked at their paint drenched clothes and Madeleine’s car in horror.

“Take your clothes off!” Madeleine ordered them. Terry started immediately but Cathy was stunned at the order. “You’ve done it before!” (p. 256)

The boot angle.

The visual appeal of the scene took a leap upward as he approached the Dyane. Luke had done a good job in getting most of the paint out of the interior of the car, but Madeleine was pickier. The garage had a strong odour of paint thinner, but Jack’s eyes were drawn to the sight before him. Madeleine had donned an old Izod shirt and shorts to finish the clean-up, and she was busy getting specks of paint that Terry had left on the passenger side floor. To get there, she had crawled in over the driver’s seat, so Jack was presented with the sight of Madeleine, rear up and legs out of the car as she inspected the floor for one more speck. (p. 258)

The exhibit at Lane runs until 4 April 2016.

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