Volkswagen Beetle. DeLorean DMC-12. Austin Mini. Volkswagen T1. There are certain cars that even non car people can identify easily, or ar least recognise. Also on that list is the iconic Citroën 2CV.
The history of the 2CV could take up and entire long form by itself. The car can trace its lineage back to the early 1930s when Michelin took over Citroën. They comissioned a market survey that identified the need for a small, rugged, cheap car to take France’s largely rural population away from the horses and carts they were still using. The design brief called for a vehicle capable of taking four people and 50kg of farm goods to market at 30mph across muddy, unpaved roads if needed. The car would use no more than 3 litres of fuel per 100km and famously it was stated that customers should be able to transport a basket of eggs across a freshly ploughed field without any breakage. The resulting TPV (“Toute Petite Voiture” or “Very Small Car”) was developed in great secrecy. A production run for the car (now renamed 2CV) had been signed off and brochures were printed before the outbreak of World War 2 halted any further development.
During the war Citroën president Pierre-Jules Boulanger was determined not to cooperate with the occupying Nazi forces. There was a fear that if the project was discovered by the Wehrmacht, it would be adapted and pressed into service as a military vehicle. It was therefore decided that existing prototypes and tooling should be hidden. Using all sorts of disguise (one TPV was crudely turned into a pickup truck) and French Resistance assisted moves, the project thankfully remained hidden but led to the loss of many of the prototypes. It wasn’t until 1948 the 2CV finally entered full time production, which continued until 1990 with over 3.8 million built.
Many diecast versions of the 2CV have been made over the years and today we are looking at examples from the masters of European 1/64 diecast: Norev, Majorette and Schuco. A perfect setting for photography would be the rolling French countryside, or perhaps the cobbled streets of an old town. But not having easy access to the bocage of Normandy, I took mine to the muddy fields and farm roads of a waterlogged Northern England.
The Norev car replicates the earlier production 2CVs with the rather industrial (but in my opinion brilliant looking) “ripple bonnet”. In terms of bang for buck, Norev offers some of the best value for money out there. The 2CV seen here cost me £6 inc P&P via Ebay and if you can find them in shops on the continent, the prices can be as reasonable as 4 or 5 Euros. Norev are a goldmine for fans of Euro vehicles, and they have a vast catalogue of interesting and attractive models. I’ve covered some of their offerings in the past, and I think it’s high time to revisit some of them (and add more to my collection) But for now the focus is entirely on the 2CV.
For your money you get rubber tyres, accurate details including very well modelled wheels, and a smart diecast that rolls well and looks fab on display. There’s slight panel alignment issues on my example but this is proof again that Norevs are must haves for any Euro collectors.
Another French brand to tackle the car in miniature is Majorette. Arguably the French diecast brand, their version can appear as part of the Vintage 5 Pack assortment, or as part of the Vintage range of individual models. It’s a little more toy like than the Norev and Schuco cars, but in keeping with the real car: charming and simple. A welcome staple of even the basic Majorette lines is opening parts and this is no different. Setting it aside from it’s competitors, their 2CV features an opening bonnet revealing a neat representation of the 2 cylinder engine.
Like some of the Majorette vintage cars, the wheels aren’t the best looking things. They’re a somewhat vague representation of the 3 nut steels on the real car, and their basic appearance actually suits the casting pretty well. But when the competition have such good looking wheels in their basic ranges, it’s time that Majorette stepped up in this department. Values on Ebay also put the Majorette in the realms of the Norev and Schuco cars so it’s best to try and find one in store.
The Schuco version is the only one here in true 1/64, and it’s a brilliant little thing. I’ve rightly spouted praise from on high more than enough about Schuco quality recently, so I hope you’ll know just how good a model this is already. For just how much metal and detail you get for your money, Schuco are a great way into 1/64 diecast.
This particular version is a 007 Edition, released by Citroen to celebrate the use of a 2CV in the 1981 James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only”. The car came complete with 007 logos and stick on fake bullet holes, which Schuco have done a fine job replicating. It’s perhaps not the most flattering set of additions but the 2CV was never a car that took itself seriously! For those who don’t like the 007 livery, 2 other colourways of the 2CV exist: 2 variants of the “Charleston” Edition and the very unique and very green “Sauss Ente” (‘Speedy Duck’) edition are available. All versions retail for between £10 – £15 and are worth every penny.
It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable meander with this trio of 2CVs, and it’s inspired me to gather together another group of French classics: next time I’ll be looking at the Renault 4. Until then, au revoir!