A-series (2cv and derivatives)

More French than a baguette, the A-series range includes number of cars, all sharing the same basic chassis and mechanicals, but varying widely in style.

2cv

The best known of the A-series, the 2cv is where it all started.

In 1936, Pierre-Jules Boulanger - then vice-president of Citroen - started a project to put the rural French on wheels. The probably apocryphal phrase "Four wheels under an umbrella" might have passed into legend relatively unchallenged, but there's no doubt of the basic intention. A four-seater car that eschewed styling and fripperies in favour of providing transport for the family and their goods at a price that almost everybody could afford.

By 1939, the Toute Petite Voiture (TPV) was ready to go into production. Using exotic materials in it's construction, and with absolutely everything that wasn't strictly necessary left on the drawing board, plans were shelved due to some minor disagreements with the neighbours...

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Once that was all sorted out, the time turned out to have been used wisely, and the 2cv that was unveiled at the 1948 Paris Motor Show was a very different beast. Over the next 42 years, the 375cc air-cooled flat-twin pushing out 9bhp, the "ripple" bonnet, the "suicide" front doors, and the fabric hood that reached from rear bumper to windscreen may have all moved a little in the direction of normality - but the basic formula didn't. "Any colour you like as long as it's semi-matt metallic grey" gave way to extravagant two-tone colour schemes evocative of the '20s and '30s. A peak of 29bhp pushed the 2cv to an official top speed around 70mph

Most importantly of all - the 2cv charmed everybody it met, across the entire world. Over two decades after the last one rolled off the production line, it still does.

Ami

As prosperity continued to roll across France through the late '50s, a smaller sister to the DS was conceived. Using the same basic mechanicals, but with an engine expanded to 602cc, the Ami's styling was the work of Flaminio Bertoni, also responsible for the DS, with which it shared many details. It might not have been conventional - but it very quickly became the best selling car in France.

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For 1970, the Ami 6 was replaced by the Ami 8, which toned the styling down and replaced the saloon's distinctive reverse-rake rear window with a smooth fastback. Within a couple of years, the Ami 8 was the first of the A-series to gain luxuries as winding front door windows. It remained in production until replacement in 1978 with the Visa.

The Ami 8 also provided the basis for the Ami Super, using the flat four from the GS. "France's Mini Cooper" is now extremely rare, not only because so few were produced (only around three times as many as SMs), but the rust endemic to all Amis meant they provided a great basis for building fast 2cvs...

Dyane

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1965's purchase of Panhard gave Citroen some extra development resource which was tasked to do the unthinkable - replace the 2cv. When the Dyane came out in 1967, it provided a much greater level of refinement than the 2cv, yet without heavily compromising the charm.

What it never quite managed, though, was the very job it was intended to do. The Dyane was discontinued in 1982, eight years before the 2cv.

Mehari

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The Mehari took the 2cv's functionality a step further, being intended as a simple pick-up for farmers and the army. Whilst many were used for that role, it also became loved as a fun beach car. A simple tubular steel armature was bolted to the usual A-series chassis, with panels moulded from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), best known for Lego...

Vans

With the 2cv intended to be cheap transport for taking goats/wine/ch

eese etc to market, it was only a matter of time before a version was launched to take more goats/wine/cheese to market in one go. And, in 1951, it arrived, with a corrugated van box being attached aft of the B-pillars of the 2cv car's shell. Over time, it grew a bit - first in rear overhang length, then in body height - with the payload increasing from 250kg to 400kg. In 1978, the most major change happened, with the front end being changed for that of the Dyane, to form the Acadiane. A few inches longer in wheelbase, the Acad saw the A-series van through until 1987, despite the launch of the Visa-based C15 in 1984.

Bijou

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The Bijou was an attempt by Citroen UK to endear the 2cv to the British housewife. With a glassfibre coupe shell styled by the designer of the Lotus Elite, Peter Kirwan-Taylor, it certainly should have suited British tastes. Unfortunately, the Bijou was considerably heavier than the normal

  2cv, meaning the already pedestrian performance was even more glacial. Just over 200 were built - across five years. Despite this total commercial failure, the Bijou has survived in extremely high numbers - albeit mainly on "modern" 2cv running gear.

Others

The 2cv formed the basis of many other cars over the years, mainly designed to be produced as cheaply and easily as possible in developing economies. Many were simple folded-steel utility vehicles along the lines of the Mehari. Others were licence-built versions of the "normal" cars, before locally-designed developments turned them into very different cars. Julian Marsh's excellent Citroenet site contains details of many of them, and many thanks for the use of his pictures from his site.

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