Many classic car collectors have a personal reason for acquiring a particular car, often pertaining to their youth.

Such is the case with Philippe Feru, a native of France who has lived in Danville since 2000. As a kid, he enjoyed many trips in his grandparents' Citroen 2CV cars. He is delighted that he bought this car about a year ago from a private owner in Denver.

The Citroen 2CV design, Feru believes, was approved in 1939, but no cars were built until 1948 because of World War II. Originally called the TPV ("Toute Petite Coiture" or Very Small Car) project, the plans and prototypes were hidden from the Germans during the war for fear they could be used for war applications.

Philippe Feru of Danville shows his 1971 Citroen 2 CV Charleston Model.    (Photo by David Krumboltz)
Philippe Feru of Danville shows his 1971 Citroen 2 CV Charleston Model. (Photo by David Krumboltz)

"The car changed a little bit over the years, but the shape of the vehicle is the same," Feru said. Not everyone appreciated the styling of the Citroen 2CV, and it was given nicknames like the Tin Snail and the Duck. But the practicality and cost of the vehicle made it very popular. According to Conceptcarz.com, the Citroen 2CV was in production from 1948 through 1990, and 5,114,920 vehicles were built.

When introduced in 1948, it was considered quite profound and revolutionary. The aerodynamic car had front-wheel drive powered by a two-cylinder, air cooled, 375 c.c. engine producing a whopping 9 HP. Top speed was 40 mph. But with the engine over the drive wheels, the Citroen 2CV was quite good in inclement weather and poor road conditions. Color choice was limited -- grey or gray.


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The Citroen 2CV made a good image car for the frugal.

"When I was a kid and teenager in France," Feru recalled, "virtually every priest and all the nuns drove Citroen 2CV cars." Cranks were still a useful item, and the Citroen 2CV crank had two purposes. First, to start the car and, second, to be used with the car jack. "Back in the early days of this car, the electrical system was six volts, and the batteries weren't too good," said Feru. "I remember in the winter having to start my grandfather's car many times with the crank."

Feru's car has been repainted once but has not been restored, so it is primarily original. While the history is uncertain, the owner believes the 41,700 kilometers (about 26,000 miles) registered on the odometer to be correct. His two-tone red and black Citroen is the top of the line with a two-cylinder, air-cooled 600 c.c. engine producing 29 HP with a top speed of 63 MPH.

This Citroen has front disc brakes and a 12-volt electrical system. The car weighs 1,100 pounds. It is a four-passenger car, but when there are adult s in the back seat, the nose of the vehicle rises like an accelerating speed boat.

At night, one may think, the headlights point to the sky or at least above the road. Not necessarily so, Madame or Monsieur. This little car has a manual adjustment near the driver that can be turned to lower the headlights to acceptable levels.

For ventilation, vents can be opened for fresh air above the dashboard and below the windshield. The rear side windows are sealed, but for the driver and front passenger, the lower half of the side windows folds up and attaches to a catch for additional air circulation. Roll-down windows were considered too costly and too heavy.

The top can be folded all the way back, or folded part way back like a cabriolet roof.

The method of shifting the four-speed transmission is unusual. It sort of uses the standard "H" pattern, but the gear shift lever protrudes horizontally from the dashboard. By pulling, pushing and twisting the shift lever in the "H" pattern, the driver can change gears more or less normally.

The car is definitely a head turner. I got to ride in it, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the comfort and the room. With front-wheel drive, the floor board is flat. As we drove through downtown Danville, surprised pedestrians smiled, pointed and waved.

Most car designs are meant to be pleasing to the eye, as style does sell cars. Feru said that was not the objective in building the Citroen 2CV. It was designed with the peasant and small farmer in mind. "They wanted to have a very cheap car, very easy to maintain that almost anyone could buy."

It also had to be efficient and economical to operate, and it was. The car was able to get 55 miles per gallon.

Maybe the most critical objective of the plan was that the car had to be able to cross a plowed field with a basket of eggs without breaking any. How many of today's cars can meet that standard?

Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com