Small-car topics

The Citroën Ami 6

I have always had an extremely soft spot for the 2 c.v. Citroen and after 700 miles’ experience of its bigger (but younger) frere, the Ami 6; I am perfectly willing to transfer my affections to this equally unusual but essentially practical modern cyclecar.

For some years I have campaigned for an economy car capable of at least 55 m.p.h. and 55 m.p.g. and now, in the Citroen Ami 6, I have found this dual-performance, and with a comfortable margin in hand. For the Ami 6 I drove last month, converted to r.h.d. at Slough, would cruise at an indicated 60 m.p.h. given a Motorway on which to build up pace from its more usual 50 m.p.h., while overall its consumption of fuel came out at an entirely creditable 56¾ m.p.g. As this ability is allied to about the most comfortable ride and seating in motoring, and commendable internal spaciousness, I am strongly in favour of the Ami 6 and deeply regret that British purchase tax and protective duty elevates its price from the Slough factory to £776 10s. 3d. (the basic price is only £564).

The lines of this essentially French 4-door saloon may come as something of a shock when encountered amongst staid Minx and Anglias, but at least they are different and the reverse-angle rear window, which Citroen introduced in 1951, long before Dagenham cottoned on, probably because it has a considerable overhung roof, really does remain clear of snow and rain-drops.

Anyway, once within this individual vehicle, the comfort of the front and rear sofas, the leg room, and the simple controls, tend to distract attention from the “arched-eyebrows” effect of a bonnet rising to clear angular headlamps.

This Ann 6 is the 2. C.V. all over again, with improved performance on account of a 6oa-c.c. ” over-square ” air-cooled fiat-twin engine, even better fuel economy, probably because gear changing can be less frequent, and with most of the other clever conveniences unsullied.

In this country the foundation of the small-car Movement is now supported firmly on Minibrics, but just as, in the mid-vintage years, while the majority of the “new motorists” drove Austin Chummies, others preferred Jowetts, so today there should be plenty of customers for the Ami 6, once its rather specialised merits are known.

The first of these is the anatomically-correct, extremely comfortable sofas, formed of thick foam’ rubber laid over flexible straps on a tubular framework and upholstered in cloth that grips the buttocks firmly, holding you in place even at the remarkable angles of lean that this small Citroen adopts round corners. Moreover, these splendid seats, that can take three abreast, can be quickly removed to enhance a picnic or furnish a spare room.

Next in merit, perhaps, is the simple push-pull gear change that enables lightning-quick cog-swopping, especially between 2nd and 3rd, up or down. It is a gear change that Renault were quick to copy, along with not quite such good seats for their 4L. But Renault spoil the recipe by being miserly and omitting the fourth, speed. Billiards-players will feel at home handling the ready-to-hand knob… Another attribute of this practical car is the quite incredible comfort afforded by the unique suspension, which is all-round independent, with the 2 c.v.’s unique front/rear interconnection by horizontal coil springs and inertia dampers for each wheel. It works magnificently, ironing out “level” crossings, farm tracks and bad roads with facility, at no sacrifice of stability once you have accepted the astonishing angle of lean it is possible to induce without disaster on the faster corners. A really abrupt change of contour or camber can induce a floating motion, but never a bump or jar. Cornering ability is ensured by the glueing of each wheel to the ground, good high-geared rack-and-pinion steering and vice-free front-wheel-drive. Renault tried to copy these suspension attributes, too, but in this respect we are reminded of Kipling’s poem “The Mary Gloster.”

“And they asked me how I did it, and I gave ‘em the Scripture text,

‘You keep your light so shining, a little in front o’ the next!’

They copied all they could follow, but they couldn’t copy my mind.

And I left ’em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind.”

(But in the Renault crib of the Citroen, for “a year and a half behind” read a “dozen years behind.”)

Acceleration is adequate, but gentle, and I had not the slightest desire to check it against a stopwatch—it is so leisurely that a weekly contemporary, you may remember, quoted 19.3 sec. for the s.s. ¼ mile, apparently being quite unable to believe that this takes all but half-a-minute! But an Ami 6 gets there in the end, and most of the clatter from the untidy and agricultural piece of machinery under the bonnet dies away once the 4.7 to 1 overdrive top gear is attained. Along a straight bit of A 20 I overtook a couple of Jaguar E-types—but they were on a transporter at the time.

But it is comfort and economy, not speed, that is the roomy little Citroen’s purpose in life. It may be possible to extract nearly 70 m.p.h. from an Ann 6, but “my” example didn’t want to go much beyond a happy cruising OM of too k.p.h. But it did do very well on m.p.g. – 54.6when hurried unmercifully amiss London and back and no less than 58.9, best ever, I think, that I have had from a 4-wheeled car, on a quick cross-crountry run of over 200 miles. That’s an average of 56¼ m.p.g., which alone, even if it were not the epitome of comfort and amusing individuality, would justify production of this curious but sensible car.

From those so-advanced big Citroens the Ann 6 has inherited the excellent interior door-release, r.h. rotary-stalk lamps-control cum two-tone horn button, and single-spoke safety steering wheel with that splendid sweat-absorbing tape round its big rim. Manually-cancelled direction flashers, Selma in the front bumper, Lucas at the back, are selected by a l.h. stalk, which flicks upward to cancel the signals. The endearing feature of the headlamp angle adjustable from a knob within the car, which renders nondazzle the nose-up ride when heavy mortals flatten the rear trailing arms persists from the 2 c.v., and is invaluable in fog. Bonnet and boot-lids require propping open and the boot, though spacious, offers no concessions to expensive luggage. In spite of the angle of the rear window the thick cushion of the rear sofa enables umbrellas to lodge thereon; internal stowage is otherwise confined to-a spacious facia shelf, of which the driver has a small share to the right of the hooded 120 k.p.h. Jaeger speedometer. The latter instrument incorporates a fuel gauge (V, ½, P) and a milometer, while “gold-plated” knobs below look after screen washing and wipers (which parked badly on this r.h.d.-converted car. There are two warning lights for flashers (very small and ignition, neither troublesome. Tiny knobs along the base of the fads look after heater-settings, as do knobs for choke and starter. At each end of the facia sill there are adjustable fresh-air vents, with flaps to seal them off. Simple, this Citroen, but nothing is lacking. Soft vizors, good interior lamp, drawer-type ash-tray and a muff for enhanced heating are all provided as standard equipment.

Faint snags—the rear-view mirror, sensibly stayed to the screen, is slightly obscured by the back-sofa squab, the boot-lid opens on its own (luckily it lies horizontally) and the o/s front door “keep” stuck, necessitating bending it in order to close the door. The interior is quite well upholstered but the roof is unpadded and its lining not washable; the sliding windows in the doors function well, and ventilation is draughtproof if they are used in conjunction with the facia air vents.

Unless you can stomach much untidy machinery, it is better not to look under the bonnet. However, the plugs and dip-stick are accessible, as is the very small 6-volt Fulmar Super battery. A Paris-Rhone dynamo and Ducellier starter are used. The bonnet-prop clips into a recess in the battery-mounting bar. The neat breather into the air intake below the Miofiltre aircleaner to the Soles 30 P.B.I. d.d. carburetter has to be admired, and the double-coil looks after ignition without the complication of a distributor. The flat-twin engine is cooled by air ducted front a fan which from certain angles seen through the mesh of the grille appears to be exposed, but is, in fact, safely shrouded. Plastic bags seal the backs of the adjustable headlamps. A charming item of equipment carried in the engine compartment is a simple wooden chock—to facilitate jacking-up such a flexibly suspended car! The spare wheel is mounted horizontally above the engine, restrained by a triangular strap, reminiscent of Bugatti. The tyres are tubed 125 15 Michelin “X” that refuse to comment audibly on the Ami 6’s odd antics when cornering.

The brakes, with ribbed inboard drums at the front, are sudden but grip well the central pull-out handbrake has a neat release button in its handle. Lucas rear lamps are tilted on Slough supplied cars. The front bumper is like a tubular lifting bar, the rear one frail looking, but both incorporate rubber buffers. The doors shut nicely and entry and egress is simple.

The engine never smelt hot, and did not run-on. I fed it good quality petrol but its 7.2 to 1 c.r. and hemispherical combustion chambers should enable cheap grades to be used. Very little oil was consumed.

If you need truly economical travel, appreciate real comfort, and/or enjoy unconventionality, the Citroen Ami 6 merits your support. It is the ingenious 2 c.v. dressed up in modern style and with its urge enhanced by nearly double the power. I regard it as the best of the cyclecar-type economy cars and wish Citroen every success with it—may its angle-of-approach round corners and the merry beat in its two 74 x 70 mm. cylinders be with us for many years to come.—W.B.