Citroën’s Successor to the 2 C.V. Proves its Worth
When the 375-c.c. Citroën 2 C.V. was first introduced to outraged Britishers we thought this 100% individual little car of highly ingenious design represented motoring sport of a sufficiently unusual and enjoyable kind to justify a long report on it. For years after this account had been published I used to encounter this actual 2 C.V. at Hants and Berks M.C. meetings, its owner proud that he had the Motor Sport test car. I wonder why! And I wonder if this 2 C.V. is still around and, if so, how many miles it has now covered?
Today you cannot buy a new 2 C.V. in this country but thank goodness you can buy its rather more sophisticated successor, the 602-c.c. Dyane. Thank goodness, because life, motoring-wise, would be poorer if such splendidly basic, practical and economical cars vanished from the market . . . .
I do not propose to describe in detail the Dyane which I sampled recently. It is really very much like the excellent 2 C.V., with the same remarkable cornering powers, from supple and ingenious suspension aided and abetted by the Subtle Secrets of “X”, those powerful brakes, that push-pull-and-twist facia gear-change, comfortable and easily removable seats, the same contempt for unmade roads and off-the-road motoring, the same air-cooling, indeed, the lot, with rather more finish and refinement.
Cynics will say, ah yes, but the Dyane in Confort form costs a £ more than a Mini 1000 Super. Agreed! But you get a roll-back sunshine roof, an automatic clutch making this a two-pedal car for novices, extreme durability, air cooling, really generous headroom and legroom, especially the former, which is a legacy from vintage days, very good fresh-air ventilation, extreme economy, and all the fun of owning something entirely different from the common run of little rectangular saloons.
It is unlikely that a Dyane driver will ever be stopped for exceeding the speed-limit on Britain’s de-restricted roads, although a Dyane will wind up to some 73 m.p.h. if pushed, maybe with the wind behind it. But, although on paper it cannot accelerate like a Renault 4L, twice in my experience we made mincemeat of the Billancourt job, up hills. And even if this isn’t performance, the Dyane will bowl along very happily all day at over 60 m.p.h. and in return for any sluggishness which might be remarked on in sporting circles, it gave 47.3 m.p.g. of the least-expensive petrol while I was flogging it has hard as it would go.
Those who enthuse over twin-cylinder air-cooled engines will be pleased to know that the light-alloy 74 x 70 mm. unit in the Citroën Dyane can be taken up to 6,000 r.p.m. and that it pokes out 29 (net) b.h.p. at 2,750 r.p.m. That in the test car was a bit aged and needed a pint of oil about every 250 to 300 miles. But it never missed a beat and it surprised one or two drivers of seemingly very superior small cars possessing as many as four cylinders.
The comfortable ride is matched by cornering which can be astonishingly fast if you do not mind banking over like an aeroplane in circuit or the then-strong understeer doesn’t pull your arms off. Instead of the horrid cloth-covered seats I hated in an Ami 6, this Dyane had Targa p.v.c. upholstery, and you sit in comparative luxury.
Having this Dyane to try, I thought it should be put to some more or less appropriate task. So I drove it to Wales and set it to cover the Northern circuit of the route which the RAC devised a way back in 1924 for its Six Days Small Car Trials. In those days Welsh roads were untarred and the back-braked, high-pressure-shod light cars had a pretty terrible time before they left Wales for Brooklands, with a timed climb of Birdlip en route, and a Gwynne Eight was declared the winner.
We fared much better over tarred roads and by-ways, but the scenery was nice. Leaving Llandrindod Wells in torrential rain we went to the pony-trekking picturesque town of Rhayader, and then climbed steadily away from it up to Harmon and on over the deserted roads to Llanidloes. With the route getting only slightly “tourist” we squeezed past a Cortina and came unexpectedly on the famous Bwlch-y-Groes Pass, which I recognised from pre-war trials days and from having tried to climb it many years ago in the road-test 2 C.V., when snow stopped us. Now we sailed up unconcernedly in bottom gear, with 301 c.c. apiece to take us over the summit of this 1½ mile long 1 in 4/1 in 7 gradient, and were soon skirting Bala lake. A brief pause at the White Lion Hotel which gave lunch to those weary and anxious competitors of 25 years ago (imagine driving over such a route for six days on end in a 1924 small car!) and we were off again, now in dense mist which obscured the hill scenery. This cleared as the gradient dropped and we were soon motoring among the peaceful foothills, before turning off at Pen-y-Bony Fawr on to roads flanked by Forestry Commission land. We got lost once, for seven miles, perhaps where those light-car drivers had made the same mistake and were rounded up by R.A.C. scouts. In our case an amused policeman put us right.
Then it was on and on over empty by-roads, a gallon of petrol being put in at a wayside garage which looked at is must have done when the Six Days’ contingent passed through and whose proprietor told us that the O.S. always give the village the wrong name on their 1-in. maps.
The route then swung away from the Welshpool main road to approach Newtown by splendidly isolated back-ways, some minor cross-roads signposted, others not. Over the fine river bridge and through this fascinating old town, we then had an easy run home, parting from this historic route at Cross Gates.
The Dyane took it all in its stride, never missing a beat. We alighted free from aches and stiffness and realised that buying petrol in this Citroën is quite an event, it happens so infrequently! Another gambit which the Dyane encourages is exploration of unmade tracks. We did this so thoroughly that we had to be towed out by tractor (the back bumper is very flimsy).
What fun it is, this practical device from the Quai André Citroën. Everyone who tried it enthused, although the Continental Correspondent thought I was mad to go so far afield in it. you can get it with a petrol heater, with six or 12-volt electrics (depending on whether it is a Dyane 4 or 6), it retains those headlamps adjustable from the driving seat to allow for heavy loads, which it carries with impunity, the wipers are now electric, the spare wheel lives under the bonnet, there is a lift-up rear door, making five doors in all, the interior door handles are sensibly tucked away, the speedometer is very odd (but dead accurate) and the fascia moulding is clever, with lever-controlled fully-adjustable cylindrical fresh-air vents. In 750 hard miles the only things to fall off were two trim screws. Sliding windows in the front doors are locked by ingenious pegs as the knobs are turned. You can buy a Citroën Dyane here for £649, tax included, complete with the automatic clutch, which functions effectively.—W. B.