Petersen Archive: People, Potatoes, and a Keg
In 1935, Pierre Jules Boulanger stated that the ideal low-income car should be able to “carry four people and 50kg of potatoes or a keg, at a maximum speed of 60 km/h, with a consumption of 3 litres per hundred kilometres.” In 1948, he introduced the the Citroen 2CV to do so.
In 1956, a new version of the Citroen 2CV appeared. This version, however, could carry more than four people, and potatoes or a keg. As Walt Woron observed in the February 1957 article “Driving Around with Walt Woron” in Motor Trend Magazine, the 2CV also came as a wagon.
From the front, the 2CV wagon looked much like an ordinary 2CV. A boxy cab, however, replaced the car’s sloping back.
The cab featured two outward opening doors, which gave the 2CV wagon a carrying capacity of 550 pounds. That’s nearly five times the amount of potatoes, or kegs, that Boulanger designed the original 2CV to haul.
It is doubtful, however, whether the 2CV’s engine could do so, as it produced “all of 12 horsepower.” To haul its load “out of the way of more powerful cars,” Woron noted, “it takes a lot of pushing and pulling” and “downshifting on grades you didn’t even notice before.”
The 2CV Wagon, however, was more than a potato hauler. For one, the 2CV featured an independent suspension. A cylinder attached to each wheel housed a spring-and-weight dampener which “surprisingly absorbed,” the “dips, bumps, and washboards” of the road. A “muffler-appearing object” contained the coil spring that attached the front and rear wheels together.
The location of the spare tire, noted Woron, made the wheel “comfortably close and easy to remove” (p. 50).
Other features, however, were less logical. The door could be removed simply by “pulling it off its hinges.” Since the cab was added with little modification to the 2CV body, “if you opened the door with the window up,” observed Woron, “you’d break it.” The windows, which were hinged at the center, “flap[ped] like the wings of a gobble about to take flight” in motion.
Like its doors, the wagon’s seats were removable. This was particularly convenient if one went for a picnic, but forgot to bring the chairs.
Though eccentric, the 2CV wagon was economical. The Wagon averaged 35 to 45 mpg. This was around 15 mpg more than the average American economy car. The 2CV also cost from $1350 to $1395, nearly $768 less than the average American economy car.
Indeed, the 2CV Wagon was not perfect. “To put up with the 2-CV’s idiosyncrasies,” Woron concluded, you “have to be able to laugh at the leers and jeers of fellow motorists.” It could, however, haul people, potatoes, and a keg, for far less money than similar American cars. Thus, as Woron cautioned “don’t laugh too loudly at the 2-CV.”
Photography by Colin Creitz
By Kristin Feay