World War I roots
Andre Citroen, a French engineer and industrialist, converted an arms factory into an automobile company when World War I ended.
In 1919, Citroen became the first automaker to mass produce cars outside the U.S.
Citroen lost control of the company after it went bankrupt in 1934 and was reorganized in 1935.
As with the Volkswagen Beetle in Germany, the Fiat 500 in Italy and the Austin Mini in Britain, the rise of car ownership for the masses in 1930s France led to demand for a light, affordable “people’s car.”
It was an immediate success and some buyers were forced to wait as long as five years for delivery. It also helped motorize thousands of French farmers still reliant on horses.
The 2CV proved a pioneer among other small cars of the era. It featured an advanced suspension system, inboard front brakes, a lightweight, air-cooled engine and a four-speed manual transmission. The front and rear wings, doors, fabric sunroof and trunk lid could all be removed.
Over time, the CV2’s unfashionable styling joined the Eiffel Tower as a quintessential pop culture symbol of France. It starred in countless artsy French films in the 1960s. And in 1981, Roger Moore -- as British spy James Bond -- drove a bright yellow, high-performance version of the 2CV in For Your Eyes Only.
Citroen introduced a 2CV van in 1951 and a 2CV AZL luxury version in 1956.
By the late 1980s, the 2CV’s appeal with European consumers was waning. The CV2 also performed poorly in more stringent crash tests and pollution standards, forcing Citroen to drop the model.
In 1988, CV2 output shifted from France to Portugal, and the last 2CV was produced two years later.