Former police officer Barry Wiseman’s Citroën 2CV

Former police officer Barry Wiseman’s Citroën 2CV

For 23 years my brother has come over from Australia for Beaulieu and Goodwood, latterly buying a cheap 2CV on arrival to get him around Europe, then shipping it home and selling for enough profit to pay his air fares. Impressed by his driving it flat-out to the South of France and back, I began looking for a 2CV for myself and soon found a local dealer ad for a 28,000-mile, one-owner, five-year-old example for £2500. It seemed in nice condition so my wife Carol made an offer of £1750 that was accepted a couple of days later.


French for beginners

That 2CV has changed my life. Soon after, we decided to take it to France. An enthusiastic hotel owner told me that it would be quite all right to leave it on a no parking zone outside his hotel. We returned later to find the car encircled by people. ‘Do not worry, monsieur,’ the hotel owner said. ‘It is just that many have never seen a shiny Deux Chevaux before.’

Over 30 years and 50,000 miles I’ve found my 2CV to be terrific. It is one of few cars that can be driven everywhere flat-out. It’s a car you have to concentrate on driving. It’s great in snow, with the skinny tyres biting in, and also excellent on big, fast roundabouts. People mock the body roll but, as long as bends are entered with it properly balanced, cornering is fine. Don’t forget Citroën offered a good sum of money to anyone who could roll a 2CV, knowing that once the tyres start to scrub, it has insufficient power to overcome speed loss.

The brilliant, self-levelling suspension was described by an American writer as a ‘tusk, lever, cable, push, pull cannister o’springs’, a perfect description. Also, when fully laden, the wheelbase increases by two inches!

Maintenance is key and my Citroën has been looked after all its life by myself and then Mark at Just 2CV. A garage is important, too, because they have so many seams where rust can build up. Thankfully, the first owner had mine Dinitrolled and I kept up the schedule. Parts are available and my car is totally original apart from expendables, making it a bit of a rarity. Hugo (that’s his name) let me down once, queuing on a hot day at Goodwood. One of the dump tubes that carry hot air from the engine bay fell off and the coil overheated. I waited 20 minutes for it to cool, then drove on. A resinfilled coil ensures no repeat performance.

You might have seen Hugo years ago, when we were on The Car’s the Star, where I claimed that 2CVs should be made available on the National Health. And they should be – the 2CV is a car that can be run at maximum revs all day, with its beautifully simple and wellbalanced air-cooled engine. After start-up, I sometimes open the bonnet just to marvel at its fantastically smooth tickover. It is also one of those cars where you pat it and say ‘thank you’ every time you arrive back home.

Back in 1974 What Car? summed up my feelings when it wrote: ‘Ask me to describe the best car in the world and I would do so in a single numeral and two letters – 2CV.’

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