By on June 7, 2017

Parked In Drive – Citroën 2CV Camionette

Here’s a quick thought experiment: Can someone be considered a car collector if their collection includes just one car? Certainly, if you owned only the Mona Lisa, that would be sufficient art to justify building a museum. So, it follows that if Peter Mullin decided to downsize and sell everything but his signature blue 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, one could still call him a collector.

Not convinced? Imagine this theoretical one-car collection survives the next 100 years. The tourists of 2117 will be unaccustomed to human drive and a gasoline-powered car from the 20th century, even if this “museum” is really just your “garage.” A century from now, a late-model automobile from the 1900s will appear ancient and obsolete — a lurching dinosaur — which is why my pick for a one-car collection already looks much like that: a Citroën 2CV Camionette.

2CV Camionette

According to the parking lot attendant at the fancy mid-city L.A. bakery where I arrived at this realization, this 2CV Camionette (or Fourgonette, French for: “small truck”) belongs to a regular customer. This explained why it was surrounded by traffic cones and hinted the Citroën is used regularly. I’m guessing the model year is 1974 or later given the grille, steering wheel, and modern speedometer. Something about the rear cabin’s corrugated sides and modern-looking rear side windows looked like fiberglass to me, indicating a modern conversion; I didn’t have the guts to do a knock check to confirm my suspicions.

2CV Camionette Interior and Rear

As I drove home, I thought about how the two-toned Camionette would be perfectly suited for a museum. It has a fascinating history, but it’s also a practical choice. If an exhibition of a (single) automobile is going to survive the oncoming apocalypse, the car in question should be economical and easy to repair. It’s unlikely the coming autonomous revolution will inspire greater quantities of young people to work on older cars. You will likely have to maintain your own one-car collection, so it makes sense to choose an air-cooled car with mechanicals that are easy to understand as they are to teach to someone else.

Mullin Museum's Citroën Exhibit

As a native of the southeastern Michigan suburbs, I readily admit I could use further education when it comes to French cars. So, I visited Mullin’s museum in Oxnard to learn more about Citroën’s history. One of the first insights I received from expert docent Tessa Crane was the 2CV was not exactly rare — Citroën sold over 3.8 million copies of the standard sedan from 1949 to 1990, and 1.3 million Camionette versions. From the beginning, the 2CV’s design was meant to motorize the masses. Within months of its debut at the Paris Salon in October 1948, there was a three-year waiting list. Foreign buyers were given first dibs on the 2CV, followed by domestic farmers, rural doctors, priests and those who could prove they would use the car for work. The Mullin even displayed period ads for the Camionette featuring French farmers and filmmakers, all with the same moustache.

2CV Camionette Ads

I learned the 1960 2CV Camionette in Mullin’s collection took three years to acquire from its first owner, and the purchase inspired a whole Citroën exhibit. The Camionette is now parked in a place of honor, between three Traction Avant coupes and a Henri Chapron-bodied DS coupe. After waiting three years to purchase the original-condition 1960 2CV Camionette, Mullin restored it, painted it burgundy, and filled it with select wines, olive oil, and prosciutto from Agriturismo Mullin, his farm in the south of Italy. Mullin presented the Camionette to his wife Merle on their wedding anniversary, a fact that forced me to redefine my idea of a gift basket after I read it on the museum’s placard.

1960 Citroën 2CV Camionette at Mullin Automotive Museum

Los Angeles can be a fickle city sometimes, obsessed with class and status. To drive here during rush hour is to often feel the apocalypse has already occurred. But rough roads and expensive gasoline don’t much hinder the two L.A.-based 2CV Camionettes I spotted. Though one is housed in a prestigious permanent collection, and the other merely appears regularly at a bakery on La Brea, I appreciate how they are both still put to use. May they survive the next hundred years.

2CV Camionette Parked in Lot

Photos of 2CV Camionette by author; photos at Mullin Automotive Museum by Brynner Batista.

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11 Comments on “Parked In Drive: 1974 Citroën 2CV Camionette...”

  • avatar

    Magnifique…man, looking at those Citroen car show pictures…crazy. Call them what you will, but some of their cars certainly had style.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Unfortunately I have become somewhat obsessed with the idea of owning a 2CV.

    Perhaps the definition of ‘cheap and cheerful’.

    Around the turn of the 21st century some entrepreneurs in Toronto incorporated under the name ‘Escargot Motors’ and imported some ‘rebuilt’ 2CV’s. Their tag line for ads was ‘Look at that S Car Go’.

    • 0 avatar

      Vachement Chouette! 2CVs are not particularly rare. There’s one within half a mile of my brother’s house in Bethesda, MD, and one within half a mile of my house in Lexington Mass, and I’ve seen them in Virginia, and Berkeley, I photographed one in Wellfleet, MA a couple of summers ago that was visiting from NYC. There’s a repair shop specializing in them in Seattle. There were probably around 100 of them at the 2002 International Citroen Rally in Amherst Mass, from near and far within the United States, and from all over Europe.

      There was an obit on the front page of the New York Times when they stopped making them.

      Here’s my review of the one in Lexington Mass.

    • 0 avatar

      Reminds me of the JDM cargo van (& grey imported in to the UK) Nissan s-cargo, a play on the French word ‘escargot’ meaning ‘snail’.

    • 0 avatar

      Man, do I ever hear you on that.

      If I had the space to store it and a little more spare cash…

      (Because even a Restored Perfect 2CV isn’t *that* expensive.)

  • avatar

    The man who designed these (which I grew up with and find beautiful), the Traction avant, the DS, the H Van and more is Flaminio Bertoni. I deeply respect and admire this person.

    Just look at the journey from the Avant to the DS – two icons, both stunning, both way ahead of their time, both entirely different (well the shred an engine for a while.) – Don’t get me going.

  • avatar

    I’ve always admired Citroens from afar. I’m astounded by the innovations their cars presented to the world (well, up through the CX anyway), especially when compared to what other cars were offering at the time and how much of their features are still so relevant while being effective. In terms of exterior design, IMHO, the last Citroens that I consider truly beautiful and unique would be the CX. The XM and the C6 not so much, but that’s just my opinion.

  • avatar

    Citroen enigma: censorship from fascism and democracy.

    The 2CV began life hidden from the Nazis and ended life with production hidden from public view. By the mid-70s Citroen management didn’t want you to know how a deux chevaux was put together in a dingy plant.

  • avatar

    I vividly remember 2CV’s careening around Cambridge and Boston in the 1960’s, by 1985 I simply _had_ to have one and found a decent 1959 2CV – AZ in Sta, Barbara for cheap, drove it a few years and sent it along .
    Fun little cars to be sure, complete and total death traps so DO NOT crash one, just *barely* fast enough to not get killed in So. Cal. traffic .
    Yes, I drove it on the freeway, 425 (IIRC) C.C. boxer twin engine .

  • avatar

    I hadn’t thought about creating a “museum” for my 1971 ID21 Safari when I converted my shed into a “garage” by installing a “barn door.” However, when I move, I can’t take the “museum” with me. So I guess I’m not going to put a lot of resources into my “museum” as much as I would like to. Best of both worlds… I convert part of my Green Bay Packer 1974 Airstream Man Cave “Museum” into a Citroen “museum” and try to figure out how to drag my Airstream around with my Safari.

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