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Quatre Chevaux: The Citroen 2CV Dakar

Chris Haining July 2, 2017 Cars You Should Know, Goodwood 12 Comments

At a time way before the SUV was conceived, the Citroen 2CV provided transport from point A to point B, whether or not your journey enjoyed the convenience of a proper road.

Totally excluding Sport from its remit, the 2CV nonetheless excelled as a Utility Vehicle. With its legendary egg-basket cosseting ride, this exceptionally simply furnished car could traverse most terrains with ease and confidence. That didn’t prevent people from making improvements, though.

2CV buyers usually weren’t in search of speed, so the original 375cc 9-horsepower two-cylinder engine was seen as adequate, and even at the end of 2CV production it had only reached 29bhp – enough for an excruciating 65mph quoted maximum. It was for additional off-road capability, not increased speed, that the 2CV Sahara was introduced in 1960. It had four-wheel drive and, rather than running a transmission linkage from front to back and risk doubling the effort expected of an already heavily taxed engine, Citroen chose a rather simpler, if more extreme approach.

Citroen chose to fit another identical twin-cylinder engine at the rear of the car, badly effecting luggage capacity but doubling the power. And, although weight was increased, so was traction – thanks to the extra engine’s weight acting directly on the rear wheels. The car you see in these images isn’t a 2CV Sahara, though. This is something else entirely.

Dubbed the 2CV Dakar, this one wasn’t even built by Citroen. Not in its current form, anyway. Converted from a regular late-production 2CV, the Dakar was the brainchild of Stéphane Wimez, whose Club Cassis company makes and supplies components for 2CVs and the plastic-bodied Mehari that shares its running gear. It competed in the Dakar rally, and then became a valuable publicity tool for its maker, prominently displayed on its premises and drawing a fair bit of attention.

The same is true today at Goodwood, where Wimez has been hurling the Dakar though the surprisingly punishing rally stage with something approaching gay abandon. It looked terrific in action, and sounded even better – the typical 2CV warbling flatulence replaced by something with a little more bite – its engines have Citroen Visa cylinder heads among mods that liberate a little extra power.

It leans in corners a bit, but any 2CV does that, and never seems to have any intent on toppling. I’ve tried it myself on a stubble-field, and no matter how much we punished that Tin Snail, it was our own motion sickness that curtailed the fun rather than any tendency for instability. Driving the Dakar must be an absolute blast.

The 2CV Dakar may be far from the fastest car on the track, but it has more personality than most.

(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017)

  • Rover 1
    • Wouldn’t a Sahara or the Dakar be bending the rules somewhat? And at a weight disadvantage anyway?

      • Rover 1

        Might be interesting to find out. Twice the power and not twice the weight?

        • I’ve had a cursory search, and so far I see no mention of the Sahara on the 2cv racing club website. In truth, further research might be a rabbit hole that I don’t want to venture down.

          • Rover 1

            That’s what the internet is for!

            No, I’m joking.

            Thank’s for your great coverage Chris. And I hope you had a lot of fun doing it.

            My 80 year old mother is currently back in the UK, visiting relatives in the North-east. She has declined my request to go down to Goodwood, even though she grew up near Crewe and thus has a Rolls Royce connection. Obviously not with the new regime then! otherwise you might have had the pleasure of meeting her. Her loss entirely I assure you.

            • crank_case

              I visited Crewe once for work, it’s possibly as far from the image of Rolls Royce as you can imagine. As unglamorous as Britian gets, after work, trying to find things to do or places to eat, the place just felt like that quiet moment in a zombie movie just before the zombies start appearing. Dreary, and a little unnerving. At least it has REALLY good rail links out of it. They say Crewe is the centre of the British railway network… it’s more that all lines lead AWAY from it. 😀

              • Alff

                Sounds a bit like Nebraska.

              • Rover 1

                Which is why my parents came to NZ. My mum was originally in nearby Middlewich where her father was Mayor for a while.

                My abiding memories of that part of the UK are of greyness, maybe because of the usual weather, the streets and the buildings. Nice when it’s fine and you’re with friends.

      • crank_case

        Definitely bending the rules for not a huge amount of advantage on circuit (gravel rally might be a different story). If you want to make a 2CV go fast, bolt in a GS or a BMW boxer bike engine. (also against the rules)

  • Marto

    It looks exactly like a jumping spider in the final pic.

    • cap’n fast

      the spider no doubt has better acceleration out the corners

  • cap’n fast

    dramamine. the cure for the 2cv.