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The Carchive: The Citroen Dyane

Chris Haining September 15, 2017 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 22 Comments

Last week we took a look at Nissan’s vision of an ultra-practical family car for the ’80s – the vertiginously styled Prairie. Today we’re moving a little way back in time, a little way North in latitude, and a little way south on the price lists.

This week’s subject car really does go back to basics. In fact, it’s only a little bit more refined than the even more humble car it was based on. The year is 1970, and we’re looking at the Citroen Dyane – the upscale sister to the iconic Citroen 2CV. Welcome back to The Carchive.

(click on the pics to enjoy the Dyane in glorious enormovision)

“Dyane is for those who don’t want a problem car. Dyane has a simple, long proven engine. Her electrics are even more simple, and she has an alternator in place of a dynamo. She always starts, she needs minimum maintenance, and she doesn’t spend her time in garages”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like pretty much the ideal car to me. How times have changed.

The Dyane was developed from the 2CV as a delayed response to the 1961 launch of the Renault 4. The idea was to offer something a little less rudimentary than the 2CV, which began life with its famous ‘tin shed’ nickname. The Dyane was given a smoother look, with its headlamps integrated into the front wings, a slightly more angular profile than its understudy, and a proper hatchback tailgate.

The mechanical package was pretty much pure 2CV, with a choice of 435cc and 602cc air-cooled flat twin engines, producing 24 or 32bhp. The suspension design was carried over, too, and was interconnected front to rear with remarkable articulation possible. It meant a soft, loping ride and a good degree of rough-road capability, combined with the possibility of some astonishing lean angles without the doorhandles scraping the tarmac.

“For those who like the occasional picnic. A few easy movements, and Dyanes seats are on the grass. And your seats are free of ants!”

I don’t know why MPVs aren’t sold this way. How many Mercedes Viano-owning families take a trip to the great outdoors and then haul the chairs out to relax when they get there? Perhaps more people would if the removal of seats from today’s MPVs didn’t usually involve a hernia followed by tumultuous swearing as you later attempted to re-fit them.

The Dyane was a properly versatile machine, with storage in the doors, a big boot, and you could fold the rear seat if you didn’t remove it altogether. The headlamp beam could be adjusted from inside the car if you really were determined to carry massive loads.

“Dyane has been made for those who like life as well as driving. For those who like driving to be second nature to them”

Would a car like the Dyane sell today? Well, Citroen itself offers a model that has a little bit of the Dyane’s character in the shape of the C3 Cactus. OK, it may be just as lavishly equipped as any other modern-day hatchback, but it does offer strong hints towards robustness. It’s relatively affordable, too, but it’s a far cry from the dirt-cheap Dyane.

In fact, I reckon the closest match today is the Dacia Duster, especially the entry-level Access model that comes without such 21st-century excesses as air-conditioning and a machine to play tunes with. It really is pared back to the bare essentials, and its price tag reflects it, yet it doesn’t miss out on today’s vital safety equipment.

Very few Access models get ordered, though. It seems that people would rather pony up a few hundred quid more for the kind of niceties that were totally alien to Dyane drivers. And for that reason, noble as the idea might be, I reckon the days of nuts-and-bolts motoring are pretty much over.

(All images are of original manufacturer’s promotional material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of PSA Group. As I’m sure Mike Harrell will remind us, though, the Dyane and even the 2CV were positively ostentatious compared to certain other Gallic delights. For authentic French simplicity, you need a KV Mini )

  • “As I’m sure Mike Harrell will remind us…”

    I do appreciate the link to my car but wish to add that there’s at least one other KV Mini 1 still running around under its own power. The YouTube name “Microcar Invest” may be a bit optimistic, though:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKr–VIP0vc

    • Sjalabais

      “Watched 51 times”.

      • That number exploded to 57 within six hours. It’s viral!

      • Alff

        Ever other KV owner on the world has watched it
        ..three times.

        • I may have pushed up that average.

          • Alff

            Were they all painted utility enclosure green?

            • You mean vert métallisé? No, according to my spec sheet they were also available in gris métallisé, although in the factory photos I’ve seen, “gris” seems to have varied from dark grey to off-white, probably depending on whatever was on sale at the local paint shop that week. Here’s one of the lighter examples:

              https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/930e9baacdecd226b08dfa2ceda19e6ee4a26c96676c1775ff5d0a8eb3131407.jpg

              • Alff

                Seems more mat than métallisé but the prix is indeed imbattable.

                • Yeah, the métallisé aspect of the green is more along the lines of “there if you know to look for it” than “bass boat” as well. Mine was touched up at some point and the resprayed areas are somewhat glitterier than the stock areas but still fairly subdued.

              • outback_ute

                I’m liking the “performances extraordinaires” claim too. Of course extraordinary can go either way…

  • Citric

    Citroen Dyane, the car for people who love to accost ducks.

    • Rover 1

      I took that image to mean,’ Dayane, outrun by ducks.’

  • discontinuuity

    These get turned into trucks by the Roma population of Belgrade in order to haul cardboard to recycling centers:
    https://vimeo.com/66811641

  • Owl
  • Rover 1

    I had my own Citroen Dyane, but not in 1:1 scale.

    Dinky had the suspension travel replicated superbly. My brother peeled the roof off.

    http://www.vectis.co.uk/AuctionImages/428/1326_l.jpg

  • crank_case

    My Dad had one. As a toddler I managed to get my head trapped in the sliding window, to this day, I haven’t figured out how I accomplished that.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    I find it quaint that they advertised the benefits of having an alternator, and ironic that the 2CV outlived the Dyane by several years.

    • outback_ute

      Don’t forget that in 1961 it would have been in the minority for having an alternator. Plus they needed every feature/advantage they could get, it seems they weren’t far off saying “the floor will stop your feet getting wet”…

      • WinstonSmith84

        This ad was from 1970 though, about a decade after Chrysler made alternators standard on the Valiant in the US.
        I feel like Citroen was slicing this segment of the market pretty thinly, considering they also had the 2CV-based Ami 6 and were about to introduce the hatchback variant Ami 8 as the Dyane went into production

        • outback_ute

          Aha, I had looked at the brochure itself for the year and neglected to reread the article text! It certainly doesn’t look like 1961. I wonder if the car started with an alternator, likely not.

          Definitely agree Citroen was crowding it’s market, but from memory it was only a few years from being bankrupt at this stage so I dare say better options were not available (given the GS had taken a major investment).

          • WinstonSmith84

            The Renault 4 was introduced in 1961. The Dyane didn’t reach market until 1967.

            • outback_ute

              Thanks, guess what sort of car is not my speciality! I don’t think I will have confused it with the Renault, something obviously…