Throwback Monday: Famous Factories

Welcome to Throwback Monday where we take a look at how things once were, or at least how certain famous cars were once built. This week we’re looking at how the last of the Citroën 2CVs were built.
Following WWII almost every nation in Europe offered up its version of the “People’s Car.” In Great Britain that was the Mini, in Germany the literal People’s  Car, the Volkswagen Type 1, and in Italy the Fiat 500. France’s most famous wheels for the working class proved to be one of the simplest and yet most ingenious, Citroën’s Deux Chevaux Vapeur, or Two Steam Horse, which we all know more commonly as the 2CV.
The history of the Deux Chevaux goes back before the war, when Citroën sought to meet the market need for a car for the proletariat, in the style of Henry Ford’s Model T. The British magazine Autocar in fact, once described the 2CV as the most original design since the Model T.
Development of the car – the prototypes were denoted TPV – was halted when France was pulled into the war. And, when it became clear that the Germans would occupy the country, Citroën hid the cars in secret locations in the fear that the Nazis would use the design for military applications.
The prototypes were recovered post-war, but several were hidden again in 1950 by employees – this time from Citroën management – as an order was issued for the cars to be scrapped. Three of those were found in a barn at the Bureau d’Etudes at Ferté-Vidame in 1995, and have since been put on display at the Conservatoire Citroen museum in their untouched and very decrepit condition.
Those three can be added to the more than five-million 2CVs that were produced between 1948 to 1990. Over that time, the cars were built in Belgium, the UK, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Spain, Yugoslavia, and Portugal. The last in the line were assembled in Citroën’s Mangualde, Portugal plant, and that factory’s final car rolled off the assembly line on the afternoon of July 27, 1990.
As you can see from this video shot at the Mangualde plant before that date, the production have techniques had barley changed over the years. And, while the Deux Chevaux is hardly more complicated than a box of Kleenex, there certainly was a lot of hand-building that went into its construction.

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  1. nanoop Avatar

    Awesome – that video is from the 80ies? Looks and feels like those videos from Porsche production in the 70ies, minus the powered conveyors instead of people pushing car bodies on their roofs…

    1. karonetwentyc Avatar

      Copyright date on the video says August, 1990 – so right at or very near to the end of 2CV production.

  2. Monkey10is Avatar

    It seems weird that the headlamps are fitted and ready so early on the production line — then the rest of the car is built around them.
    But why would I have expected a Citroen factory to do things in a way that is not weird?

    1. karonetwentyc Avatar

      From the way that the cars are put together, it makes sense – the hood runs from the base of the windscreen down to the bumper as a single piece, and has to align over the headlight bar. The horizontal part of the bar is also where the coil is mounted to, so if it’s not there, good luck getting spark to the cylinders – there really isn’t another (good) place to stash it.

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