Project TPV Becomes 2CV 1941-1948

During the Nazi occupation of France, work continued on the TPV in secret. Boulanger believed that after the war, there would be a great need for a car like the TPV, but he was determined to keep it's development hidden from the German Occupiers. In 1940, the Germans asked to see the TPV plans, in exchange; Boulanger would be given access to the VW Beetle. Boulanger refused.

Secret TPV testing at La Ferté-Vidame test track circa 1942. Note the water-cooled engine.

In 1941 the talented engineer Walter Bechia came to Citroën from Talbot. Work continued on the TPV. The war had meant that even when production could commence, the Aluminium and Magnesium of the TPV were now be far too expensive. Boulanger decided that the project should start again.


In 1944, after 4 years of occupation, France was liberated and the TPV could be resurrected. Maurice Steck was now in charge of bodywork and, the new design would abandon the Aluminium and Magnesium of the old TPV because of cost and use a steel body. Walter Bechia suggested that a new engine should be designed, which he did in only 3 days. It was an air-cooled engine of the same capacity as the old water-cooled unit. This was found to have several advantages, as it started more easily from cold, and did not require the owner to top up with coolant. There was still no electric starter; Boulanger favoured a recoil starter rather like that fitted to a lawn mower or outboard.

Bechia also designed a new 4 speed gearbox, Boulanger had originally insisted on no more than 3 gears, but Bechia persuaded him that the 4th gear was actually an overdrive, this is why on the early cars the gear change was marked "S" for "surmultiplié".

Bertoni's designs for the shape of the new car were rejected, in favour of Steck's design.

Hundreds of test runs were conducted at La Ferté Vidame during 1945 & 46, to refine the design and Boulanger himself would drive test cars with his family, any which failed to meet his strict standards, were sent back to the team with a full report of its failings.

More refinement meant that the weight of the car gradually increased, and Boulanger was reluctantly forced to compromise.

The problems with the suspension still caused concern and Leon Renault designed a type of shock absorber which he called "Batteurs" and which consisted of sprung weights inside tubes fitted to the wheel hubs. Boulanger rejected the idea initially, but was forced to relent as no other solution could be found.

The recoil starter proved too difficult for some people to use, and so an electric starter was designed. The car still had no heating, it was then realised that this would make winter driving in northern France too difficult, and so a heating mechanism employing the engine air-cooling was designed.

Finally the new car was ready to be shown to the public, it was christened 2CV, based on the French Fiscal rating, and was unveiled at the Paris "Salon de l' Automobile" of 1948, in the presence of French President Vincent Auriol. It caused a sensation. Production however, could not commence until September 1949.

The public were amazed when the car was revealed for the first time, and their was a rush of orders, but Boulanger's principle that the car should be for those that really needed it, meant that prospective purchasers were visited by Citroën inspectors to make sure that they fulfilled the ownership criteria.

The Motoring press were mixed in their views of Citroën's new car, many were amazed at its low price but they were shocked at its apparent crudeness and lack of refinements, one American Journalist described the car as "Citroën's great mistake". Only time would show how wrong he would be.

2CV launch 1948 Paris Salon

Technical Specifications 1948 Citroën 2CV

Engine: Horizontally-Opposed, 2 Cylinders, Air-Cooled. Bore 62mm, Stroke 62mm. Capacity 375cc French fiscal rating: 2CV. Comp Ratio 6.2:1. Max power 9 Bhp (SAE) @3,500 RPM. Max torque 14.5 lb-ft @2000 RPM. 16.5mm single choke Solex carburettor.8 blade cooling fan. Oil Cooler.

Transmission: Single dry-disc clutch; Gearbox with 4 forward speeds. All synchromesh (limited on 1st) and reverse.

Suspension: All independent, linked front to rear. One Inertia damper per wheel.

Wheels: Steel 3 inch rims, 3 stud. Michelin Pilote tyres 125x400.

Brakes: Hydraulic drum type on all four wheels, front mounted in-board. Parking brake on front drums.

Steering: Rack and pinion, gear ratio 14:1, 10.5 Metre turning-circle.

Electrics: 6 Volt, 50Ah generator.

Performance: Max speed 65 Kph. Fuel: 4 to 5 litres per 100Km's.

Dimensions: 3.78m Overall length. Width 1.48m, Height 1.60m Kerb Weight 495 Kgs.

2CV is launched at Paris Salon 1948
Boulanger at 1949 Paris salon
At the 1949 Paris Salon. Pierre Boulanger shows French Government ministers, Pierre Lacoste & Antoine Pinay, the 2CV's engine.
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