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Citroën Bijou. The English variant of the 2CV with elongated chassis and fiberglass

In 1959 the Citroën Bijou was presented at the London Motor Show. A variant of the 2CV assembled in the Slough factory designed to seduce the British middle classes. However, despite having a stylish fiberglass body and better habitability the Bijou was a sales failure due to its poor production and high price. A negative result, which today adds rarity to this collector's item.

Adding all the variants and markets, the Citroën 2CV shows a figure of 5.114.969 units sold. An unmitigated success for a car with a popular and agrarian vocation, which became one of the icons of the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War. What's more, the simplicity of its design was not an apex to incorporate solutions as ingenious as the suspensions by longitudinal arms. A system tensioned by rods attached to coil springs, which gave the 2CV a feeling of a flying carpet.

Problematic for quick reactions with the accelerator or the brake, but extremely practical to give the model unsuspected off-road qualities. All this thanks to having good angles of attack and heel. Ideal to defend yourself in any country trip as was its objective since it began to be devised in 1937. A long life in which there was room for versions as practical as the van or the all-wheel drive Sahara. But also for other more exclusive ones such as Barbot's barquette and its world records or the British Bijou.

A little-known variant of the Citroën 2CV, which was sold exclusively to the British market from 1959 to 1964. Years with a very limited sales index, reaching only 210 units plus the two prototypes. Fact that makes the Citroën Bijou a car for collectors of rarities, being possibly the rarest series-production version of all 2CV derivatives. A model in which the 2CV tried to adapt to the most refined tastes of the British middle class, finally ending in failure due to its excessive price.

CITROËN BIJOU. THE 2CV PROPOSAL FOR ENGLAND

Having been born with the French peasantry as the main buyer, the 2CV was characterized by a spartan and functional aesthetic far removed from urban vehicles for the new middle classes. In that sense, Citroën managers thought that the model needed an extra design if it wanted to develop successfully in a refined market such as the British. Country in which Citroën had very powerful interests, since since 1926 it had its own factory in the city of Slough. The place where curious local models such as the DS Cortège were spawned.

A funereal version of the brand's flagship. Which transformed the rear by adding a large cargo area for the coffin. A curious variant that, saving the differences, was paired with those devised for political courtships with the head of state included. However, specific facts aside, the truth is that Citroën's British division wanted to create a bestseller of its own. For this, they took the 2CV as a base after more than a decade in the market, determined to give it a facelift that would bring it up to date as an urban utility.

Thus, the most important thing was not to touch the good mechanical and chassis base of the 2CV but its aesthetics. Make this country car a modern urbanite capable of seducing the UK middle classes, accustomed to a conservative car industry but with a wide range of careful finishes. Thus, the Slough factory was responsible for lengthening the frame of the side members and cross members, making it ten centimeters longer and almost seven wider. A more generous base for habitability, on which a fiberglass body designed by Peter Kirwan-Taylor was installed.

GOOD INTENTIONS WEIGHTED BY A BAD PRICE

Being a designer of such successful models as the 1957 Lotus Elite, Kirwan-Taylor knew how to handle the benefits of fiberglass like a good Englishman. However, the company hired by Citroën to make the molds made each one different from the previous one. Some terrible finishes that forced to look for another body company to manufacture the Citroën Bijou. In addition, this bad omen was accompanied by a bad data in the weight. And, despite using the light fiberglass, the car climbed by 70 kilos compared to the original 2CV.

A drag on its mechanics. Even more so if we take into account that it did not receive any improvement. Used in the Citroën Bijou Same 425cc 12HP Boxer Twin fitted since the first 2CV unit left the factory in 1948. In addition, the acceleration was extremely slow, the moment press having measured an acceleration from 0 to 64 km / h in more than 40 seconds. Features with which the Citroën Bijou could not be sold as a car suitable for traveling without problems on the highway. A means of communication that the English middle classes used most frequently.

Thus, in need of cars that could go on rural roads but also on occasional trips on fast roads. A problem that left the Citroën Bijou behind with respect to its competitors, also adding the problem of price. High due to the cost of the body and chassis modifications, making it cost about 23% more than an Austin Mini and even more than just a Ford Popular. The old-fashioned but practical four-door station wagon with which the American company flooded British roads until 1962.

Therefore, the Citroën Bijou ended its production in 1964 to see the Slough factory shut down a year later. Thus, the French brand withdrew its sails to its country, leaving behind one of the rarest variants of the popular 2CV.

Photographs: Citroën Origins / Catawiki / The Peres Collection

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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