The Citroen 2CV

Many many years ago in the late 1970s, when the earth was still flat, I was the proud owner of a yellow Citroen 2CV. It went like the clappers . . . . . downhill with a boot full of bricks. Its registration number was PHY 927S and it became known as 'lemon phys'. It was easily recognisable 'cos there weren't many around. Not that colour anyway.

Idiosyncracies, it had a few, and when it faced the final curtain . . . . but that came later. One of my favourites: The roof was a rubberised fabric affair which was stretched to close by a tubular steel frame. When it was open the frame hinged back and you could fasten the frame open. If you unclipped the roof fabric you could roll it all the way back and, lo, wind in the hair motoring (that's when I had some hair). But don't forget to fasten the frame. I did several times. Result? Go over a bump and the frame fell down behind you and hit the back of your head.

Another: When you came to service it, you could unbolt both wings, take 'em off and step inside the engine compartment. If necessary you could hide there from the Mrs . . . .

Another: When you locked the door, the handle spun round . . .

Yet another: All the seats could easily unclip and you could take them out for a comfortable and civilised picnic. If the ground was damp, it was an easy matter to dig the legs out, brush off the muck and put 'em back in the car. I must admit though that I never did try to test the designer's criterion of being able to drive across a ploughed field with a tray full of eggs and not break any. My one big regret in life.

And there were many more, idiosyncracies not regrets. But here's the true story, which I know you've been waiting patiently to wonder and marvel at:

One summer we went to Bristol Old Vic to watch a play - forgotten which. At the time there was lots of street parking within easy walking distance. So I found a spot, parked Caerphilly, no sorry that was a theatre in Wales, carefully, checked doors were locked and handles spun, and strolled off for an enjoyable night at the theatre. (Can't strictly remember whether it was an enjoyable night, but they usually were . . . )

Afterwards, I emerged into a warm summer evening, not a care in the world, and ready to greet lemon phys, stroke her, tell her what she'd missed and show her the programme. Walked down the street and there she was. Unmistakeable. Lemon yellow and ready to take us home. But -wait a minute. I didn't leave that door handle pointing up . . . started to get slightly anxious. Oh no, the bumper's dented and there's a scratch all the way down one side. A glorious evening started to curdle and turn sour. I wonder if the bumper'll pull out. Got down and grabbed it with both hands and tugged hard. It moved a bit. Probably be able to do more tomorrow. Then I heard a shout. Oh no, the police probably . . . .



"Come down here and look at this."

"At what? OK, hang on."

And there, three cars down was another lemon yellow Citroen 2CV. With door handles horizontal, bumpers intact and no scratches. Reasonably well polished too. Oh gawd. It's mine!

Quick get in. Must get away before the owner of the other comes along, sees me trying to straighten his bumper and thinks I did it . . .

And that's it. Except, sometime later, the police came to our door and asked where I was one night recently. Evidently, a 2CV had been seen near a crime scene and they were interviewing all local owners. I told them where with some confidence and conviction (pardon the expression). It was only later that I realised that I'd got the nights mixed up and that wasn't where I was . . . They didn't return. They clearly thought I was a lost cause, as is anyone who drives a 2CV, and was too stupid even to remember where they'd been recently. And the stupidity, or innocence, was confirmed when I told them I had a friend who lived in the same village who also drove a Citroen 2CV !

Dr Ian McLauchlin

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