Almost 70 years after its creation, an original Citroen 2CV prototype is leaving France for the very first time to make the trip to the Design Museum in London, where it will appear as the centrepiece of an exhibition exploring the remarkable history of Citroen’s flamboyant Italian former head of design, Flaminio Bertoni.
This 2CV will be displayed alongside a Traction Avant, a DS and a model of a DS at the exhibition, titled "When Flaminio Drove To France – Flaminio Bertoni’s designs for Citroen", which runs from 1 August to 12 October. Members of the Citroen Car Club will also display a selection of their classic cars along the Embankment near the Design Museum on 2 August.
Citroen’s head of design for three decades, Bertoni started by designing the revolutionary Traction Avant. Unbelievably, he modelled the car out of plasticine in a single night and the result was the first ever mass-produced front-wheel drive car with an aerodynamic all-in-one steel monocoque body shell – at a time when most other cars had a separate chassis and wooden bodywork.
Bertoni’s brief for the legendary 2CV was to produce a low cost car capable of carrying four people and 50kg of potatoes across rough terrain. Featuring just one headlamp, a single, variable length, wiper blade and material seats hung hammock-style from the roof, 250 prototypes were made before the war. Only one of these was believed to have survived until recently, when three more were discovered and it is one of these that is coming to the UK.
Bertoni’s DS19, nicknamed the ‘Deesse’ or ‘Goddess’, was a media sensation when it was unveiled at the 1955 Paris Motor Show, with Citroen taking an incredible 12,000 orders on the very first day. Stunning to look at, with its unprecedented aerodynamic shape, it boasted numerous technical innovations such as hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension. The DS went on to a top three place in the International Car of the Century; it was voted Product of the Century by a British panel of judges and became both President De Gaulle and Brigitte Bardot’s car of choice.Published 4 August 2003