A recent letter (December 94 Citroënian) from Tim Jarman has provoked this particular Iconoclast since the views expressed are ones with which I most strongly disagree.
Let's go back to 1934 - "This new fangled Traction isn't a proper Citroën - it's driven from the wrong end and it hasn't got a chassis and where are the running boards? Ownership of the company by Michelin will result in cars built to a price. All the design flair will be lost, mark my words."
In 1949 - "The 2CV isn't a proper Citroën - air cooling, I thought that Volkswagen were the only proponents of this and look at the styling - where are the low, sleek lines of the Traction? And it's got a chassis, real Citroëns use monocoque construction. At least it's front wheel drive."
In 1955 - "What on earth do Citroën think they're playing at. What's happened to the timeless, classic lines of the Traction? All this futuristic Dan Dare styling and technology may be all well and good for Detroit but not for Javel. Why couldn't they fit a proper brake pedal? Disc brakes are undoubtedly no more than a fad brought about by Jaguar's Le Mans win and they will cause accidents when drivers of normal cars can't stop as quickly. You would have thought with such a revolutionary design they would have fitted a new, preferably air cooled six cylinder engine but no, we're lumbered with the old Traction lump. Do we really need four gears? The Traction did perfectly well with only three."
In 1970 - "A Citroën with a bought-in engine - and Italian to boot. The engine is the soul of a car, it's okay to buy in components such as dynamos and even gearboxes but not engines. As for the new "mini DS", it looks just like that Pininfarina design that BMC rejected and why does it have a conventional brake pedal."
In 1974 - "Another version of that Pininfarina styling exercise - has Citroën lost its styling expertise. Where are the inboard front brakes and the centre point steering? Why is it water cooled? Where are the swivelling headlamps? Why has it only got one wiper? We're still stuck with that ancient DS engine too."
In 1978 - "It's an exercise in badge engineering, no more."
In 1980 - "It's a Peugroën or Citgeot. It lacks the character that a real Citroën should have. The only parts of this car that are real Citroën are the single wiper, the PRN satellites, the single spoke wheel and the chevrons - and of course the air cooled engine. If this is what Peugeot ownership of Citroën means, the company will be moribund by the end of the decade."
In 1984 - "MacPherson struts on a Citroën - whatever next? Of course the engines are Peugeot - whither air cooling now? Why are the chevrons mounted off centre on the bonnet? And where is that beautifully aerodynamic styling of a real Citroën?"
And so I could go one but methinks I would be labouring the point. Tim Jarman seems to think that in order to progress, one must stand still. Yes, build on the strengths of the past but don't spend all one's time in a mist of nostalgia. Modern Citroëns are much more reliable than those of yore, they are also easier to work on and less profligate with the finite resources of this planet, both in their manufacture and in their use. They are much safer and they are cheaper (in real terms) too.
Part of the problem is, I suspect, down to Citroën UK who wish to deny their past, unlike Citroën France who are proud of the company's achievements. Citroën UK's attitude is probably born out of the fact that they are primarily a (very successful) marketing operation and it is well known that the company's avant garde products of yore frightened off the technophobic Brits. Cars like the Xantia and XM are no less advanced than the D, SM or CX, it's just that the technological aspects are played down. Indeed Citroën's advertising seems to dwell primarily on the wonderful finance deals available rather than the merits of the cars themselves.
Just think, if Peugeot had done unto Citroën what Citroën did to Panhard, we would be members of a club devoted solely to historic vehicles.
© 1994 Julian Marsh
|This article was originally published in the Citroënian, the monthly magazine of the Citroën Car Club .|