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2CV Index

The Pretenders

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... ...although CitroŽn didn't think so in 1961 when Renault launched their R4.  Renault's rear-engined 4 CV was, by the end of the fifties, very dated. More powerful than CitroŽn's 2 CV, it was also more cramped, had poorer road holding, handling and comfort.  The Regie took the decision to build a front wheel drive, independently suspended, utilitarian car, using the 2 CV as a blue print.  Despite protestations from CitroŽn, the state-owned company blatantly copied the dash-mounted gearchange, tubular-framed removable seats, detatchable body panels, fabric roof and even the "nose down tail up" attitude of the 2 CV.
In September 1961 the Renault R4 was launched. It was initially fitted with the engine and transmission of the old rear-engined 4CV with an engine capacity of 747 cc. There was also a 603cc version sold in France where it was badged R3 and there was a deluxe, 6 light version fitted with a bored out version of the Dauphine engine with 845cc. The R3 was discontinued in 1962. The transmission was a 3-speed manual whereas the thirteen-year old 2CV had four speeds and the option of a centrifugal clutch. The R4 had four-wheel independent suspension. The longitudinal layout of the front wheel drive engine and transmission with the engine mounted behind the front axle with the gearbox/differential in front (effectively a mid-engined front wheel drive design) is identical to the CitroŽn Traction Avant and DS.

Renault 4 Plein Air

Below - thirty years later, in 1991 Nissan offered the S Cargo light van, based on Micra running gear. This was an affectionate tribute to the 2 CV - even its name was a pun on the French word "escargot" meaning snail.

Nissan S Cargo
Chrysler CCV

The R4 popularised the hatchback body style although it was not the first to introduce a top-hinged single-unit tailgate both the earlier Traction Avant Commerciale and the 2CV Mixte had top-hinged tailgates.

Renault 4 cutaway

Left the allegations of plagiarism continued when Renault launched the Fourgon light van - a copy of the AK and later, in 1968 with the Plein Air - a copy of the Mťhari below.

Below the Rodeo was another R4-based vehicle - a Mťhari competitor

Over the years, the R4 was refined and fitted with larger engines. Production in France ceased on 31st December 1992 and in SLovenia two years later.

Chrysler CCV

Above and below and left and bottom left in 1996, Chrysler showed its Composite Concept Vehicle - CCV or two x C V.

The CCV was a concept car designed by Bryan Nesbitt to illustrate new means of automobile construction suitable for developing nations.

The designers at Chrysler stated they were inspired to create a modernised CitroŽn 2CV.

The CCV featured an injection-molded plastic body with a fabric roof and an air cooled 2-cylinder engine driving the front wheels.

Like the Baby Brousse project, the CCV was designed to be cheap and easy to manufacture in countries with poor transportation and industrial infrastructure and with minimal access to capital and skilled labour. The car's simplicity would have ensured longevity and reliability in harsh conditions and facilitated DIY maintenance and repair work. Despite its lightweight construction, it performed well in front and rear crash tests although its lack of structural strength in the doors and side pillars would have prevented sales in first world markets.

The CCV was initially developed in the mid 1990's, and was earmarked for production beginning with a joint venture in China. However, logistical problems with the injection molding process combined with the rationalisation that occurred following Chrysler's 1998 takeover by Daimler-Benz effectively killed the project. The CCV project ended in 1998.

© 1999 Julian Marsh