100,000 miles in a Tin Snail

I’ve finally achieved something I never would. 100,000 miles in one car.

It’s taken almost 12 years, but I got there! The steed I chose for this mighty endeavour? A 29bhp, 602cc Citroen 2CV6 Dolly.

It’s hard to recall all that’s happened in 12 years. The car has changed a lot and so have I! We’ve lived in urban Birmingham, rural Northamptonshire, the slightly-disturbing flatlands of Cambridgeshire and most recently the stunning wilderness of mid-Wales. Throughout this time, Elly the 2CV has been one of my trusty daily steeds. She’s often shared the mileage but has at times been the only working vehicle I’ve owned – and in one year, clocked up an impressive 15,000 miles. Generally, the annual mileage has been 5000-7000, which is still far in excess of what many classic cars manage between MOTs.

Citroen 2CV

100,000 miles together.

It hasn’t all been on-road miles either. At least once a year, she usually finds herself off-roading. Well, the 2CV was designed to cross a ploughed field and with axle articulation to shame a Land Rover, it just has to be done really.

At other times, she’s hurtled around some well-known race tracks. My first taste of this was at Mallory Park in Leicestershire as part of a Retro-Rides meet. You can enjoy pretty much all a 2CV has to offer in performance terms on any road, but to be able to really push it without worrying about other cars, pedestrians or stray animals was so much fun! A bit too much fun as harsh downshifting to second gear saw me break the synchromesh which failed on the way home! I still got home though – things were just a bit crunchy.

Another Retro-Rides meet saw me hurtling around the test track at the Haynes Motor Museum. Again, I proved not to be the slowest car out there, beating the same Volvo Amazon that I had done at Mallory! Again though, I suffered synchromesh failure not long after – third gear this time! That might have been unrelated though as third gear synchromesh can disappear…

She’s been up Prescott Hillclimb twice as well, only as part of a cavalcade but with plenty of hooning involved!

I drive with gusto on the road too, so it’s not like she’s had an easy time for those 100,000 miles! In fact, an alarming number have involved foot-to-the-floor driving, yet her original engine was still generally running fine at 170,000 miles when I finally accepted that she was burning too much oil for my liking due to wear. That’s an astonishing mileage for a harshly-treated, tiny, aged-design engine!

What’s also remarkable is how infrequent I’ve needed to call on recovery services in 12 years of motoring. There was a call-out in 2001 for a snapped throttle return spring, 2002 for a seized alternator – I had no tools with me – and then again in 2003 when the replacement alternator also seized! I learnt my lesson after that and always carried tools with me. When another duff alternator failed, I just removed the alternator and drove home without it! I love simple cars. I then finally fitted a brand new alternator…

2CVs wedding

Elly the 2CV as a part of Ian’s wedding celebrations

There have been a few hiccups with electronic ignition – I’ve tried two different ones and they both failed – but with a simple, Maplin-sourced points-assisted set-up, she’s been very reliable. The only issue with this is when a heat sink came loose in scorching Switzerland in July 2010. The ignition began to cut out leading to spectacular backfiring! We made it as far as some French mountains before it got much worse, to the point that I coasted downhill for several miles with the engine turned off. Try doing that in your Citroen DS5! I managed to bodge up a cool air feed which got us back home. In fact, the next day, we clocked up 660 miles getting back home. That took 17 hours (including a ferry and purchasing fuel in four different countries).

There’s a saying that the 2CV isn’t just a car, it’s a way of life and I must whole-heartedly agree. I was a trendy city boy (ha!) when I bought this 2CV, but I’m now a complete and utter hippy – albeit one with a love of burning petrol and eating meat. Through the 2CV, I’ve made many friends and had an awful lot of fun in fields all over the UK as well as in France, Belgium and Sweden. 602FTMFW! Or, 2CV’s really are quite marvellous if you prefer.

5 thoughts on “100,000 miles in a Tin Snail

  1. They are little pearls of automotive genius… AND you’re right re. the Cambridgeshire Fenland, it is quite disturbing. I look out of my bedroom window and the next thing on the horizon is Peterborough, 30 miles away.
    Ideal 2CV country.

    • The suspension may be ideal for Fenland roads, but it’s bloomin’ good fun in Wales too! Bit slow up the hills, but I love scaring tourists by screaming past them with gravity on my side!

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