Day two and the Ami is still making me giggle. Even just having it parked on the driveway is a pleasure.
Not as much of a pleasure as driving it though. Thanks to some choice modifications, including a Weber carburettor and gas-flowed cylinder heads, it’s ludicrously quick for a 602cc 4-seater built in 1965. At tickover, the exhaust sounds like it’s blowing badly, but give it the beans and it sounds insane! Acceleration is a bit of a shock to a 2CV owner too. This thing can actually shift.
It is unusual hearing that 2CV soundtrack in something which looks like a proper car – albeit one that looks most unlike any other proper car. But it is a little saloon, with proper doors, rather more comfort and a solid roof – one made out of plastic just to add to the quirky features. It feels like you sit much lower down than a 2CV, but I’m not sure that you actually do. The gearshift is a bit more of a stretch away, and not just because this car is left-hand drive. The cabin is wider than a 2CV, which means you seem to sit further away from the middle of the car – and therefore the gearchange. I’m sure there’s a gnat’s wing in it, but it does feel much wider.
It’s quieter too. Sure, that exhaust is barking like an over-excited terrier, but wind noise is vastly reduced compared to a 2CV. With this punchy engine, an indicated 70mph is both relatively quiet and requires surprisingly little throttle. It’s quite unusual to be able to travel that quickly and still have power in reserve.
The seats seem to be even softer, closer to the feel of a DS – with that car also providing inspiration for the single-spoke steering wheel. The car bounces, and you bounce too, like the driver of one of those posh trucks where the seat and even the cab are separately sprung from the road wheels.
Not that the soft springing seems to bother the handling. The large wheel can induce comedy levels of lean, though the slightly lower stance of this one means it seems to corner with a little less drama. Fat 145 Continental tyres help too.
One intricate and quirky feature is the indicator stalk. Toggle indicators seem like a modern invention designed just to confuse people. Yet again, Citroën got there first! On the Ami, you flick the lever the way you want to indicate. It then returns to its normal position but the indicators flash. You have to pull the lever towards you to cancel it! Sounds absolutely ridiculous, but works well in practice, and at least the stalk doesn’t fall off in your hand like it can in a 2CV…
If all this makes it sound like I prefer the Ami to a 2CV, then you might just be right. I’m a bit shocked. Cars I’ve always wanted to drive can often be a bit disappointing in the metal. Not this one! The only problem is that I must force myself to remember that not all Amis drive quite as well (or as quickly!) as this one…