The most brilliant thing about the 2CV is that when things go wrong, it’s usually possible to get on your way with a little ingenuity and not very much hassle.
Like the time a 2CV I owned snapped a shock absorber mounting. I merely sacrificed some speaker wire to hold the shock absorber off the ground. Sorted. The 2CV I currently own has attracted its fair share of get-me-home bodges over the years – though the first one didn’t actually get me home.
I was driving along the M6 when the throttle return spring snapped. That meant that the pedal would not lift when I took my foot off, which meant the car would not slow down. I was some way from the next services, but the feeble power of the 2CV meant that driving flat out wasn’t an issue. Typically, traffic then began to build! I found I could lift the pedal with my hand to reduce the throttle input, but this still didn’t close it entirely. Having reached the services slip road, I simply turned the engine off and coasted into a parking bay in silence. It’s great not having power steering and power brakes to worry about! Still, I’d managed to get off the motorway. I then discovered I had no tools and was forced to call The AA out just for a pair of pliers. A new ‘end’ was formed on the snapped spring and I continued on my way until a new spring could be purchased.
A couple of years after that, the same 2CV went through a spate of alternator failures. Dramatic ones. They kept snapping the mounting bolt, so presumably the bearings were shot. At one stage, as I drove to visit the woman who would one day be my wife, I got so fed up by yet another bolt failure that I just removed the alternator altogether at the side of the road and kept going. I had a similar failure on my Citroen BX Mk1. The only tool I had to hand was a knife, so I cut the alternator belt off and drove home. About 50 miles. It’s amazing how far you can drive a simple car that has no charging…
Another fault the 2CV once developed was a faulty fuse board, which meant the brake lights stopped working. I needed to get to a specialist for some other work to be carried out anyway, so I wired the brake lights up to the sidelight switch for that journey. Manual brake lights are ok!
My favourite bodge was on our last major roadtrip though – when we went to Switzerland in the 2CV. I use transistorised ignition, with a Maplin’s kit installed in a weatherproof box. This necessitates the fitting of a heat sink to the box. It came adrift on that trip, and the overheating transistor kept cutting the ignition. This led to some very impressive backfires, as it happened while driving. We coasted into a French village after one backfire too many. I think we covered about three miles downhill with the engine not running. I was becoming scared that one more backfire might blow the exhaust to bits.
We had a quick tinkering session and my eventual solution was simply to remove the panels either side of the engine bay to increase air flow over the box. This worked an absolute treat. The next day, we drove over 600 miles without incident. A fine bodge indeed! There’s a lot to be said for the roadside bodge – something increasingly difficult as the complexity of cars increases.