Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Books Lately: Citroën 2CV by John Reynolds

My experience of car books suggests that most titles fall into one of two categories. There are thorough, in-depth studies carefully researched and lovingly written. Then there are books turned out as money-spinners. Some have titles like “Great Sports Cars” with a few performance specifications and glossy photos that look strangely familiar because you’ve seen them in half a dozen similar books before. Others will have a celebrity name on the cover and be smaller in format covering odd cars or bad cars, picking on the familiar whipping boys (Austin Allegro, Morris Marina, Reliant 3-wheeler etc).

John Reynolds’ history of the Citroën 2CV belongs firmly in the first group. First published in 1997, seven years after production of the 2CV ceased, with a 3rd edition published in 2005. It is a tribute to Mr Reynolds’ skill that you don’t need to be fanatical about the subject to enjoy the book. The background story, looking at the history of Citroën, the men responsible, the development story and even the way France changed in the 40 or so years all add colour to what might otherwise be a dry chronology of specification changes and model variants.

Of course details of the changes made as the 2CV was developed are recorded and the 2CV derivatives, the Dyane, Ami, Mehari and Bijou all receive fair coverage. Unlike plenty of one model books there is even a chapter devoted to the 2CV’s rivals. The way the book is written allows the reader to choose whether to read each chapter in order or to dip in and out depending on what captures the interest. There are even plenty of informative sidebars detailing areas of particular interest.

Even if you have little love for the 2CV (and it seems to be a love or loathe sort of car) but enjoy a good read this book is worth seeking out. It might not be packed full of glossy colour photographs (colour is confined to a couple of small sections) but there is plenty of intelligent content. Like the subject it covers the book is slightly quirky but has an undeniable appeal.


David Wilkins said...

Hmmm. Interesting how the 2CV seems to have almost disappeared from British roads years ago, given that it was such a cult car. Can't recall seeing one for absolutely ages.

Fourwheelsteer said...

I'm sure I've seen one in the last month or so. Agreed you don't see as many as you once did. Being cheap cars probably put lots of them beyond economic repair a few years ago. I think the remaing 2CVs are probably cherished classics instead of everyday hacks.