Buying guide for the Citroen 2cv.
I decided to put together this 2cv buying guide as I see so many people buying 2cvs that they perhaps should have avoided.
There are a number of used 2cv buyer guides on the internet and I have helped write a number of them.
However they mostly concentrate on the lower end of the market, people who are buying a 2cv that will need a bit of fettling over the next couple of years.
This buyer guide is aimed at the 602cc late type 2cv not a 50s or 60s 2cv. A new owner looking for a “restored or rebuilt 2cv”, a 2cv that should need very little work, a turn key car price of £7,000 to £15,000.
I cannot cover everything you need to know but I hope it will give you a rough understanding of the pitfalls that can come from buying the wrong 2cv.
Unfortunately, over the years I have seen more times than I care to mention people buying a nice looking 2cv for a large sum of money but underneath it had seen better days. Just remember all that glistens isn’t gold.
The first thing is who are you buying from?
An enthusiast, a classic car dealer or a 2cv specialist…
The 2cv enthusiasts
The 2cv enthusiasts truly love their 2cv and generally want the best for their 2cv as they treat it like a part of the family. Giving their 2cv a name and celebrating its birthday once a year. Most of the time they are honest and trustworthy people.
There are some 2cv enthusiasts that do their own maintenance (which is not unusual in the classic car scene).
There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasts doing there own maintenance as it can save costs and some 2cv enthusiasts enjoy doing it.
Most owners only do the jobs they are confident doing and the more complicated jobs they generally take it to a 2cv specialist which is great.
Some 2cv enthusiasts do all the jobs on their 2cv including welding, and some do a great job.
However watch out for the enthusiasts who think they are a mechanical god and think putting body filler on rust is as good as welding.
They can be hard to spot unless you know what you are looking for. The biggest giveaway is blind confidence, jobs being bodged up and important jobs not being finished on their 2cv and not using the correct part to fix their 2cv.
Thankfully this type of 2cv enthusiasts are a rare breed.
The classic car dealer
I am not talking about classic car dealers selling £150,000 classic cars with a fully equipped workshop which will put an F1 team to shame or a classic workshop selling the odd car.
I am talking about the dealers that sell any classic car to make a quick buck, over the years I have seen (and worked on) many 2cvs brought from classic car dealers for a large sum of money, the 2cv is in shocking condition and the customer ends up paying around £4,000 - £6,000 a year later to put it right and get it running correctly. They usually have a lovely story in the description about the 2cv but it says nothing about what you need to know.
Unless you know what you are looking at please THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU BUY A 2CV FROM A CLASSIC CAR DEALER.
If you insist on buying from them, then please call us first and e mail over some photos so I can cast my eye over the 2cv.
Our advice is always free.
The 2cv specialist
There are a number of 2cv specialists around the UK and we are just one of them.
98% of 2cv specialists own and drive 2cv’s.
Most of them started as an enthusiast with a mechanical background and set their own workshop up specialising in 2cvs (Citroen A series).
If you are not sure if they are a true 2cv nut, just ask him or her about their 2cv and the places they have been (a word of warning, make sure you are not in a rush as you will find it difficult to get away).
Ask them to show you around and explain their work.
You should come away feeling that you were not given the hard sale and that you have been speaking to a true enthusiast.
One word of warning, not all 2cv specialists are good, over the years a number of 2cv specialists have come and gone, some set up doing 2cvs as they can see a way of making money but usually this type of workshop does not last long and normally closes within a couple of years.
Things not to get too excited about.
Low mileage. It's all about condition
It is nice to have a low mileage 2cv but do not pay a premium for it.
Generally low mileage 2cvs do not get looked at very often and spend large amounts of time not being used.
This means you will probably find that once you start using the 2cv, over the next year things will start going wrong.
I would rather have a 2cv with higher mileage and know that it was used regularly and was well maintained.
We have a customer who brought a low mileage 2cv from a classic car dealer and it turned out that the body came from a low mileage 2cv but the rest did not.
All that glistens isn’t gold.
As you look around at 2cvs for sale you will see the words restored, rebuilt and resprayed however they are just words, when I see those words I do not think good, somebody has done all the work, but more like, what have they covered up?
You need to know when and who?
If it was restored or rebuilt by an enthusiast then look carefully. As striping and reassembling a 2cv is fairly easy for a competent enthusiast. Just make sure all the right bits were fitted.
Doing all the welding is not an easy job. Most hobbyist welders find it hard, it takes years of experience to get it right, not just 1 or 2 past projects.
If you look carefully you might find things are not aligned right. One of the most common is the rear door.
If it has just been repainted then there will be no signs of bad workmanship as if they did cover rust and holes up with filler it can take a year or two to show.
Do not take a magnet with you to see were the filler is, as all repainted 2cv have filler and filler is good, as long a it is not applied over rust.
If it was repainted 1 to 3 years ago and it has not been touched up since and there are no rust bubbles anywhere then it probably was a good job done.
Anybody can make it look shiny however 95% of the work is under the paint.
Ask how much it cost to repaint the 2cv, if it was £1000. Then it was probably not a thorough job as you get what you pay for.
Look to see if there is any over spray on rubber and trims as to do a good job it is best to strip all the panels down before painting.
On the test drive.
Test drive the 2cv and make sure you are happy. If you are not sure about a noise or squeak then speak to a 2cv specialist, most of the time they are happy to help.
Put the heater on, if you get the taste of exhaust fumes then there is a good possibility the heads are blown which can be a pricey job.
Take it up to just over 30mph in 2nd then change into 3rd, if the gears crunch every time you do it then there is a possibility the synchro ring in 3rd is on its way out.
If the suspension makes a honking noise, there is a possibility that the spring tubes need lubricating.
What to look for.
I always say look for 2 things… rust and rust. Rust is the most expensive thing to get rid of.
Mechanically the 2cv is fairly bullet-proof. If things do go wrong, generally they are not too expensive.
I could go into fine detail on where to look for rust but if it has just been painted you will not see anything.
The long and short of it is, look for rust everywhere.
Do not be afraid to get on the floor and look under the 2cv.
The floors and sills should be clean, rust free and have no patch welding, if you are paying good cash for the 2cv it should not have any patch welding on the chassis or the body shell.
The devil is in the details
When I look at buying a used car I alway take photos with my phone so you can look back after, as it is a lot to take in on your first visit.
Look at the details, for instance if the right fixings have not been used to fix the battery correctly or has it got screws in the air filter to stop it popping up? If this is the case you need to think about what else is missing or not correct.
Most 2cvs you will find will not have a full service history. This is nice to have and good to prove the 2cv has been looked after but it is not essential. It is nice to know it had a new wheel bearing fitted 15 years ago but that does not have standing of importance today.
Spend time looking at the past 5 to 6 years of service history, look at the MOTs especially the mot failure sheets. If the owners do not have them, then look them up on the internet before you go to look at the 2cv.
A growing number of 2cvs are becoming exempt from having an MOT. It is always a good sign if the owner has MOTed the 2cv anyway, just as peace of mind. If the owner is selling the 2cv without an MOT, as it does not need one, this should set alarm bells ringing.
French Built not Portuguese Built.
You will see in some of the adverts it will say French built not Portuguese built. Let us explain.
Until 1988 the 2cv was mainly built Near Paris, France but from 1988 to 1990 the production moved to Portugal.
The 2cv built in Portugal was not as well protected against rust, this means if not well looked after by the first owner then chassis and body would go rusty very quickly. There are stories that rusty chassis' were being replaced by Citroen before the 2cv was 18 months old.
That was then, this is now, it does not matter as the newest of 2cv's is 30 years old. So if it is still around now it must have been well looked after or been rebuilt.
As I said many times before, it's all about condition.
There are 3 categories of 2cv chassis’
1. original chassis (fitted when the 2cv was new)
2. after market chassis (2cv chassis made by a third party)
3. remanufactured original Chassis (made under license from Citroen)
1. Original chassis.
This is a chassis which was fitted when the 2cv was new. The 2cv made in the 1980s had little rust protection so went rusty very quickly. The early 50s, 60s and 70s chassis had better rust protection so generally lasted longer.
2. After market chassis
In the late 80s and 90s in the UK a number of companies/individuals started to make the 2cv chassis. Some were galvanised and in the early days some were just painted black.
None of the after market chassis’ were fully tested for structural rigidity and safety.
If you find a 2cv for sale with a galvanised chassis fitted today 99 times out of 100 it will be ok. Some early examples were not made correctly with the front and rear legs at the wrong angle.
3. Remanufactured original Chassis (made under license from Citroen)
These chassis’ are made in the south of france by Mehari Club Cassis.
Using the original tooling from Citroen. It is the only place with a full set of tooling and permission from Citroen to produce the chassis under the Citroen name. This chassis is a genuine Citroen part and is made the same way Citroen used to make it. Please do not get this chassis confused with a similar looking chassis which is not an original manufactured chassis and is totally inferior, made from cheap steel.
A Mehari Club Cassis original manufactured chassis will come with paper work with a unique manufactured number which is also stamped on the chassis.
This galvanised chassis has a life time guarantee.
When Citroen designed the 2cv chassis it was very cleverly engineered.
It’s made from multiple thin layers of metal to make it light and to give it strength plus the 2cv rides better on an original chassis, I believe it will keep its value better as its is an original part.
Also VOSA/DVLA in the UK have being making noises over a number of years about bringing some of our laws inline with Europe and part of it is to stop the use of after market chassis’ on vehicles. As in Europe you cannot use an after market chassis unless it has gone through type approval.
The majority of 2cvs on the road today have had their chassis replaced over the years.
You can still find 2cvs with their original chassis on, generally they fall into 2 categories…
1. Where the 2cv has been owned for a long time by one keeper and the chassis has been cavity wax injected from new.
2. The low mileage 2cv sat in a garage for 25 years.
To give you same idea, over the last 10 years I have only sold 2, 2cvs still on their original chassis.
I would recommend not buying a 2cv if the chassis has had any welding done to it, unless you are buying it knowing you need to replace the chassis.
A good rule of thumb is if you do not know 100% when you are looking at and you are not buying from a reputable 2cv specialist then do not buy a 2cv on its original chassis.
The oily bits
Generally 2cvs are mechanically bulletproof as long as they are regularly maintained.
The engine and gearbox should not be covered in oil especially the sump.
If the sump is very oily, it could be the push rod tube seals leaking. This means the heads need to come off, which is not a quick job.
If the front chassis legs are oily it is more then likely to be the rocker cover gaskets, not a big job to do.
Check the oil level and how clean it is, oil is the life blood of a 2cv, so if the level is below the mark this can show lack of maintenance by the owner.
Which model to buy?
Dolly, Charleston ,Special, Beachcomber, SPOT, 007, etc etc, disc brake, drum brake,
I would recommend going for a disc brake model. As discs are just better than the drums, if drums were better brakes then cars would still have drum brakes all-round today!
Model type is up to you, the models are all about colour!
The Charleston can have a slightly different interior.
Some people will say one model is worth more than another as some models were only a limited run however do not buy a rare model because you think it is worth more as it is not, buy it because you like it.
Actually some of the rare models are less sellable at the top end of the market.
Do not choose a 1988 2cv over a 1984 2cv because it is 4 years newer as in my opinion it’s all about condition.
I wish you all the luck in looking for a 2cv and do not forget…
You are welcome to buy a 2cv from us but if you be decide to buy a 2cv elsewhere we are still happy to help, our advice is always free…