What’s the deal with the Citroën 2CV?

whats the deal with the 2cv

A few years ago, I was at a small Italian car show in St. Paul called Under The Crazy Moon which celebrates the grand opening of the Italian restaurant, Pazzaluna. Amidst the throngs of prancing horses and golden bulls blending together like some multi-million dollar traffic jam, I spotted this odd snail shaped commuter car off in the distance. As to not lose Jana, who was 50 feet away and making a mad dash in heels to see this automotive mollusk, I immediately blew off the Ferrari 308 GTB I was looking at and needed to investigate to see what the commotion was about.

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It was a perfect example of a Citroën 2CV (Deux Chevaux), the most iconic French car of all time. Soon more people were paying attention to the 2CV than the Aventador pictured behind it, and what can be only described as a small mob lead mostly by women and small children descended upon the tin snail. It’s no spoiler to say that it’s design is rather crude and that the car isn’t exactly fast with the best of them putting down a whopping 29 HP. So, we have to ask, why did people get so excited over this? What’s the deal with the Citroën 2CV?

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To understand how this strange little car came about, we have to look at it’s history. In the 1930’s, Citroën was trying to make a peoples car for the French automotive environment, much like Ford did with the Model T and the Germans had with the Porsche Type 32 for the “Volkswagen” program. Citroën’s first attempt, the wildly over engineered Traction Avant, put the company into bankruptcy. From there they ended up getting bought out by Michelin, the tire company. Luckily, Michelin had the same people’s car mission but preferred a plan that wouldn’t end in bankruptcy so they started back from scratch.

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Citroën’s new head of development courtesy of Michelin, Pierre-Jules Boulanger, created a litany of requirements for the car to achieve. It had to be able to haul four people, along with a sack of potatoes, while getting 80 MPG and be fast enough to get there on time. The maintenance costs had to be as low as possible and the overall price of the car had to be the cheapest in France at the time. Then just for good measure, you also had to be able to drive through a rough field with a basket of eggs without breaking any of them, which was a common occurrence for French farmers at the time. It was supposed to be everything to everyone, including the sizable French farming community.

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The R&D started in the late 1930s and, as one would expect with such heady goals, was rife with setbacks. It was as if every piece of the process was having a problem, but by 1939 Citroën was ready to unveil the car at the Paris Motor Show in October. Unfortunately, as we all know, if there was ever a poor year to release a car in Europe, it was 1939. In September, Germany invaded Poland and the Paris Motor Show was cancelled due to the start of WWII.

Soon after Germany was done with Poland, France was next on the chopping block. To keep the car out of the hands of the Nazis, who would most certainly confiscate it for their own use, the 2CV prototypes were stuffed away in a barn where a skeleton crew of engineers would continue development of the car for after the war. While WWII was a devastating tragedy, there was a silver lining as it allowed Citroën’s engineers to perfect their formula for after the war while keeping busy and out of the public.

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At the end of the war, nearly all of Europe was reduced to rubble and every manufacturer in the world just went through between 5-7 years with no R&D or new models at all. For the European brands, they were lucky enough to even have a factory to build in. Although Citroën’s factory space was minimal, they did have a fully developed people’s car and a country that needed a people’s car to get back on it’s feet. So upon it’s reveal in 1948, one would imagine that it would be met with endless praise by the press. However, the unveiling of the 2CV was met with nearly universally appalling reviews by the press calling it ugly and crude among many other choice words.

autowp.ru_citroen_2cv_38The opinions of the automotive press were completely disregarded and within months Citroën struggled to keep up with demand. There was a waiting list of three years, it was like trying to buy a Tesla back in 2017. It reached a point in the late 1940’s where the price of a used 2CV was more than that of a new one. Citroën had to give priority to customers who had extremely long commutes and couldn’t afford other cars first.

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Garnering the endearing name “étain escargot” or “Tin Snail”, the car became a national symbol of strength and the rebuilding of France. Despite it’s crude aesthetic of the most basic form of transportation, the car was endlessly innovative. The production process had been streamlined as much as possible, along with the FWD drivetrain and 8 HP flat-2 engine. Technology like radial tires that we use today debuted on this car, along with a speed dependent windshield wiper system and it also had the most unique suspension system ever fitted to a car. Instead of a leaf spring or any of the normal suspensions you’d see on a car from the 1940’s, the 2CV used a horizontal swinging arm style suspension.

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A spring mounted horizontally in a tube (marked 4 on the image above) was compressed as the wheel met a bump, a second spring would pull the rear wheel forward preparing it for the same bump in the road. This allowed the car to stick to the road as if it was glued to it despite extremely soft suspension and some truly comical body roll.

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By the end of the 1950’s, Citroën began to update the car and luxuries like locks on the doors, a metal bootlid (previously cloth) and more powerful engines began showing up. Then in the 1960’s Citroën released a 4WD version, called the Sahara. Being the avant garde company that they are, a conventional engine, transfer case and propeller shaft to the rear wouldn’t do. How would Citroën make their 4WD system?

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The simplest way they could think of, they added a second engine in the back. Although that sounds ridiculously over complicated, it actually made sense. The twin engine Sahara would allow the owner to control power between FWD, RWD or 4WD and if the car broke down, they wouldn’t have to search for some rare part in the middle of nowhere to make it run. Even better, if they had an engine failure in the middle of some inhospitable environment, like the Sahara, they could still limp it on one engine back to a town for repairs.

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Meanwhile back in the developed world, the standard Citroën 2CV was experiencing immense popularity, even over twenty years after it entered production. Right when sales began to slump for the first time, the 2CV had it’s second windfall in the face of crisis. The first 1970’s Oil Crisis began and overnight the most fuel efficient car on the road was more demanded than ever. A new generation of owners were falling in love with the 2CV throughout the 70’s and a litany of special edition models came out during this timeframe.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, 1981, (c) United Artists/courtesy Everett Collection

The car even made it into the 1981 OO7 Movie For Your Eyes Only and it had arguably one of the best chase scenes in the history of that series. At a twentieth of the price for a Aston Martin DB5, this is possibly the most affordable Bond Car available.

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In addition to performing well for young people driving on poorly maintained urban roads or farm fields, it also did very well in the roughest of terrain. Rally drivers were experiencing great success with 2CVs because what it lacked in speed it made up for in reliability and adaptability. It turns out that extremely long suspension travel allowed the car to have unparalleled off road handling.

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With this success, Citroën even created a race series in the 1970’s just for the 2CV called The Citroën Raid series. These were rallies across some of the most inhospitable environments on earth. The routes were epic marathons from Paris to Kabul, Afghanistan (10,252 miles) or Paris to Persepolis, Iran (8,388 miles). The key to this strategy was showing off just how rugged and dependable the Tin Snail was compared to it’s, more advanced, modern compatriots.

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Today it’s racing pedigree continues and there are still 24 hour 2CV endurance races being held on some of the most renown tracks in Europe such as Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Snetterton and Mondello Park. Although they’re held by 2CV owners clubs now, they did originally start with Citroën’s factory sponsorship. It’s still astonishing to see a car designed in the 1930’s being raced in 24 hour races nearly 70 years after first being produced.

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On occasion a car company will make a car that is absolutely timeless, a car that has a charm that absolutely transcends time and generations. Citroën’s 2CV embodies this to the fullest. It was meant to be the most basic form of transportation possible but it became the people’s car of France, it possessed a racing pedigree on par with the best and there are even children’s books about the car. The production of the 2CV went on for 42 years until it was finally ended in 1990 and even nearly 70 years later is still beloved by anyone who knows of it’s existence. Next time you see a 2CV be sure to tell it “Merci Monsieur Escargot!” and now you know what’s the deal with the 2CV.

EVENT: Under The Crazy Moon 2019

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If you’ve ever listened to just about any episode of the Carbitrage podcast, you might have noticed that there is a “super secret Wheels of Italy meet” that happens at Pazzaluna in St. Paul as celebration the restaurant’s birthday, the name of the event is Under the Crazy Moon. This event is, without a doubt, the best event of the year in the world.

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What makes it the best event though? Much like InterMarque, it is a combination of everything coming together perfectly on behalf of the event organizer. It is a combination of the location, the laid back atmosphere and, least of all, the cars. It is even more impressive because, instead of being a weekend show where it is much easier to organize things, it’s all done on a weekday. It is the perfect reprise from sitting behind a computer and wincing whenever the phone rings.

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This year was off year for the show, but if Under The Crazy Moon can still retain this level of quality on a bad day, it just goes to show that they’re definitely doing something right. The issue with the show wasn’t even the fault of the organizer, rather it was a combination of the weather being dodgy and the city digging a 3 foot deep trench on the main road used for the event.

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The organizer of the show creatively worked around this issue and instead of it’s normal L-shaped two street layout, they opted for a two and a half street layout creating a T-shape. This actually worked out really well and I hope they continue with the extra street extension in future showings. It allows the patio of Pazzaluna to become enveloped by the show, making for the dining experience of any italophile’s dreams, and makes foot traffic much more manageable, no more having to tip toe between a parked Countach and a DeTomaso Pantera on it’s way out.

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The cars themselves were wonderful, unfortunately, a lot of the really cool stuff stayed away due to the threat of severe weather. I don’t blame them because PDR on a Ferrari 250 GTO LWB would be a nightmare. That being said, everything else was in show. It was a large swath of Italia from Fiat 500s to Lamborghini Aventadors.

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One of the cars that really drew my eye was this Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT. The Alfa Romeo Twin Cam is in the running for one of the most beautiful 4-cylinder engines ever produced. That aesthetic beauty expands to the rest of the car and, much like a Datsun 510, it is a lot more than just a pretty face because these were among the first sports sedans ever made. Prior to cars like these you could get a 2-seater sports car or a family sedan. These however, they combined the best of both worlds and laid the groundwork for most car enthusiast’s favorite cars.

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Here is that aforementioned Alfa Twin Cam engine. It is an 8 valve DOHC engine that was in production from 1954 until 1994 in various form factors. This was a pioneering engine that brought 4 cylinders from being simple power mills in production cars to being something worthy of the word sporty. With this engine, race car technology made its way into the hands of the average Joe, or rather Giuseppe. Technology like aluminum metallurgy, a centralized spark plug location, hemispherical combustion chambers, a wide valve angle and 5-main bearings, were almost exclusively seen on cars like the Ferrari 500 Mondial in the mid-1950s when this engine was designed. This was an absolutely groundbreaking engine and it makes sense why it was produced for 40 years.

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On the other end of exciting family cars is a Ferrari Mondial. Other than the 400i, I can’t think of another Ferrari that is as universally unloved as this car. It doesn’t really make sense either because a Mondial is just a Ferrari 308 in 2+2 form factor. Unlike the 2+2 Z-cars, or really any 2+2 outside of a Supra, the Mondial actually pulls off the shape and actually has some design cues that are very much its own. Maybe it was never loved because Don Johnson, David Hasselhoff or Tom Selleck never drove them.

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This massive grille across the front of the car is a prime example of a Mondial only design. Sure, it’s not an Testarossa and it’s definitely not a F40. It’s not even Magnum P.I.’s car either, which is the cheapest of the desirable 80’s Ferraris. But, importantly, the Mondial is about 25% cheaper than Magnum P.I.’s 308. Can you honestly say that you’re getting 25% less car for the dollar? It’s 2+2 form factor also gives the perspective owner some ammo for convincing their significant other to let them get a Ferrari. “But honey, look, it’s a 2+2! We can bring the kids or your parents!” Just be sure to gloss over the rear seat comfort and maintenance costs of course.

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If maintenance costs aren’t your thing, then most Italian cars probably aren’t either, but there are some outliers, and this is a prime example, the criminally underrated Fiata (Fiat 124). It has the grown up and exciting feeling you get from an Italian sports car but with the bulletproof reliability of a Miata coupled with Fiat’s Multiair 1.4L engine. I don’t understand everyone’s gripe with the turbo lag either, first off, it is barely noticeable and second off, isn’t the Porsche 930 Turbo desired because of it’s turbo lag? These are a bargain of a buy, ludicrously fun, and I really can’t stress enough how awesomely reliable the Multiair engine is.

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The majority of the show had some of the best that Italy has to offer. This Ferrari 308 is a prime example. It has 240 horsepower roughly and isn’t the greatest at everything but it doesn’t need to. When you see a 308, it draws your eye, it gets you excited. That’s something that a lot of the modern Ferraris are lacking. Modern Ferraris are also lacking the ability to look great when paired with a mustache and Hawaiian shirt.

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When I was looking a bit more closely at the 308 I noticed something that I absolutely love about it. To be fair, I love everything about it but I discovered that it has the best door handle I’ve ever seen. It’s a simple loop and is a rare curve on the angular car, it is just painfully Italian. I never realized that I had never looked at the door handle of a 308 until this show and I am really glad that I did because it makes me feel like my life is complete now. Little design cues like this are why people are in love with Italian cars, it is such an easily overlooked piece and is perfectly designed. You could bet yourself that if this was an American car, they would have just slapped a door handle off of a econobox onto it and called it a day.

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That’s not to say that econoboxes are bad things. This Fiat 850 Spider is a variant of Fiat’s 850 series compact cars, which were the final evolution of the Fiat 500s and 600s. So, this little roadster is based on a car that was an econobox before the term ever existed. I never took a good look at these assuming they were just early Fiat 124s until very recently and I was completely wrong thinking there wasn’t much to them.

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The 850 Spider is actually a really cool car and it is completely separate from the 124. It has the tiniest rear mounted water cooled inline-4. Well not literally the tiniest but the 846 cc engine was barely longer than my forearm and it’s radiator placement is interesting to say the least, I am really curious how it get’s it’s airflow. There may be a “What’s The Deal With…” article about this car once I learn more.

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I am baffled as to why this particular Alfa Romeo Milano isn’t famous across the world. It is such a well sorted build and it feels like it has been around forever. The owner of this car built it with the attention to detail and quality that you usually see a Mk2 GTI or a Supra and those cars are significantly easier to build. The owner of this car could have simply owned a Milano and been good with calling it a day because it both existed and ran but he has taken it to the next level.

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Even the engine bay is fabulously detailed, there is nary an oil splash or stripped bolt on the car. Saying “I can’t find a replacement part” is no longer an excuse because building a Milano to this level is like doing a build with hard mode on, then getting a 100% completion rate. It makes me feel self conscious about my cars, I need to step my game up, This was without a doubt my favorite car of the show, in fact this is on my short list of favorite car in Minnesota.

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The beauty of Under The Crazy Moon is that it would be a completely average show at Monterey Car Week but, instead of just being another show happening at Car Week, it stands to be much better on it’s own. It is an example of things being great in context, it is the equivalent of finding a wonderful restaurant in a small town that you expected to be just Cracker Barrels and Waffle Houses.

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It is also important to note that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, it doesn’t pretend that every Italian car is a derivative of the F40, it acknowledges that cars like the Maserati Bi-Turbo, Fiat X1/9 and Lancia Gamma exist and that is very important. Nothing ruins a community like taking yourself too seriously, there’s a reason that Italian cars, Radwood and Japanese classics are en vogue while other things are on the decline. Enjoy yourself, have a laugh and meet great people, that’s the joy of Under The Crazy Moon.

 

The Big 3: Hot Hatches of the 1980s #BTT80s

In this new series we compare three cars from the major automobile producing continents America, Asia and Europe. Sometimes it feels like these three nations can only excel in one field or another but this is proof that everyone can make great cars if they put their minds to them.

The Big 3 1980s hot hatches

In this new series we compare three cars from the major automobile producing continents America, Asia and Europe. Sometimes it feels like these three nations can only excel in one field or another but this is proof that everyone can make great cars if they put their minds to them.

The Hot Hatch is a car that appeals to almost everyone regardless of economic privilege. Everyone from Jeremy Clarkson to the vaping teen down the street wants or owns one. The plucky nature of a car designed to scoot through downtown traffic but is fitted with a big engine and stiff springs is a lure hard to ignore by anyone with a pulse, and with good reason too. These cars caught their stride in the 1980s and, with Back to the 80’s just around the corner, we want to explore the best that each continent had to offer during the era. Here are our Big 3 Hot Hatches of the 1980s.

America: Dodge Omni GLHS

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After committing harder than anyone else to muscle cars right as the oil crisis and strict emissions standards came into existance, Chrysler Corporation found themselves suddenly with a lineup of big hairy V8s that were slower, less economical and less reliable than its import competitors. Chrysler’s first solution to the sudden unpopularity of large V8 engines was to sell Mitsubishi’s compact cars under their name. While their captive import program got people through the door to the salesfloor, it did nothing to further develop Chrysler’s branding. Tiring of selling captive imported Mitsubishis on their showfloor, Chrysler changed directions and worked to develop their own subcompact car, called the Omni for Dodge or the Horizon if you got the Plymouth.

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After an extremely roundabout development program, the Omni was ready for production by 1977. The car was a modified version of the Simca-Talbot Horizon, a brand owned by Chrysler for the European market. Soon after the Omni/Horizon went on sale, Chrysler found itself bankrupt from their issues years earlier, sold off Simca to Peugeot and had it’s first government bailout. Lee Iococca, who was looking for a way to save Chrysler, saw promise in small cars and let the American Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon live on while he spearheaded development of the K-car. The Omni’s chassis, called the L-Body, did stave off the debt collectors long enough for the K-Car to go on release.

“I wanted to take the plug-ugliest little box Chrysler made, and turn it into something that could whip a Ferrari or a Porsche, at a price the average guy can afford – the guy making $20,000 or $25,000, with a wife and couple of kids.” – Carroll Shelby

At the same time that Chrysler was having their debt crisis, Carol Shelby and Ford were having a crisis themselves while in a trademark dispute over the Cobra name. Once Chrysler was stabilized Lee Iococca wanted to breathe some life into the Omni platform, he approached Shelby and asked him to make a hot Omni. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1987, Shelby was quoted as having said “I wanted to take the plug-ugliest little box Chrysler made, and turn it into something that could whip a Ferrari or a Porsche, at a price the average guy can afford – the guy making $20,000 or $25,000, with a wife and couple of kids.”

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What did Shelby do? He took the “plug-ugliest little box Chrysler made” and then did some simple hot rodding tricks and tuned it up to 110 HP. Frankly, I should note that I object and I think the Omni has one of the best hot hatch designs ever. The car was called the Dodge Omni GLH, which at face valve us a reasonable name likely meaning GL trim and H for high output. That’s not what it meant though, it literally meant Goes Like Hell. Soon after the release of the GLH in 1984, Carroll wanted more and he got his hands on a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger. Then he did the unthinkable in 1985, bolted the AiResearch turbo onto that Chrysler 2.2L engine and at 7.2 PSI it made 146 HP.

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In the right hands, the 146 HP Dodge Omni GLH certainly could whip a Ferrari or a Porsche but Shelby wasn’t done. Two years later, by 1987, he released the GLHS. Again, not meaning GLH-Shelby but meaning “Goes Like Hell S‘more.” 175 HP at 12 PSI of boost with a full frontal front mount intercooler gave the car the power to set a 0-60 at 6.7 seconds, on 1980s tire technology. That was enough to keep up with a Ferrari 308 and a Porsche 911 Cabriolet.

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Shelby certainly had done his job and he also unleashed himself on just about every Chrysler product during the 80s. Not only did the Omni GLH bring Chrysler back from the malaise but it set up their future with cars like the Dodge Spirit R/T, Plymouth CSX and of course the SRT-4.

Asia: 3rd Generation Honda Civic Si/CRX Si

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While the Dodge Omni brought back straight line performance on a budget, which were the hallmarks of the muscle car era, it was Honda that really became a cult classic. It wasn’t an immediate thing though, it wasn’t because the manufacturer gave all of the best tuning shops in the world dollar cars and said have at it, it was a much slower burn. The Honda Civic Si caught it’s traction as the hand-me-down car, parents bought them for first cars and gave them to their children, who then created this whole culture around them.

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Of course this wasn’t by accident, Honda’s roots were firmly planted in two fields, reliability and performance. This all happened because the Civic was just that great of a little car. After the war, Honda helped get Japan on its feet with reliable little motorcycles, they were pretty good too since they won the Isle of Man TT in 1961. So when Honda made their first actual car, naturally it was a cheap little, reliable sports car, the S500. Eventually they came to America and started to make subcompacts during the malaise, the car was the Honda Civic.

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By the 1980s the Civic was a mainstay in American culture and after some experiments with the slightly spritely Civic S and the cute gas-mizer the CRX, Honda dropped a bomb on us. The Honda CRX Si, and later, the Civic Si. When it released in 1986 the CRX Si had sporty figures not seen in years. As Chris Hoffman from Japanese Nostalgic Car likes to point out, the original CRX Si had an infatuation with the number 91. It had 91 hp, 91 lb-ft, 1491 cc displacement (91 Cubic Inches), a 9.1 second 0-60 time and weighed 1900 lbs.

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All together this made for a very sporty car. It was able to feel fun and spritely, while getting 35 MPG in the city. It did it reliably too, which even to date, is a rare thing to find. In America, the gears started turning once kids began to find out that these cars had deep racing roots to them and extensive catalogs of performance parts from Japan available. By the early 90’s, the car to own was a modified Honda Civic. The tuner bug spread like wildfire but it was little known that, the bug had already invaded other parts of the globe.

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In Japan, Honda had been doing a Civic One Make race since the 1970s, creating endless inspiration for boy racers then in 1985 Honda tuner Spoon, won its class in Super Taikyu touring car racing, and was even able to beat half the field of cars above it. The bug America had caught in the 90s, had already hit Japan in full force by the mid-80s. Companies like Mugen, Spoon, Junction Produce and others were able to create figurative rocket ships out of the humble Civic Si. The Japanese highways would see the Civic become the favored platform of the Loop Tribe racers, or Kanjozoku. The nimbleness and zippy nature of the cars felt right at home.

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This hotted up little econobox created it’s own cult following, for people in America, it felt like it came from nowhere. For those in the know though, they saw this coming, they knew it was in Honda’s DNA to make something great. Since 1986, the Civic Si has been a mainstay in American hot hatch performance.

Europe: Mk2 Volkswagen Golf GTI

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The Honda Civic Si is a wonderful little hot hatch, and so is the Dodge Omni, but none of those would have ever existed if it wasn’t for the Germans. Much like the old proverb “the germans invented the car, the french perfected it and the Japanese made it reliable,” the original hot hatch was the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The original GTI, planned for 5000 units, was a run away success with total sales of 462000 units. To change such a perfect recipe is not only playing with fire, but playing with fire next to a leaky propane tank.

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How does one improve on such a great design? Leave it alone as much as possible. You refine the rough bits, up the options and make deadly sure that you don’t upset the product’s balance. With the curb weight only increasing around 100 lbs between the final year of the Mk1 and the first year of the Mk2 GTI, the car felt 96.3% as sprightly as the original one did, but it did so with a level of refinement that was just right for a hot hatch. If that wasn’t enough, the car also dropped it’s drag coefficient by 8% so it would actually perform better over the original model at high speeds.

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Volkswagen’s gamble on updating the Golf paid off, the car continued to top sales and best of lists around the world, even when everyone else was getting into the “GTI” market. That term right there, “GTI Market,” might be the greatest boon to the GTI, it created it’s own market. It wasn’t the first fast subcompact but the GTI was a watershed car and after it came out, competitors came out of the woodwork. Some even took the name; Suzuki, Dacia, Citroen, Peugeot, Mitsubishi, Nissan. Nearly everyone used the GTI moniker at some point.

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Regardless of who used it, the name GTI stuck with Volkswagen. Whenever it seemed like the imitators were beginning to keep up, the GTI kept getting better. After existing for the first half of it’s life with the original 8 valve engine, the Mk2 GTI received it’s first major engine upgrade, A 16 valve DOHC 1.8L engine. It replaced the old 8 valve and it came with a power bump from 110 HP to a massive 137 HP. The 8.9 second 0-60 time of the old hat 8 valve was slashed down to 8.3 seconds, faster than a Porsche 944.

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There is a very strong argument to be made that the Mk2 GTI is the peak of the Volkswagen GTI’s lineage. It perfected what the Mk1 started and perfected it. It was more comfortable, faster and kept it’s looks. It did all of this, yet, it didn’t lose it’s direct feel that the newer models have struggled with. Regardless of how the later cars stack up against the Mk2, the formula has stayed true since there is word that the GTI is going to outlive the Golf.

EVENT: InterMarque 2019 Part 2

In part 1 we talked about what made the InterMarque show particularly special, the things that many other shows miss the boat on, the ambiance of the show, the lot of it. We didn’t spend much time on the cars themselves though. Some shows, that would be entirely permissible because just about everything that needs to be said about an Evo X has been said. InterMarque though, every car could have an article written about it, so lets take a look at some of the highlights that we noticed in the show.

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In part 1 we talked about what made the InterMarque show particularly special, the things that many other shows miss the boat on, the ambiance of the show, the lot of it. We didn’t spend much time on the cars themselves though. Some shows, that would be entirely permissible because just about everything that needs to be said about an Evo X has been said. InterMarque though, every car could have an article written about it, so lets take a look at some of the highlights that we noticed in the show.

r107 mercedes lineupSince Mercedes was the featured Marque of the show this year and we really didn’t talk about them in part 1, it’s probably right that we spend some time looking over the silver stars in show. One of the cars ubiquitous to the glitz and glamour of the 70’s and the 80’s was the R107 SL. Due to their popularity during their era, the used car market was saturated for decades, and it can be argued that it still is today. That means, you can get these for pennies on the dollar compared their predecessors and successors, yet still have a car more reliable than a modern SL.

R107 Euro BlackI stand by the belief that the Euro bumper R107 is currently one of the best classic Mercedes purchases you can make right now. For about $13,000 you can get yourself a well sorted driver’s car. While the American front ends look a bit on the homely side, the european front end really makes the car come together. The Euro R107s make me wonder, why did anybody buy the C3 Corvette when this was around?

560SEC AMG WidebodyThis cocaine cowboy AMG Widebody 560 SEC was, without any doubt, my favorite Mercedes in show at InterMarque. Like the R107, there are endless C126 examples floating around the world, drive though Edina in June and you’ll find at least a half of a dozen octogenarians scooting down to the bingo hall or country club in them still. Their prevalent existence makes them easy to overlook but if you were a new money yuppie in the 80s, this was the car to have if you wanted a GT car.

560sec amg rearOf course, like today, most new money types weren’t ones to leave well enough alone. If you wanted something with more power and aesthetics to standout from the regular crowd, to “flex” if we shall be so bold to use the parlance of our times, then you would go to one of the coachbuilders of the era to take your car to the next level. The car shown above was a widebody AMG example with color matched deep dish wheels and grille. Before becoming part of Mercedes, AMG was at the forefront of quality for these coachbuilders and managed to stay tasteful while doing so.

r113 Pagoda Blue Front.jpgWhile the R107 and C126 cars above are both very good Mercedes products, there were several Pagodas in show as well. While Pagoda is the adapted nickname for the car, the technical term is W113 Mercedes SL chassis. A very strong argument could be made that this is the best Mercedes ever made. The highest technology of the era being only outshined by the extremely high build quality, the Pagoda deserves an article in of itself.

Red Pagoda Rear.jpgThis may be one of the most perfectly proportioned cars ever made. It was designed to not only have a beautiful form but to be perfectly functional as well. One of the best features of the pagoda is that is is surprisingly affordable. Note I didn’t say affordable, but surprisingly affordable. They’re still in the $40k range for a good one but given that there are six R107s for each pagoda ever made and then accounting for their reliability, beauty and quality, it begins to be rather shocking that they’re only that much.

Volvo P1800While we’re on the topic of affordability and quality, InterMarque also had one of the largest showings of Scandinavian made cars outside of going to a Volvo specific meet. You can really point to any of the Scandinavian brands and find a litany of collector cars that are ready to blow up in value but none strike a chord as much as the Volvo P1800 did. Styled under the tutelage of Pietro Frua, this car took the sports coupe form factor and built it to Volvo’s rigorous reliability standards. It seems to have worked because the highest mileage ever attained on a car was in a Volvo P1800 with 3.2 million miles on it. The P1800 has Carbitrage’s highest Buy This Now ratings because they’re almost all under $20,000. Beautiful, reliable, cheap and fun; how could you not want this for that price?

Volvo Duett.jpg

The P1800 was one of those cars where Volvo got a bit wild, but going into the complete opposite direction was this Volvo Duett. Designed as a delivery truck, this was the only Volvo to sport a ladder frame chassis. This allowed the truck to have custom bodywork put on with ease, so it was commonly used as a pickup, ambulance and as the general workhorse of 1950s Scandinavia. It isn’t much of a surprise to see these floating around still when you combine Volvo’s build quality with one of the most durable chassis designs available. Jana couldn’t get over how cute this truck was and I couldn’t get over it’s patina. 60 years after production, it’s still unrestored and trucking along. These plucky little Volvos really could get through anything.

Saab 96.jpgAnother Swedish brand was in show as well. Saab, another one of those brands that are vastly undervalued. For some reason, people forget about these cars and I can’t seem to figure out why. To the engineering nerd car collector, the Saab 96 is like a wet dream. The car was front wheel drive and had double wishbone front suspension with a trailing U-beam axle in the rear. The transmission was column shifted and they had an overrunning clutch which allowed the transmission to spin faster than the engine. Early models had an water cooled 2-stroke inline three cylinder engine with the radiator located behind the engine which was weird. Of course you can only make something so weird before it doesn’t sell so they eventually moved to four stroke four cylinder engine.

saab 96 v4 engine.jpgOf course not to be confused for a normal company, they didn’t do an inline 4, but they used a V4. The exact engine they used was the Ford Taunus V4. This engine is one of six V4 configurations ever put into a car. I can actually list all of them in one sentence without creating a run-on list; Ford, Porsche, Zaz, Lancia, AMC and the Christie GP Car. With both the inline-3 engine and the V4 engine, Saab cleaned up in rally racing. It won the inagural 1973 WRC championship, again in 1976, a litany of individual races and currently holds the landspeed record for production 750cc engine cars. Along with the Lancia Fulvia and Morris Mini, the Saab 96 is considered one of the greatest 2WD rally cars of all time.

Saab SPG.jpgThere was so much to see at InterMarque this year, to take it all in you just have to be there in person. This show proved to be absolutely stellar and regardless of your distance from the Twin Cities, it is worth every second of the drive there. Needless to say, we will be marking InterMarque as a must see next year.

EVENT: InterMarque 2019 Part 1

Sometimes I really dread going to a car show. I find myself having dubstep blasted in my earhole and having my olfactory system assaulted by Haggis and Watermelon vape smoke. Meanwhile I’m trying find some way out of that asphalt hell before I develop melanoma.

InterMarque Vintage Foreign Car Show is not one of those shows.

Morgan Morgan Land Rover.jpg

Sometimes I really dread going to a car show. All too often I find myself standing in a boiling hot parking lot while some mouthbreather babbles on about some grievance they have with the show. Meanwhile I’m having dubstep blasted in my earhole and having my olfactory system assaulted by Haggis and Watermelon vape smoke. Honestly, some shows could be nothing but vintage Japanese cars and Group B rally cars, yet I still find myself trying find some way out of that asphalt hell before I develop melanoma. InterMarque Vintage Foreign Car Show is not one of those shows.

Citroen DS and Traction Avant

In fact, I have to say that my first visit to an InterMarque show was the farthest thing from the scenario I mentioned above. It was a perfect combination of factors that all came together in just the right way. A car show like a real estate investment, while the house itself is important, you can always improve that, you can also improve the yard but the hardest part to improve is the location. If you nail all of those aspects, it is a perfect house, and InterMarque certainly nailed it. It really wouldn’t be out of place at Monterey Car Week, not only are the cars on caliber of some of the crop that you see at Car Week, but the character of the show and it’s location would fit in just as well.

Beat Street1.jpg

Every spring, InterMarque car club and the City of Osseo shut down 4 blocks of the quaint downtown area of the city for an annual spring car show. The cars range from RHD Honda BEATs to European rarities like a Borgward Isabella. The true beauty of the show however is the location. You have the cars lining down 4 blocks of the city, allowing for easy foot traffic and lots of space to take pictures and gawk. There is a plaza in the middle of the show where small businesses sell their wares and, more importantly, there is plenty of shade and places to sit. You really feel comfortable at this show and that’s something that a lot of shows miss the boat on.

Isetta Gyros.jpg

It’s the small businesses along the street make the show feel like something magical. If you tire of constantly walking and baking in the sun, you can just pop into an antique shop or stop for a gyro. It makes you feel like you’re actually benefiting the community rather than being a nuisance, the constant anxiety of having to cut the show short because someone decided to flex their rev limiter skills is non-existent. When you leave the show, you feel happy, rather than drained. On the way home we were actually remarking about how much we loved the show, rather than complain about who did what.

Volvo 145

There is a sense of camaraderie amongst fans of the show. These are the people who represent what Carbitrage is all about, it’s for people who love the automobile in all of it’s forms. It’s a place where you find a Triumph 2000 owner talking to the owner of an S2000 and instead of belittling each other or talking at each other, they are just enjoying each others company. I even had deeply enlightening conversations about the various coachbuilt variants of the Citroen DS and about the Bosch Jetronic fuel injection system.

Triumph TR3As

It isn’t just the Carbitrage staff and a group of our fans that love the meet. You’re just as likely to see a 17 year old kid losing their mind over a Honda BEAT as you are to find a white haired man with a beard doing the same thing over these Triumph TR3s. It reminds me of when I was a kid going to Hot Import Nights for the first time and getting jacked up on all of the free cups of NOS energy drink. Every car is something special, you feel like you need to look at every single thing.

Type 3 Front.jpg

That is another piece of the of the mosaic that makes this show so good, everything pays off to look at. Some cars that are obviously cool, like this Volkswagen Type 3. They immediately draw your attention and reward you when you get to the details. You go in expecting something excellent and you aren’t disappointed.

Humbler Super Snipe.jpg

Other cars in the show pay off once you get up close to them. To be entirely honest, I was even thrown off by this car and I pride myself on knowledge of the most obscure cars I can fathom. Richard Halkyard spotted it from half a block away, it is a Humbler Super Snipe. While it looks like an upscale Checker Marathon from the outside, under the hood it gets really interesting.

Humbler Engine

It sports an overhead valve inline six, which on it’s own doesn’t sound like much to write home about, but if you consider that it has hemispherical combustion chambers and a crossflow head design, it suddenly becomes very interesting. Now add that this was designed in the UK in 1958 and was put into a slightly upscale but still largely affordable car, it becomes even more noteworthy.

Super Snipe Badge

In 1958, outside of Chrysler’s Firepower V8 engine, a hemispherical OHV cylinder head could only really be found in upscale marques such as Jaguar, Porsche or the incredibly rare MG MGA Twin Cam. The crossflow design, where the intake is opposite of the exhaust on the head, is something we take for granted today but it wasn’t a common design on six cylinder engines until the 1980s, and it was still usually only seen on high performance vehicles for another decade.

Celica Supra Front.jpg

As great as cars like the Humbler Super Snipe were, going through a completely esoteric show full of things most car enthusiasts have never heard of can feel like it isn’t relatable sometimes. InterMarque wasn’t just completely bizarre European classics, cars like this Mk2 Celica Supra and NA Miata were in show as well. The Japanese representation is still small at InterMarque but it has been growing year over year. What is lost in quantity is made up for with quality though because not only were the cars like these two cars mere examples of great Japanese cars, but they were among two of the best examples I’ve seen yet in Minnesota. This Supra on it’s own could contend at Japanese Classic Car Show out in California and the Miata was no slouch either. Lining the block you could still find the occasional Datsun or Mazda tucked away in other spots as well and they were welcome just as much as the British roadsters were, it honestly felt really good seeing a show that didn’t discriminate one brand over another.

2CV Spitfire Rear

There was so much to see at this show, it could have not been any better, we will be updating with a second part that is more focused on the cars in show. It was just pertinent that we talk about what really made InterMarque great. The location, the attitude, the community, it isn’t just one aspect that makes a show great but everything put together. Like our real estate reference in the beginning said, the house, the yard and the location all make for perfection.  If you’ve never been to InterMarque, you’re missing out on one of the best shows of the year and you owe it to yourself to check it out next year.

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