Morphologie du Monospace

The genepool of the Monovolume is littered with evolutionary cul-de-sacs. Today, we present two examples from a highly likely source.

Citroen C 10 'Coccinelle'. Image: caradisiac
Citroen C 10 ‘Coccinelle’. Image: caradisiac

It should surprise nobody to discover that Citroën were at the forefront of monospace research. Indeed, studies into such a vehicle began under the supervision of André Lefèbvre as far back as the early 1950’s. A series of mono-volume prototypes were built under the Prototype-C nomenclature, culminating in the 1956 C 10 seen above. This teardrop shaped four-seater, alternately dubbed Coccinelle or Goutte d’eau was constructed from a welded and bonded aluminium monocoque, weighing only 381 kg. The undershield was glued in place – a precursor to the early DS’s bonded roof panel. It was powered by a flat-twin 530 cc engine from the 2 CV, driving the front wheels. Suspension was by oleopneumatics. Said to be the first to be designed with the aid of computers, the body achieved a cd of 0.258. Unsurprisingly, it was decided the public wasn’t ready for such advanced thinking and it was decided to proceed with the more conventional (if visually bracing) Ami 6 instead.

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The 1960’s saw Citroën’s bureau d’etudes chasing blind alleys with the abortive C 60 and disastrous project-F before once again investigating the mono-volume in earnest with the G-Mini, a putative replacement for the 2CV. Robert Opron’s styling team created an innovative single volume shape which then morphed into the 1969 EN101 concept. Encompassing a diamond seating formation with the driver in the centre, two passengers seated on either side with the provision of a fourth folding jump-seat in the rear. Powered by the familiar flat-twin engine of 602 cc, the EN 101’s suspension was by double wishbones, torsion bars and a transverse leaf acting as a roll bar at the front with torsion bars at the rear. This concept which recorded a cd of 0.32 could be said to have inspired Citroën’s Eco 2000-series of research concepts initiated under Carl Olsen during the early 1980’s.

Given Citroën’s reputation for advanced engineering and styling, a monospace would have fitted their brand to a tee, yet despite these and many other innovative and (in some cases) quite attractive proposals, the chevron arrived late to market with cars that really didn’t move the genre forward. On the basis of these early concepts, it’s quite clear it wasn’t for a lack of ideas.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Morphologie du Monospace”

  1. Much as I love the Becchia designed twin, I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was stuck inside a monospace with it for a long journey, especially if I was sitting on it as in C10. From a nose heavy start, where Lefebvre was slightly injured when an earlier prototype overturned, the concept was honed to something that supposedly was pleasant to drive. Although respected, as with the 2CV, Bertoni was kept away from the project to avoid compromising it with his styling input. Was that good or bad? If you consider the Ami as Bertoni’s take on the 2CV, you might see Lefebre’s reasoning. Lefebvre was taken seriously ill in 1958, which effectively ended his career and la Coccinelle, so it’s unfair to predict how it might have turned out – in its final (though really interim) form it has the rudimentary detailing of a prop from a 40s SF film.

    As for EN101, it can be seen as inspired by C10, but maybe looking at the profile back to front. The diamond shaped seating pattern isn’t really space efficient and you can’t help thinking that, dull though the suggestion seems, adding a bit of width and conventional seating would have made it a thoroughly practical proposition.

    1. If we’re looking for early monospaces, we shouldn’t forget the Stout Scarab. Its prototype was presented 1932 and it ran in a small series from 1935 on (at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me). I wonder if Citroën’s people knew about this.

  2. The Dymaxion of 1933 showed up the instability of three-wheeled torpedo cars. I believe some of the Dymaxions had fatal car crashes. Presumably Citroen thought about that at least a little bit. Or did they know?

  3. The monospace concept is one that I’ve never felt compelled to vindicate. I like the delineation of noisy bits that motivate to those within the cabin, and luggage in its own section. Yes they could carry more people in a smaller space but how many people do you want to carry in the car and how often? The aesthetic and acoustic compromises are too much for me.

    I do like the bonded undershield of the C10, a very novel and intelligent solution.

    1. Mark: Good to see you back in these waters. Horses for courses I suppose. I’ve never felt the need to own such a vehicle, but I once moved house with a hired Renault Scenic. I didn’t have a lot of furniture at the time and it did take a couple of runs, but they do have their uses.

    2. I don’t mind sharing space with the engine – I once had a Bedford CA van and I quite enjoyed being able to remove the engine cover from the driver’s seat. But I do feel there is something unseemly (even potentially dangerous) about sitting on the engine, as in the C10 and, for example, the Toyota Previa.

    3. What I like about monospaces is the airiness and space they provide, if properly done. Plenty of headroom, slim pillars, low window sills. This is so valuable for me, I don’t mind sharing my space with non-human passengers. Today’s cars are sound-proofed well enough for my taste, it’s far away from any van-derived device with its engine between, below or behind the front seats. Of course, if you seek for Phaeton-like quietness, the boxes will have to be separated.

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