A decade apart, two brochures illustrate how Citroën’s marketers viewed the evergreen Tin Snail.
1975: Two years after the oil embargo and deep into a period of political instability and economic austerity. Frugality was back, as was a yearning for a more authentic mode of living. In keeping with the mood music of the time, BBC sitcom, The Good Life portrayed a professional couple turning their backs on the rat-race, embarking on a ‘back to the land’ subsistence in their Surbiton semi.
Had lead characters, Tom and Barbara contemplated a motor vehicle, it’s likely they’d have opted for one of Citroën’s air cooled twins; the 2CV and Dyane, unpretentious cars pitched squarely at motorists on a budget.
Speaking of mood music, the 1975 brochure for the 2CV and Dyane could have been written by the BBC scriptwriters; “Small is beautiful, and a simpler life is a widespread ideal. The 2CV and Dyane are small, but not mean. Their simplicity is simple – uncomplicated, not simple – unsophisticated. Both 2CV and Dyane are individuals. Yet they conform completely to the spirit and needs of their times” However, the Slough-based copywriters adhered to the essential rubric that all good marketing is based upon an essential truth; the core of the 2CV’s honest appeal being eloquently summed up in one simple phrase. “Nothing superfluous, but everything there.”
Like the car itself, the brochure is a modest affair – six pages cover to cover. The copy highlights the model’s frugal running costs, durability and ease of repair. The lead image suggests a ‘summer of love’ aesthetic – two attractive young couples enjoying the simple pleasures of a ‘plein air’ picnic. There’s a hint of Manet’s ‘Dejeuner sur l’Herbe’ about the bucolic imagery – (possibly intentional). They look like they’re having a lovely time, at least until (one of the blokes most likely) embarks upon a toe-curling rendition of Peter Sarstedt’s ‘Where do you go to my lovely’ on his battered acoustic.
1985: The Tin Snail’s existence is now largely built upon charm as much as cheapness. So for those of you who thought the concept of ‘fun’ arrived with Linda Jackson, I have news. With this 1985 brochure sporting a Tintin comic strip theme, the fun factor is to the fore. The copy continues to maximise the car’s simple virtues but now Citroën felt the need to talk up the 2CV’s wacky appeal, telling prospective buyers; “If you like something different from run-of-the-mill car designs you’ll enjoy the 2CV. This tough, safe, comfortable and dependable little model has been made to adopt and survive. To bring fun to motoring. Something it’s managed to do very well indeed for almost 40 years.” Even more amusing was the upmarket Charlston model with two-tone paintwork, additional chrome, plusher interior trim and the sense of a thoroughly serious little motor car being given some party poppers and a pair of comedy trousers and being told to get on with it.
Time ran out for the 2CV, the victim of more stringent accident and emissions regulations, but equally the growing affluence of the market who came to view it as an anachronism. Production ceased at Citroën’s Levallois plant in Paris during 1988 and entirely in 1990. But frugality has never really gone out of fashion and as the political landscape grows ever more uncertain, has a modern day answer to the 2CV question ever seemed as necessary?
[DTW apologises for the Douglas Land-Windermere quality of the appended images].