Theme: Brochures – Pushing Tin

A decade apart, two brochures illustrate how Citroën’s marketers viewed the evergreen Tin Snail.

Image: Driven to Write
Image: Driven to Write

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.

Felicity Kendal and Richard Briars from the Good Life TV sitcom. Image: expressandstar
Felicity Kendal and Richard Briars from the Good Life TV sitcom. Image: expressandstar

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.”

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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].

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Theme: Brochures – Pushing Tin”

  1. “Their simplicity is simple – uncomplicated, not simple – unsophisticated.”

    It took me several attempts to parse that piece of marketing copy! Perhaps they’d have been better wheeling out the old “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” quote. And I’d never appreciated before that the 2CV and Dyane were sold at the same time.

    1. Yes, it’s a clumsy piece of copy, which could easily have been made clearer and dare I say, simpler. But I much prefer the 1975 approach to that of the later effort, which in my view demeans the car.

  2. The Dyane arrived in the UK first, in 1968 I think and was available into the 80s. It wasn’t until the fuel crisis that Citroen saw a market and re-introduced the 2CV, in 1975. So they overlapped for several years.

    I agree with John that the simplicity comment is hard work untangling. I think – maybe – punctuation was different, back; then – ! Also compared with, say, a Ford Escort, they weren’t in the least simple, either in terms of sophistication or complexity. Though they were designed to be worked on. But you don’t want to scare off the punters.

    Those cartoony illustrations suited the Citroen twins well and they lasted for several years. What today’s custodians of Citroen don’t grasp is that you can only play the FUN card if what you are actually selling also has depth. There’s a 2CV up the road from me driven by someone who looks like she’s driven them all her adult life (yeah, I know, lazy stereotyping). I’ve sort of nodded when she’s driven past and I’ve been getting out of my SM, but I guess she neither knows or cares about the connection. And that was the great thing about the 2CV – it could be loved by both the informed and the uninterested.

  3. There’s a whiff of David Hamilton to the ’75 brochure’s photography, if I may say so.

    Neither brochure really manages to capture what Deux Chevaux was really about, though the earlier effort was probably closer. Does the concept of any motorcar get blurred and dulled during very long production periods?

  4. The 2CV. First and only car to stop after we piled a 1960 Plymouth Fury into a sunken field when the wet road had suddenly locally turned to ice one Sunday evening in late November 1962. In fact no other cars seemed to be about at all. Words cannot adequately describe the 30 miles of houses lining the then main road along what we call the French Shore of southwestern Nova Scotia, officially the District of Clare. Home of a population of Acadians, descendants of returnees from what is now the USA after the Brits kicked them off the best agricultural land in 1755 (the Acadian expulsion), but eventually relenting as long as second class land a hundred miles away was OK. Louisiana has of course its French population of Cajuns, which is what Acadians sounds like if you say it in staccato fashion and drop the first A. That group didn’t return but stayed for the shrimp and soft-shelled crab instead of lobster and quahogs. Ancient ties mean people visit both ways in summer but ours invented a new way to eat potatoes, rapure, or rappie pie en Anglais. I dare you to try it. If your eyes prevent a tasting, dig into a helping of Acadian boiled dinner, where pig hocks are featured – it really is good.

    We were piloting the Fury to Yarmouth airport, having safeguarded it for its owner, a psychologist employee of my father’s who had flown home to New York City for a holiday. Now we were going to pick him up on his return. A short 60 mile romp each way on a clear bright night when we started out.

    Imperiously sweeping past a 2CV, whose occupants seemed to be gesturing wildly at us in the headlights as we passed, we motored on, the turbine whine of the V8 about the only sound. It was only a couple of miles further on that the Fury gently turned 90 degrees to the left, allowing one to observe the houses that had curtains closed and those that didn’t. A dab of oppo, and a snap 180 degree change of perspective, and I still remember one home had the TV on in the front room. A few squiggles more, wondering which house we would hit, or would it be the petrol pumps we slid past sideways at the closed service station, and then we were off the road heading over an eight foot embankment, at about 45 mph.

    Luckily, we slid down into an empty mini-field, the only one for miles! The Fury dug up turf as neat as you please with its offside wheels and came to a reasonably gentle stop. My brother complained I had rammed him into the rear left door. But that was it. We all got out and almost immediately the 2CV pulled up and two young women hopped out. From the top of the bank, in their sing song English accent, quite delightful I must say (and that same slightly hurt brother married a relative of one of the girls a decade later) they said they had waved at us to slow down. Oh well. Two cute young women in a 2CV to the rescue!

    They quickly roused the locals a few yards away who went for a tractor to tow the car out, and they also got hold of my father’s other professional employee, a sociologist who lived not five miles away. Somewhat surprised, he managed to get us to the airport on time in his car, a ’62 Chevy Biscayne six with three-on-the-tree and recent veteran of a jaunt to Seattle and back in 23 days for the World’s Fair, near 8,000 miles – try that in a Morris Oxford. Anyway, Phew, what an evening. Returned to the accident site where the Fury sat on the roadside, not even a dent to be seen and drove home! Luck. Or was it the Unitbody? The Fury’s owner was left wondering what all the fuss was about.

    The 2CV looked old in 1962, let alone in the 1970s. It hid its most advanced feature behind its doorsills, the coil spring interconnected front to back suspension in a tube which itself moves on helper springs to cause the interconnectedness, and which Issigonis and Moulton re-realized with liquid in the Hydrolastic BMC 1100. Unfortunately, they left off the additional mass damper the 2CV has at each wheel – probably forgot to look inside to see what those Frenchmen were up to – half the secret right there. Not only is the 2CV suspension sophisticated, it’s hard to tell just how it works by looking at a drawing on a page. Very clever indeed. For 1949, outstanding – compare to the 1948 Morris Minor, Issigonis’ coming-of-age, torsion bar front with grotty lever dampers and leaf sprung solid back axle. Average 1950’s British cars of the time were oxcarts with no flair at all, a dose of sidevalves here and there and vinyl/leather instead of canvas deck chairs for seats. No imagination.

    Still remember that 2CV engine puttering away at idle on that suddenly cold night at the top of the bank after we all scrambled up, and the girl’s faces in the outdoor lights of all the houses. They were warmly dressed in woollen jumpers, said the heater was awful! Note: the 2CV did not fishtail off the road as we had done! Front wheel drive for the win!

    1. A nice and heart-warming story, as always, Bill!
      Were 2CVs actually sold in Canada? I was very astonished when I spotted one in Vancouver a few years ago. Of course I had to stop and take pictures, but there was no one around whom I could have asked about the car.

  5. Douglas Land-Windermere would be flattered at the comparison in style, would he not? There was an exhibition of his work, at a library somewhere near Daventry.

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