We go back to a time before fun was a 24/7 obligation
Originally published by Sean Patrick on 19th June 2015.
It’s near midnight early in 1955 in a nondescript French suburb. The scene is an office, deserted except for one man at a drawing board. There is a sudden flash of green light.
André Lefèbvre (for it is he) : What was that?
Linda Jackson (for it is she) : Hello André. I’m Linda. Don’t stand there looking gobsmacked. You’re French aren’t you? Don’t we shake hands?
Of course, my apologies Madame … ouch!
Oops! Sorry André, couldn’t resist. Electric handshake! You’ve got to have a bit of fun now and then. So, this is the famous Bureau d’Études? I must say, it’s a bit disappointing. Bit scuzzy really.
It is where we work. We just need the basics. The richness is in our minds.
Oh dear, it’s true what I’ve read about you. Sounds like you’ve spent a bit too much time with your Existentialist pals on the Left Bank. Anyway, I wasn’t knocking your workplace. It just looks a bit on the cheap side – Carlos would love it.
Who are you?
I’m your boss. Or rather I would be if you’d lived long enough.
But you are a woman. And you’re wearing trousers.
Oh, get over it André. They told me you were a blue-sky thinker. Look, you know that film with Arnie in it where he comes back from the future to change the past … No, I suppose you don’t. Anyway, I’m from 60 years in the future and I’ve come back to give you a bit of advice for the DS you’re working on.
The DS? That is top secret! What do you know about ….?
I know it’s a bloody pain in the bum, that’s what I know. I’m sick of hearing those initials. Every day someone raps on to me about it.
So you are telling me my DS will be a failure?
I wish! No, it’ll be a frigging icon. We’re talking Top Ten sonny. Number One in some people’s books ……. though I’ve always thought it’s massively over-rated frankly.
So why are you here?
To suggest some changes André. Nothing radical. But just a few tweaks to make it a bit easier for those of us in the future who live in the less rarified atmosphere of the real world to go on selling Citroëns. Oh, and a chance to stick it to Yves and his bloody stand-alone brand into the bargain.
But if my DS is destined to be a success, surely you will have evolved your Citroëns of the future from it. Oh what marvels they must be. Have you dispensed with wheels? Do you perhaps have a picture of a Citroën from 2015?
Yeah .. rather no. Maybe best not go there. Oh, André, André. So naive. You really haven’t a clue about the car business have you? Sure, everyone loves the DS, but it was just too elaborate.
The DS is logical, not elaborate. There is nothing extraneous.
Well, there’s the bouncy suspension thing for a start.
Whatever. You just don’t need them. My engineers say that you can get just as good results with the usual gubbins. Why make it so difficult just for the sake of it?
It is not for the sake of it. It is a well considered technical solution to give a civilised and comfortable ride, combined with fine roadholding and very safe handling. If it is not relevant for your future, I can only assume that your roads must all be smooth and perfect and the drivers better.
Well, not quite, but our research shows that most the punters can’t tell the difference. Anyway, they don’t care about all that tech stuff, they just want to enjoy the ownership experience, they want a bit of fun. You remember fun, don’t you André?
We are talking about a metal construction weighing 1300 kilograms capable of travelling at a speed of maybe 140 kilometres per hour. That is a serious piece of engineering, not a dance hall on wheels.
Oh ‘dance hall’, listen to you André! Look, all I’m asking you to do is give us a bit of help for the future. I just want you to make a few changes to help us out shifting metal down the line.
Well, after you’ve ditched the hydrothingy suspension …
Hear me out André. After you’ve done that, have a word with your stylist guys about the … styling.
Stylist? Do you mean Bertoni?
Yes, either of them, Tony or Bert, just tell them to make it less …. less … clever. Don’t try so hard. It just shows the rest of us up. Put a bigger grille on to show corporate identity. And those froggy eyes…
The headlamps. You want them to go?
Oh no, make them look more froggy. Do frogs have eyelashes? Anyway, give the front a happyface. Trust me, people will love it. It’ll be fun. I might even buy an old one myself for weekends – as if, with Carlos on my case all the time. Look, I’ve brought some sketch ideas for the rest of the car that I had Mark work up. What do you think?
It looks like a Renault Frégate, or maybe a British Hillman.
Bingo! Exactly! You’re getting there. People like what they know, with maybe just a little twist. No-one likes a smartarse André. Remember that. Anyway, I’ve got to go. I’m off back to Nineteen Forty something to have a word with the guy who did the 2CV.
That would be me.
Really! I’d never have guessed that, Mr Serious. The 2CV’s very different isn’t it? It’s such a giggle. Such fun. It’s given us loads of great ideas. We’re working on a cheapo hatchback that a Chinese company make and rebodying it with a corrugated bonnet and painting it bright green. It’s a real scream. We’re calling it Too See Vee. Geddit? Anyway, no use talking to you about it in 1955. Au Reservoir André. See you later … I mean earlier. Another handshake? Oh, I see you’re a fast learner. Byeee!!!