Is the Citroën 2CV Safe to Drive? (Continued)

Originally posted by: carcynic on 05 June 12 @ 08:37 PM EST

This is a continuation of an article about the Safety of driving a Citroën 2CV.

The first part of this article is here. Read it first. It also includes an interesting video produced by Citroen in the 1970’s.

This is an article about Automotive Safety. To find other Safety Related articles, use this Canned Search

Part 5: Safety Features the Citroen 2CV may be Missing can be Added
OK, so the 2CV is perfect, and no matter what happens I’ll be safe and comfy in my 2CV — Right? No. I’m not stating or implying that. The 2CV lacks many safety features that we take for granted in a modern car. To have a complete, fair, and rational discussion as I claim these articles are, I must point these out. I’ll also discuss some things we can add or change in a 2CV (or a Citroen AMI, or Dyane) to make it safer.

Obviously, one of the most basic vehicle safety systems is the seat belt. Citroen 2CV’s and most derivatives built after the early 1970’s have proper seat belts with shoulder harnesses. Some early models have seat belts that do not automatically retract. If you are having a 2CV restored for you, ask to have modern, retracting seat belts installed. “Universal”, Hot Rod, Classic VW, or Jeep seat belt systems fit very nicely in the 2CV. They should also be installed in the back seats. Better seat belts have a loop that purposely becomes un-sewn in a serious accident. This is intended to decelerate the passenger in 2 steps instead of one large one. If you can, you should get belts with this feature.

One more thing about safety belts — You have to use them for them to work. Yeah, you’ve heard it before, but it is of particular importance in the 2CV. In my opinion, other than just being fun to drive, cool looking, and easy to maintain, one of the best things about the 2CV is that it does not BONG. However, of course this means that, with the possible exception of the extreme body roll, it will not remind you to fasten your seat belt. Make using your seat belt a habit.

Headrests are NOT only for comfort or style. Neck injuries are one of the most common serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents. If you drive any vehicle without headrests, you are literally putting your neck on the line. Classic Citroen’s originally built for the German market are more likely to have headrests than those for other markets. Authentic 2CV headrests are still available and easily installed, but if authentic ones cannot be obtained, get some from basically any other small car, and have them modified to work.

Add a 3rd brake light. Especially early 2CV’s have very small tail lights. The large, nearly square tail lights on newer 2CV’s or 2CV “Clubs” are better, but research has shown that a Central High Mounted Stop Light (CHiMSL) is very effective at preventing rear end collisions [Link to be restored soon]. Modern, thin LED light bars can be installed so that they are nearly invisible when not illuminated, or they can be incorporated to look very nice on a “modernized” 2CV.

As mentioned in a previous section, the 2CV’s brakes are actually better than even modern economy cars, however, early models lack dual redundant braking systems. Except for show-only cars, and museum examples, early 2CV’s should be converted to the newer dual brake systems. Upgrading to front disk brakes is possible too, but usually done primarily for ease of maintenance, as even the all-drum 2CV’s have excellent braking under most conditions.

Early Citroën’s may also lack double-latching doors. If you like that “Ripple Bonnet” look, that’s fine, but discuss options for improving the door latch with your restorer/body man. Do not allow children to ride in the back of a truckette or in any vehicle without double latching doors. Again, always wear your seat belts, and make sure even back seat passengers are properly belted in — You don’t want you or passengers having a “falling out” with your Citroen.

Most 2CV’s – at least the ones with 12 volt electrical systems, can be upgraded to Halogen headlights simply by replacing the bulbs. Except for show-only cars/truckettetes, a 12 volt conversion should be done for early cars that were originally 6 volt.

With the possible exception of a 602cc to 652cc upgrade, do not put a larger engine in a 2CV. The chassis, brakes, and suspension are designed for the car as originally built. Do not lower a 2CV, or alter the design of the suspension. Doing these things essentially removes some of a 2CV’s defenses. Even back in the 1950’s Citroen did do extensive testing, and without significant engineering, test, and quality resources, the resulting vehicle would very likely be more dangerous. In any case, it would not be a Citroen anymore, and thus what is in these articles would not apply.

Part 6: Cars are not dangerous… Driving them is
The concept of a car being safe or dangerous is actually absurd. I have never seen a parked Citroen 2CV bite or even growl at anyone. It is not a question of the vehicle being safe or dangerous, it is the human activity that is safe or dangerous. Just as with riding a motorcycle, it is mostly up to the driver whether the activity is dangerous or relatively safe.

A 2CV can be viewed as an enclosed, 4-wheeled motorcycle. In essence, a 2CV (and a few similar vehicles) occupy a strange space between motorcycles and cars. A 2CV is more maneuverable than a Buick, but less maneuverable than a motorcycle. At the same time, it has less passenger protection than the Buick, but more than the motorcycle.

I suggest that everyone driving a 2CV take (and pass) a motorcycle safety course — wait — make that everyone driving — Period. What you learn will make you a more aware driver. It certainly can’t hurt.

Here’s a spoiler from motorcycle class that applies to older Citroen’s, including all 2CV’s: They do not have auto-canceling turn signals. Citroen felt auto-canceling turn indicators were an insult to the driver’s ability. Forgetting to cancel a 2CV’s turn indicators can be more dangerous than not using them. Consider this scenario (assuming Left Hand drive): A driver in the oncoming lane is waiting to make a left hand turn. He sees you approach the intersection with your right turn indicators on. He assumes you are going to slow, and make the right turn. He figures he has plenty of room to turn in front of you. If your indicators were on unintentionally (because you forgot to cancel them), and you proceed straight through the intersection, you are probably going to meet the chap in the middle of the cross street, and it’s not going to be a pleasant introduction. Assuming you live to think at all, you are going to think the other guy is a real expletive omitted for turning in front of you. Always use your turn signals — Always use them properly.

Also understand that braking is not the only response to a pending traffic situation. In a traffic emergency, we all wish everything would slow down so we had more time to think, but your brake pedal stops the car, not time. If you loose your momentum, you’ve lost the only way of moving the vehicle from a place of danger to a place of safety. As we saw in the first series, 2CV’s have ample braking, but only a fraction of the ability to accelerate as compared to most cars. If you loose velocity by braking that will be your final solution to the particular traffic situation. If you’re wrong, it may be your final action — Period. You’re not going to have time get moving again. Now obviously, certain (many) traffic situations call for braking, but when applicable, keep swerving in mind as an option.

Don’t stop driving when you are driving, and you stop. This is another spoiler from motorcycle safety class. Even when stopped at a stop light, keep alert to the traffic situation. If the guy approaching from the rear in the Hummer is looking around on the floor for his mobile phone, you are not a very good prospect to sell life insurance to. Stay in 1st gear, and have a plan for where you are going scoot to if necessary. The turn lane, the sidewalk, the shrubbery, or even the ditch are better places to watch the wreck from.

Exit paths that may not be an option in a normal car may be options for you in your 2CV. 2CV’s have excellent off-road capability. Use it if you have to. Trying to jump a curb in a Honda Civic or similar vehicle may result in tragedy, but a 2CV may just bounce over it. Even if you have suspension or other damage, driving off the road may be a better solution colliding with another vehicle. Remember also that 2CV’s do not have airbags. If you do have to drive through a minor obstacle like a light post or sign, you will not be injured by airbag deployment, and you will be more likely to retain control of your vehicle.

Think what you wish about the 2CV’s primitive technology, construction, and lack of pyrotechnics, but the truth is clear — a skilled, safety-conscious driver in a 2CV is far safer – to both himself and others – than a dangerous driver in a BMW X5, or any other modern passenger vehicle.

It’s not what you drive, it’s how you drive.

Additional Reading:

Part one of this article

Driving and the Integral of Danger

Did you know that US Air Bags are more Dangerous than European ones? [Link to be restored soon]

The Most Important Tool to Keep your Car Safe [Link to be restored soon]

Disclaimer: This article does not suggest that you purchase, drive, or ride in any particular vehicle, or that you refrain from doing any of those things. This article is to be read, and contemplated while not driving. It does not tell you what to do or not to do in any actual driving situation. It attempts to objectively convey information about automotive engineering topics only. Ultimately you are responsible for any use of this information, or any actions you take. Always drive safely.

Originally posted by: carcynic on 05 June 12 @ 08:37 PM EST