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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.

















:: [ A brief History of Andre Citroen and of the 5CV Citroen Model C ] ::
(Written in 2001)

Part 1/.  Brief History of Bozi Mohacek's 1921 Citroen 5CV " L'Escargot "
Part 2/.  Andre Citroen and his introduction to double chevron gears.
Part 3/.  Andre Citroen and his connection with Mors and Munitions
Part 4/.  Formation of the 'S.A. Andre Citroen' Car Company.
Part 5/.  Brief History of the Model C 5CV Citroen

Part 5/.  Brief History of the Model C 5CV Citroen

The next saloon Model to be launched in 1921 was perhaps the most famous Citroen of the vintage period, this being the Model C. Apparently a retrograde step in as much as the car was much smaller and less powerful, having only two seats and tiny engine of 856cc, it was nevertheless designed with a specific untapped market segment in mind, - women. The Model C was first shown at the Paris Motor Show in October 1921 and the first production models came off the line at the leased, and later purchased, Clement Baynard factory in Paris Levallois in May 1922. Much of the advertising by the Wallace and Draeger agency was aimed at women and at what an easy task it would be for a woman to drive this car, which indeed it was the case.

The design of the Model C was carried out by Edmond Moyet who like his direct boss Jules Salomon had been poached from the Le Zebre. (Moyet was also privately working on his own design of a ‘cyclecar’ which was a few months later to become the Amilcar, and Solomon was subsequently to move to Peugeot and later Rosengart). The brief had been to produce a car that would be below the 5CV fiscal tax bracket and yet be a proper little car rather than the 'cyclecars' prevalent at the time. The Model C was initially launched as a two seat open tourer with a pointed rear 'torpedo' bodywork not dissimilar to the short lived B2 'Caddy'. The model only had one door and this always on the passenger side.

Two updates followed during its production run, these being the Model C2 and Model C3. All had the four cylinder 856cc sidevalve engine and three speed gearbox. Ignition was originally by coil but in 1922 reverted to Citroen practice of magneto to alleviate cold French winters and flat batteries. The Model C was rated fiscally in France as 5CV (5 Chevaux Vapeur, French horsepower), which related to 7.5 fiscal British horsepower, and which was 11 BHP at 2,100 rpm. All had braking to rear wheels only, which makes stopping interesting; foot pedal to a transmission brake on the gearbox, and a hand lever with rod connection to rear drums. Cars were fitted with 6V electric starting, dynamo, battery, parking and main lights, Bosch magneto, had gravity fed 18 Lt petrol tanks, thermosyphon cooling (no fan or water pump until nearly the end) and had Torque Tube drive to a 'chevron' differential. Suspension was quarter eliptics all round; very bouncy but ideal for crossing fields!

The Model C came in three primary body types: Tourer, Cabriolet and Cloverleaf, all with fold-down hoods. The early Model C Tourers were generally bright yellow and got the name 'Le Petit Citron', the little lemon. Owners of the period referred to the Model C as "Cul de Poule" (hen's bottom) because of the pointed shape of the rear bodywork. The first Tourer had a 2.25m wheelbase and was designed as an open two seater with no 'weather gear' for the windows. The chassis initially rather flexible was later reinforced for the C2, and a model having a third seat was also introduced. This, rather than having two seats side by side, had the passenger seat offset in the rear, with a collapsible seat next to the driver; a somewhat cumbersome arrangement. The C2 chassis was also used to introduce the Cabriolet, but it was only when the wheelbase was lengthened to 2.35 and provided with larger tyres as the Model C3 in 1923, that the Cabriolet was really launched.

The Cabriolet had a two piece openable windscreen and waterproof sliding glass windows which could be raised and lowered by a strap. (The reason for the openable windscreen was because, as wipers had not been developed, it was necessary to open the screen in heavy rain to see the road.) The interior was relatively opulent with inlaid wooden dashboard with an addition of a speedometer, wooden door cappings, door pockets and brush matting carpet. The bench seat and hood were leatherette.

Many people refer to the Model C as the 'Cloverleaf' (Le Trefle) but this is incorrect. The name 'Cloverleaf' only refers to the three seater car which was introduced on the later C3 chassis to replace the earlier folding seat variant. In the new arrangement the third seat was located like a clover-leaf in the centre of what had been the boot behind the two front seats, with small compartments each side. The rear bodywork was altered to have a rounded back and the spare wheel was transferred from the drivers side to the rear. By 1925 the Tourer was largely out of production and all models had rounded rather than flat wings. Additional Model C bodies in small numbers included  the open Normande 'pickups' favoured by the farming community, the Boulongere delivery vehicles and some special bodies cuch as the enclosed coupe de ville.

Citroen's British operations commenced in London in 1923 although it was not until 1926 that the Slough factory come on line to assemble Model Cs, if only for a short time before the model was discontinued. The factory assembled the chassis and engines made in France but the bodies were made in Slough and had a British flavour. They were not yellow but a more traditional British maroon. Some specialist sport bodies were are also made.

Together well over 88,000 Model Cs were eventually manufactured between 1922 and 1926. Model Cs were well made and the costs of production of the later models rose to become practically the same as that for the larger Model B. Despite continuing demand, the Model C was discontinued in 1926 and Citroen made no more small cars until the introduction of the 2CV in 1948

Model Cs are now frequently the 'entry level' to vintage cars. They are slow to go and slower to stop, but are great fun mainly because they 'look right' for a vintage car, more so than many other utilitarian looking cars of the day. Tourers are the most common, Cloverleafs are the most recent, and Cabriolets are the most unusual. Purchase prices in the UK vary quite widely. Barn finds are fetching £2 -3,000, unrestored and old restorations are fetching £3 - 4,000 and recently restored examples £6 - 8,000. Prices much over £9,000 are expensive. But then you may want one when there are none about because their owners tend to hang onto them ! (Written in 2001.)

Fast-forwarding into the 1930s, it is sad to report that the meteoric rise of Andre Citroen and the Citroen car company was dramatically slowed down by the 'depression' from which Andre Citroen did not recover. Despite many successful intervening models and despite the development of the front wheel drive 'Traction Avant' concept, Citroen's finances had become overstretched, not helped by the fact that being a very heavy gambler he was losing enormous personal and apparently company funds. The decline of Citroen S.A. during this period is a lengthy story in itself but briefly summarised, the company was eventually not able to pay its bills and one of his biggest creditors and a friend Edouard Michelin was invited to take over the running of the company. Andre Citroen was legally required to retire and to take no further part in the running of the company. Although still a relatively young man at 57 Citroen did not take well to retirement and became very dispirited. His health declined rapidly and on the 3rd of July, 1935 he died from stomach cancer.

       

      

Return to Part 1/.
(Written in 2001)
Copyright © MMI, Bozi Mohacek.  Reproduction only by permission from the Author.

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