“Land of Black Gold” opens with a scene where the twin Thomson and Thompson are driving a tiny green car. The poor cops were enjoying a lovely day in the sun when their car went “BOOM” a few miles after getting refuelled. This tiny little car which the these two lovable characters were driving is a Citroen 5CV.
This car, also called the Type C was manufactured in France between 1922 and 1926. It was designed by Edmont Moyet, who later went on to develop the Amilcar brand. These cars had a boat shaped rear end leading to sobriquets like ‘cul-de-poule’ meaning Hen’s bottom and ‘Boat Deck Citroen’. It was a tiny two seat car which was considered simple and easy to drive by lady drivers. When the car was launched, “Wallace and Draeger” agency deployed most of their resources at advertising that was aimed at women. It showcased what an easy task it would be for a woman to drive this car, which indeed was the case.
Inspired by Henry Ford, French industrialist Andre-Gustave Citroen established the first mass production automobile factory outside of USA in 1919. The Type C or 5CV was France’s answer to the Ford Model T. It was a people’s car that put general French public in cars after the end of World War I.
The 5 CV was initially launched as an open bodied car and was offered in yellow. This led the cars to be often called the “Petit Citron” or “Little Lemon” in English. Over the period of their production life, these cars were also offered as:-
- 3-seat “Trefle” Tourers with a single rear seat.
- 2-seat cabriolets.
- Commercial models in the form of small pick up trucks.
Citroen 5CV was powered by an 856 cc (52.2 Cu-inch) four cylinder naturally aspirated inline petrol engine. These engines produced 11 BHP at 2,100 rpm. The puny engine installed at the front drove the rear wheels through a three speed sliding manual gear box while pushing the cars to a maximum speed of 60 km/h (37 mph). Engines were fed fuel under gravity and cooling was provided using thermo-siphoning. No cooling pumps were introduced till the end of production. Stopping power was provided by mechanical brakes on two rear wheels.
When launched the car had torpedo body shape with two seats and one door which was on the passenger side. The driver side had a spare wheel mounted. The initial C/ C2 model was 2.25 m (7′ 5 “) in length. C3 was introduced in 1925 and was 2.35 m (7′ 9 “) long. Tiny, by any proportions. The wheels were suspended front and rear using inverted quarter elliptic springs. Though this suspension gave a bouncy ride to the vehicle, it was very useful in crossing fields.
The Tourer was designed as an open two seater with no ‘weather gear’ for the windows, however, the Cabriolet had a two piece openable windscreen and waterproof sliding glass windows which could be raised and lowered by a strap. These cars had opulent interiors for the market that they were aimed at. They had inlaid wooden dashboard which included a speedometer as part of the instrumentation. They had leatherette seats, wooden door caps, door pockets and carpets.
5CVs were offered with a 6 Volt electric system and though initially coil ignition was offered, it was changed over to magneto to overcome the French winter and often dead batteries. Despite lot of cost cutting, these cars came with head lamps and parking lights.
I am a submariner mechanical engineer. I served the Indian Navy for 21 years. I am extremely passionate about means of mechanical transport developed by humans that include automobiles, trains, ships, submarines and aircraft. I am particularly passionate about cars and want to share this exciting world with all the people.