Thursday, November 17, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1984 Citroën 2CV Charleston

It seems that people with Citroën 2CVs attract shutterbugs like myself. The 2CV with its cartoonish proportions and roll-back fabric sunroof, especially a later-model Charleston special edition with its deep red and black paint, separated by a cheeky swoosh, is a magnet for attention. Millions of the little cars were sold worldwide over four decades, but America was hardly Citroën's best market. I suppose that when you're pinning your hopes on the small and underpowered but very advanced DS as a luxury car in a market dominated by chrome-laden V8 boats, it doesn't do well for the company's upscale image to field a 2-cylinder garden shed on wheels in the same dealership. It was no secret that the 2CV was intended to be a peasant's car from the beginning. Citroën didn't even actively advertise the Deux Chevaux here, and a lot of the cars that exist in the USA were imported later.

In the States, of course, the 2CV is a bit of an icon as a car for eccentric types. College professors and the like. Some owners in the city seem to have a sense of humor about their cars, and get custom license plates to express how silly and French their pride and joy is. This one's plate reads "POU BEL", which roughly translates to "Trash Can". The car itself is hardly a garbage receptacle though, quite to the contrary. It seems to be well looked-after, aside from a scuff on the right front fender. I found the beefed-up bumpers to be an interesting addition, probably a good idea with such a fragile-looking car in a tough city.
Charleston was one of many special editions Citroën offered over the years which added some flair to a loud, slow, Spartan little car. From what I can see, it was a paint package. Once again, Cats-Citroën comes to the rescue as a fantastic resource. Based on the site's extensive list of yearly, even monthly changes, my best guess is that it's an early 1984 model with the optional "Aventure" tubular bumpers. (Anyone who can offer a better approximation of the car's age would be appreciated.) I was initially surprised that it was so new. I'd previously seen it driving around town (and, as always seems to happen whenever I've headed toward the intersection of Lombard Street and Columbus Avenue in search of a certain green 1963 Mercury Meteor rumored to frequent the area, I found something entirely different - namely, this). It's not the first 2CV I've run across in San Francisco, nor will it be the last one you see here.


  1. While I am not a fan of the after market off road nudge bars or the Charleston paint job I do love these cars owned at least half a dozen of them.

  2. Not sure of the year but Charlestons were only made between 1982 through 1990. The original 6 thousand had a black and white hounds tooth interior before all the Charlestons went to the grey diamond pattern in 1983. I'm not a fan of the aftermarket bumpers, however; in the city, it makes a lot of sense. I love my Charleston and use it as a daily driver! Nick

  3. I used to see that car around when I was working downtown. Haven't seen it since approx. 2011, though. Hope the car - and the owners- are fine! My photo was taken at the angle of Pine and Kearny at around 2010. I