The Fascinating Story of Citroën Dyane Prototypes

Photo of author

(— August 14, 2018) — Citroën 2CV, or more popularly known as Dyane, is one of the world’s most famous cars of all times. With a career spanning over forty years, Dyane modernized the French automotive industry in the post-war period and found over 3.8 million satisfied customers.

Citroën today is the proud owner of five different Dyane prototypes, but it was pure luck those valuable examples of automotive industry history didn’t end up at a scrapyard.

Citroën began work on Dyane in 1934, when Michelin’s owner demanded an “umbrella on wheels”, which would be able to transport four adults at a speed over 30 mph to an average consumption of under a gallon per 60 miles.

By 1939, the company had already produced 47 different test prototypes, each of which had some specific detail that adorned it. The premiere was scheduled for October of that year, but World War II started and the whole project was stopped.

Not long before France fell in 1940, fearing that the Germans could exploit their work for military use Citroën ordered that the early 250 prototypes be hidden in multiple locations as quickly as possible, and those for whom no place was found to simply be destroyed.

Some specimens were also processed to resemble different products. For example, one of the early 2CV, or as it was popularly known the TPV (Toute Petite Voiture – a very small car), was masked as a pickup.

After the war it was believed that only two prototypes survived and that the other copies were destroyed by the Germans. However, it was later realized that most of the 250 prototypes survived the war but were sent to scrapyards by Citroen in the late 1950s.

Only two copies ended up in the museum, the aforementioned pickup and another traditional model that Citroën restored to its original condition in the meantime.

And then in 1994, in the small town of La Ferté-Vidame in the north of France, three more Dyane prototypes were found. Ironically, they were located in the attic of one of the abandoned Citroën Centers for testing new products. The center was shut down in the 1950s but all three models were preserved in well condition. The models were hidden underneath stacks of hay by former engineers who wanted to save them from Citroën’s intention to destroy them.

In one of the prototypes mentioned above, a detailed explanation was found of what really happened during the war years. The Germans had asked Citroën to deliver three prototypes with the promise that they will not be copied and that only Adolf Hitler will have the opportunity to see them – no one other than the manufacturer.

In return, they pledged to give Citroën a chance for serial production without interfering in business.

Germany was also ready to open a factory in Paris for the production of “FW Beetle” and even sent Ferdinand Porsche to France to assist engineers.

Citroën rejected this offer regardless of threats. The Nazis then sent a model of the “beetle” car to Paris for testing, but the French only ignored it.

At the end, the Germans sent several TPV prototypes back to their homeland for testing. But Adolf Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche were not thrilled, and the other said that the “TPV looks more like a motorcycle cart than the next national car.”

Either way, all five prototypes are now in the Citroën Museum, and unlike the first surviving TPV that was restored, the three copies found in 1994 are still in their original state.