The Real Top Gear In Argentina Story Is This Chilean Citröen

Sure, it's a big deal when Jeremy Clarkson pisses off an entire country and gets run out by an angry mob, but lost in all the speculation of license plate-based trolling and smashed car windows was this very important detail: it looks like the Top Gear special will feature a Citröneta, one of the weirdest 2CV variants ever.


Argentina is almost as good as Brazil when it comes to familiar cars mutating in all sorts of unexpected ways, so I'm not surprised to see something bizarre in their fleet. What they've chosen is especially interesting, because it originates in Chile, though it was later built in Argentina as well.

Citröen in Argentina (and Chile) is roughly what VW was in Brazil — the primary source of their inexpensive "people's car," and also the company that had the most fruitful array of dramatically differently-evolved models from the rest of the world. So, the 2CV in Argentina (and, again, Chile) was roughly the equivalent of Brazil's Beetle/Fusca, and became the source for many fascinating local variations.

The Citröneta came about in 1957 when the Chilean factory at Arica realized that the basic 2CV body style just wasn't quite right for the Chilean market, which had many people who moved between farm and city, and needed both an enclosed car with a back seat as well as an open bed to haul bulky things or the occasional pig or two.


So, the Chilean factory cut the 2CV in half, behind the front doors and mocked up a new body out of — and I'm speculating here — half a tollbooth and a laundry hamper. The end result was a 2CV with a fixed roof, enclosed passenger cabin, and a small, open bed out back, like a little pickup truck. The Chilean factory locally produced the body and all the interior finishings (seats were wool), with only the chassis and drivetrain coming from France.


The spare tire was mounted on the rear, giving the car an appealing, if awkward, formal 3-box appearance. It was dowdy and weird and fun and useful all at once. Not really ever pretty, but I can see the weird appeal.

Later versions (they made them up until '73 or so) added such decadent luxuries as a trunk lid and an extra set of doors for the rear seat passengers. The cars eventually used the 2CV's 425cc engine, which made a screaming 18 HP. Holy shit, that's almost twenty horsepower!


The one the Top Gear folks have appears to be a later one, with a trunk lid and four doors. These were built in Argentina as well as Chile, so it's likely a locally-sourced one. Since it's on the trailer, my guess is — and I'm going out on a limb here — that's not a good thing. This little Citröneta is likely the punishment car, because the TG trio isn't really known for their affection for small, underpowered, weird cars. Well, except for Hammond and Oliver.


So, while I'm not sure if this whole Falklands license plate thing has any actual merit or not, I am sure that maybe a tiny bit of polite rioting could be merited to defend the honor of that pleasingly homely little Citröneta.

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