The Citroën 2CV is an iconic car, and famous for many things: extreme simplicity, an almost unholy ability to not roll over, and an almost lethal concentration of Frenchness. One thing it’s not really known for is being a race car. A number of people have tried to change this, but the first one to give a real, serious attempt was a man named Jean Dagonet.

Dagonet (L) and de Failly in first Dagonet on the 1955 Lyon Rally
Photo: Press Photo, Georges Clermont

Dagonet was an ex-miller from the town of Faverolles-et-Coëmy, and began his experiments with the 2CV fairly late in life—one source lists his age as 63 when he began to modify 2CVs. Dagonet started with mechanical modifications to the 2CV in 1952, increasing the the engine’s modest displacement of 375cc to a, let’s face it, still pretty modest 425cc, but at those low numbers, any bit helps.

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By 1953, Dagonet started to re-work the Tin Snail in much more dramatic ways; in addition to the mechanical changes, Dagonet re-designed the 2CV’s body in some pretty significant ways, and in multiple styles over the years he built the cars, from 1953 to 1958.

At first, the body modifications were done by actually cutting the body, reworking the windshield angle, chopping the roof, and so on, along with modified hoods and fenders, some modified from originals, some fiberglass.

There were a number of types of hoods and fenders used, some fenders having the headlights integrated into them, and some hoods having pronounced air scoops, some with dual, almost BMW-style kidney-like grilles, and some with an oval grille very much like the iconic sports car ‘fishmouth’ grille of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

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Eventually, Dagonet replaced most of the body with a new fiberglass shell, and called this very modified 2CV the “Marie-France.

These new, more dramatically-reworked 2CVs were actually sold under the Dagonet name, and while it’s not exactly clear just how many were made (some say the number was in the dozens, at least?) they do seem to show up in 1950s European racing, with examples participating in such famous races as the Mille Miglia.

Hardly any Dagonets seem to have survived, which is a shame. There’s at least one video of a purported restored Dagonet out there:

While it’s certainly cool, it doesn’t seem it’s an original Dagonet, but appears to be a later replica, of sorts. I still love it, and love that the old guy who has it also has what looks to be a Kubelwagen in his garage!

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Dagonet was known as the “The Wizard of Faverolles” for his amazing work transforming an underpowered farmer-and-egg-hauler into an at least somewhat respectable racing car. The more you think about it, the more remarkable it seems. Imagine if today there was some private shop that took Nissan Versa Notes and transformed them into capable, exciting racecars—it’s a hard concept to imagine in the modern era, but such a thing once existed.

I’m just glad it did exist.