Back before Israel and the United States went steady, the little speck at the eastern end of the Mediterranean had a different best friend: France. If you look close enough here, you’ll find some rides that reflect that era. Like these two.
Welcome to Little Car in the Big City, where we highlight fascinating cars we found walking around a town that is known for being uh... more prickly..? than everything else, but where every car is fighting to stand out:
New York, New York. Tel Aviv, Israel.
Here we’ve got what looks like a rather late Citroën 2Cv Special and a Citroën Dyane, the 2CV’s hatch-equipped complement and successor. And while they both date from a little bit after the end of Israel and Frances’ Mediterranean honeymoon, they certainly reflect a little bit of the Francophilia that has long loomed over Israeli culture.
Both of these cars represented a basic level of personal transportation in a developing country that was largely dependent on buses for transportation. With flat-two cylinder engines making the bare minimum necessary to keep the car moving in terms of horsepower, these cars weren’t going to be climbing any mountains or getting many speeding tickets, but they nonetheless offered a degree of freedom that you just can’t get when you have to look at a bus schedule.
Other similar cars were on the market too. Renault’s Dauphine and Hino’s Contessa were big rear-engined sellers here and even produced locally for a time. Later on, the more modern Renault 4 would achieve local fame as the standard transportation for military officers.
Though it may be true that Tel Aviv tries to eat its cars alive, there are some that have the grit (and dedicated owners) to keep really interesting and lovable machines running here. In full disclosure, I took these photos before our lockdown went into full swing. These cars are located far outside the 100-meter radius around my apartment in more upscale locales.
The Dyane, which is in a neighborhood called the Old North, appears well-loved and, judging by the stickers, spent some time in the city of Netanya before making it to Tel Aviv. The Old North is a cosmopolitan area that looks a lot more Western European than Florentin where I am these days. The Dyane fits right in here, and I can imagine that owning one like this would be a lot of fun here.
The 2CV, which I found in Tel Aviv’s first neighborhood, Neve Tzedek, is done up, like many iconic Citroëns these days, as a piece of mobile advertisement. In this case, for an event space for weddings and bar mitzvahs in the like. It’s a time-tested formula perfected by HY van owners the world ‘round. My hope is that it’ll keep working for this Citroën owner once we all get back on the street and sharing events with one another when this period is behind us.
Interestingly, this car has a seven-digit non-classic plate. That suggests to me that the car is a more recent import from the continent and not a car originally sold here like the Dyane.
Until then, these two Citroëns, which have already seen more than their fair share of tense moments through recessions and wars and intifadas, will wait it out. They’re just waiting for us to get back behind the wheel.
Do you know more about Citroëns than I do? Let us know in the comments if you can date these two cars!