New Comic: Metafiction
New Comic: Metafiction
Brand loyalty is a strange thing. I consider myself a Citroen enthusiast, but its products have changed a great deal over the years depending on who was calling the shots. André Citroën himself never got to see the Traction Avant do so well, and never got a whiff of the 2CV and DS (launched during Michelin’s custodianship). Some of my favourite Citroens came out of the Peugeot years, and were better because of it – BX and XM in particular.
But show me a Saxo and I’ll turn my nose up at it. Wave a Xsara in my direction and I will not get excited. Hand me the keys to any of Citroën’s current line up, and I’d probably just give them back – ironically apart from the e-Mehari, which isn’t actually a Citroën at all.
My loyalty to the brand has been diluted by Peugeot’s with chevrons, and by Citroën’s frankly callous regard for its own heritage. For years, the conservatoire was impossible to visit. A hard working team kept some incredible machines in storage, and Citroën will, rather begrudgingly, let you poke around the place today. For now. If you apply for a visit through a club. And only on certain days.
Citroën has also been one of the worst for supporting older models. They cannot wait for the period to expire in which they must make parts available for their old cars. Even before then, they’ll ramp the prices up to quite ridiculous levels, so demand falls away.
But circumstances have taken a far darker turn of late, with the spinning off of the DS ‘brand’ from within Citroën. This triumph of marketing over substance has seen Citroën now airbrush one of its most iconic designs from its history files. You can see it right here. A lovely list of Citroëns from the ages, but the DS (and, oddly, the SM) are nowhere to be seen.
How utterly ridiculous. The DS was one of the most incredible cars of the 20th Century, but because some marketing bod who was born decades later had a blue sky moment, it apparently isn’t a Citroën anymore. Frankly, I’m starting to wish that Peugeot had just killed off the Citroën brand rather than subject it to this. Hydropneumatic suspension has already been killed off, and now history is being altered to make it easier to sell the hideous DS range of cars.
PSA, the group that owns Citroën, really doesn’t seem to get it. It has no understanding that heritage sells. No, not like that. It isn’t something you just dig out once in a while to try and get a sale. Heritage is something manufacturers need to invest in. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche understand this, and Jaguar Land Rover is fast following suit.
None of these companies are attempting to erase cars from their history. Citroën overlooking the DS is like Jaguar overlooking the E-Type, or Land Rover pretending the Range Rover didn’t happen, BMW ignoring the M3 and Porsche denying it had anything to do with the original 911.
It’s the final straw as far as I’m concerned. The Citroën of today is not worthy of my attention. Instead, I will forever enjoy it’s actual heritage. The one that has the DS firmly at its centre – a car which was very much about substance, not empty promises from a design agency.
On 24 July 1927 the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing was inaugurated by Field Marshal Lord Plumer. Situated in Ypres, Belgium, the memorial is dedicated to British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown.
The site was selected as hundreds of thousands of men would have passed through it on their way to the battlefields during the war.
The photograph below shows Belgian soldiers marching through Menin Gate in May of 1914. At that point the ‘gate’ was a gap in the 17th century defensive ramparts of the town.
Photo Source: Wikipedia
If you are interested in reading about the battles on the Ypres Salient take a look at Campaign 58: First Ypres 1914 and Campaign 225: Messines 1917. For more books on the First World War take head to the store.
I’m just back from a thoroughly lovely weekend at the 2CVGB event known as Registers’ Weekend. In short, lots of 2CVs, lots of sunshine, lots of friends, no politics, no sodding Pokemon. LOVELY!
I met quite a few people who commented on how much they enjoy the blog, which has given me a major attack of guilt. I have been neglecting it an awful lot recently, though it’s not entirely my fault. Quite a lot of actual paid work has certainly been getting in the way, but I’ve also been on the road a lot, which included two days in my caravan with barely any signal. Besides, writing blog posts on a stupid ‘smart’ phone requires far more patience than I have. Oh, and then our landline at home failed, so woe is me, no blogs, etc, etc.
But I’m here now, and even though I’d really like to go to bed, I’m putting finger to keyboard to share some twin-pot Visa excitement.
First, a very brief Visa history. Citroën developed a cracking little supermini idea, but when Peugeot completed its takeover in the mid-1970s, it told Citroën to stop being so oddball. Instead, it could keep some of the styling cues, but had to fit them over nice, sensible 104 running gear. To stem the tears of the Citroën engineers, they were allowed to develop an enlarged version of the 2CV’s aircooled, flat-twin engine to act as entry level models – the Spécial and mildly posher Club (it had a cigarette lighter). Citroën engineers are a rebellious lot, so they flogged their original idea to the Romanians, who built it as the Oltcit or Axel.
The Visa was launched in 1978, with the 652cc aircooled flat-twin, or 1124cc Super E with a radiator and other posh things. The engineers focussed their efforts on the interior, with satellite pods to control pretty much everything you need to control, and a single-spoke steering wheel. Awesome. There were later other engines, a facelift in 1982 to make it (slightly) less odd, and, horror of horrors, a sensible interior facelift that involved actual column stalks. Boring.
Happily, I managed to get my hands on TWO of these twin-cylinder Visas, one pre-facelift and one post. Even more happily, the wacky interior lasted for a good three years post-facelift.
I began with the earlier Club. This is a left-hand drive car, that was once white, but is now the most magnificent shade of green. It feels slightly tinny as you get in, though not as much as a 2CV does. The driving position is nice and comfortable, and the switchgear falls neatly to hand – albeit neatly in a way your brain may not actually understand. Let it learn and all will be fine.
Starting the engine is a strange experience. It’s like starting a 2CV engine, only like doing so from inside your house while the car is out on the street. It sounds like a 2CV, but one that is far away. Then there’s the conventional gearlever, that sprouts from the floor in a thoroughly ordinary way. It’s quite clunky to use, with a bit too much travel; just like a GS, or a Nissan Cherry Europe. The clutch in this example seems far too light, but it’s still easy enough to pull away. I did have some issue finding the gears I needed, and can confirm that it doesn’t like going from first to fourth. On grass.
Across our test field, it really was pretty comfortable. It couldn’t match a 2CV or BX, but it could beat nearly every car currently in production. It’s certainly far better than a Cactus. Generally, the feeling is of refinement, though it’ll roll just like a 2CV if you decide to corner a bit briskly. I was quite enjoying it, I must admit. Thanks George. It was ace.
The next day, I got to drive a later, right-hand drive Visa, only I took this one out on the actual road. I even got slightly lost in it, though don’t tell Mark who was sitting in the back. No, it wasn’t his car. He just came along for the ride, so he could pretend to be a really poor person who couldn’t afford a limousine – only a Visa driven by a hippy.
This car belongs to my mate Chris, who recently let me live in his field. I like people like that. The clutch certainly feels more normal in this one, and my left-hand proved far more adept at finding the gears.
So, 0-60mph. Well, the claimed time is 26 seconds, which is a few quicker than a 2CV. This is a big-bore engine after all. It certainly isn’t brisk, but nor does it feel as hard work as a 2CV – thank sound deadening for that I reckon. The gearbox is also much, much quieter, as is the exhaust. Once up to 60, it feels very comfortable there. Even 70 doesn’t feel out of bounds, or just for special occasions. It feels eminently possible, and is nice and peaceful.
The switchgear works really well once you’re trained your fingers, and this is a very relaxing way to travel given the lack of power. Of course, grippy handling helps, so you don’t have to lose too much momentum. This is a fun car to corner quickly. It turns in very nicely, then the body also turns in. It’s like a 2CV, though a little less frantic. It doesn’t feel quite so hilarious.
Overall then, a staggeringly competent little car that does pretty much everything you could reasonably expect a car to do. It’s delightfully simple, but has enough of what’s truly necessary. Drat. Another car to add to the wish list.