IHe will have waited nearly fourteen years before having the car of his dreams delivered.
The ultimate deudeuche produced in France. Alas, the dream of this enthusiast ended up turning into a nightmare…
The story begins one day in June 1974. A man in his fifties, with a handsome salt-and-pepper beard, enters a Citroën dealership in Normandy with a determined step and swoops down on the first salesman he finds: “I want to buy a 2CV, and not just any one. ”
A somewhat abrupt introduction, but which does not surprise the salesperson unduly. That year, he had almost more customers than cars for sale. Because the Granny of the Chevrons then experienced an incredible resurgence of interest following the first oil shock of 1973. The negotiations did not drag on either, our man knew exactly what he wanted: “the basic version, in Cormoran grey, nothing more”. In summary, the simplest model, in its most common color, shouldn’t have been too complicated… “On the other hand, I have a rather special request concerning delivery: I don’t want my 2CV right away…” Taken aback, the seller believes in a misunderstanding and replies that it will be ready very quickly, almost without delay, because the factory is running at just the right time.
“Above all, what I want is the last one to come out of the factory”, he hears himself reply. In 1974, the 2CV had already been assembled for twenty-five years in the Levallois-Perret (92) factory. An eternity for a car, even back then. Still, if everyone assumes that the deuche is close to retirement (and yet…), no one knows exactly, even at Citroën, when production will stop.
Disconcerted by this unprecedented requirement, the salesman informed his boss. The latter, without really believing it, but amused by this improbable story, will nevertheless try to make the request to the brand’s headquarters. The answer does not reach him until a few weeks later: impossible to proceed in this way, or at least to guarantee anything to this somewhat particular client! But there is still a tiny possibility: to reiterate the request at each change of direction, until the decision to interrupt production is taken.
Of course, many took this somewhat special client for a madman. But in fact he had above all flair. He thus understood very early on that the 2CV was going to become a myth. Born in 1921 in Bois-Colombes, the man in question is called Roger Brioult. A car buff since childhood. After the war, Roger is of working age, a friend advises him to get closer to an automobile magazine editor. He will be able to use his knowledge, but also perfect it. He then divides his time between his writing and the garages, where he loves strolling among the mechanics, with whom he has always been close.
This is how in 1948, during a banal discussion, a mechanic explained to the journalist the main problem with which he was confronted: these complex breakdowns on cars whose engines are in perpetual evolution, and of which he has only too rarely the manual. This is what inspires Roger. While, in the immediate post-war period, the rare automobile publications contented themselves with boasting to potential customers of beautiful bodywork, performance, speed, etc., he imagined a magazine intended for mechanics and those who wanted to maintain their car. . He talks about it to his publisher who gives him carte blanche. Roger has the idea of borrowing a motorcycle from the manufacturer Monet-Goyon, presenting himself as a test journalist. He immediately returns to the workshop made available to him and completely dismantles the bike with the help of a mechanic. Everything that can be dismantled is thus dismantled! Neatly arranged, aligned, ordered. Then a draftsman models everything by referencing each part on a diagram. Never seen ! After two months, the journalist brings the bike back to the manufacturer, but the latter is furious: “You are more than a month late! ” Roger, a little sheepish, shows him the sketches and photos he has made. Bluffed, the manufacturer quickly forgets this story of delay: ” It’s amazing ! Even our engineers don’t have that at their disposal! ” This is how the RTA (Revue technique automobile). Roger obviously becomes the editor-in-chief. The man teems with ideas and he realizes them. For example, he was the first to leave the circuits to test vehicles in real conditions, on the road, with family and luggage.
In 1966, during a trip to Boston, in the United States, he met Ralph Nader, a famous American lawyer and fervent defender of consumers. The jurist wrote in 1965 a bestseller dedicated to the automobile, entitled Unsafe at any Speed. Roger decides to translate it and complete the book with French examples. The book will be published under the title These cars that kill. Our journalist thus displays his interest in road safety, one of his great battles. He campaigns in particular for the lowering of truck bumpers and the generalization of Triplex glass windshields.
Back in 1974, the year of his “very special” order from Citroën. Roger then just moved to Résenlieu, in the Orne, with his wife Jeanine, painter, and their daughter Lydie. He was then 53 years old, he left the RTA but he is not yet retired. He writes articles in automotive magazines and, above all, he is preparing a book on the Citroën brand, of which he is a fan. For almost ten years, he will contact and interview dozens of former employees of the design office: bosses, engineers, designers, test pilots or simple technicians who participated in the great adventure of the brand with chevrons . And in 1987, it came out in two volumes “Citroën: the history and secrets of its design office”.Books that become veritable bibles for purists, full of anecdotes and authentic little “secrets”.
It was finally in March 1988 that a Citroën official finally gave him the phone call he had been hoping for for fourteen years: “The production of the 2CV will be interrupted, it is time for us to honor our contract! What model do you want? ” Roger chooses the most simple and emblematic model of the deuche, a 2CV 6 Spéciale gray Cormo ran, without any additional equipment. Roger is just asking for one last favour: to be delivered to him on a plate! “I’ve been waiting for it for fourteen years, you can do that for me! ” Obviously, management acceded to its ultimate request. And at the end of March, the last deuche produced in France (in fact one of the last two, view the photo) arrives in front of his house. Religiously, he caresses the hood, opens the door. He climbs into the shower of his dreams, starts it, engages forward gear and travels the ten meters that separate the road from his shed. Then he turns off the engine. Definitively. The car displays the regulatory 5 km of the factory tests and not one more!
A few years earlier, Roger had had a large prefabricated shed built with a corrugated shingle roof to house his “small collection” of around twenty cars and a few motorbikes. No Porsche, Ferrari or Rolls-Royce. Nothing but cars with a particular history or design: a Morgane from 1928 rubs shoulders with a small Autobianchi Panoramica from 1967 or even a Cord 810 Sportsman from 1936, a Panhard Dyna Junior from 1954 and curious prototypes from the French manufacturer Voisin, alongside a 1986 Opel Ascona GT 1. 8ide. There is also a 1969 Harley-Davidson or a 1969 Motovespa 150 Side Car, alongside a 1967 Solex 3800. A heterogeneous collection in a shed with about fifteen of doors. And the 2CV comes to take place behind door n° 5. It is the youngest, but also, in his eyes, the most precious of this collection.
Roger continues to collaborate occasionally for articles in automotive magazines. But less and less. Connoisseurs and lovers of old cars come to visit him to admire his collection. Roger is always happy to share his stories. In 2009, a young 2CV enthusiast presented himself. He wants to do an article on the famous “last” of the deuches. Roger, almost blind and spending his days in his dressing gown, agrees to give him the keys so that he can get her out of the shed, by pushing her, and photograph her. It’s the first time she’s seen the light of day in twenty-one years! The estimate for this historic 2CV, in this immaculate factory condition, then exceeded 100,000 euros. But Roger doesn’t want to sell it, it’s his relic, his precious one.
We are now on March 13, 2012. Roger receives a visit from a friend who comes from time to time to sweep between the cars and re-inflate the tires. And behind door number 5, a terrible surprise awaits him. He runs to warn Roger, seated with his wife Jeanine. “The 2CV has disappeared! ” Roger’s heart tenses, his eyes go up to the ceiling but he doesn’t say a word. Jeanine, 95, still alert, goes to the garage and sees the theft. She spots that a padlock has been severed to open the door and that truck tire tracks are visible in the dirt driveway. There is no doubt that the thieves knew what they wanted! Nothing else was hit in the hangar. The same day, Jeanine will lodge a complaint with the gendarmerie. In the following days, the news spread through local newspapers, automotive magazines and internet sites specializing in vintage cars. Everyone broadcasts the report of the “last second”, with the chassis number. The car then becomes unsaleable!
Meanwhile, Roger’s health is declining very quickly. Soon, he doesn’t get up anymore, doesn’t feel like living anymore. The theft of his “jewel” will, alas, have been fatal to him. He died on March 23, 2012. His last wish would not be granted. In his will, he asked that his body be used as a dummy during a crash test…
On May 5, 2012, the burnt carcass of Roger’s 2CV was discovered in La Roussière, in Eure. The thieves had no doubt understood that they could get nothing more out of it and that they were responsible for the death of a man. Or the story of a dramatic mess.
The remains of France’s most famous 2CV were nevertheless sold at auction on March 17, 2013, in Fontainebleau. Bids that will have climbed to 10,800.
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