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SNAPSHOT 52: Citroën Dyanes in 1974

In 1970 a summer holiday was taken in Austria, and to get there once the Channel and Belgium had been crossed, much of the journey was to be made on the German autobahns. Transport came in form of a friend’s 9-month old Triumph 1300 that was apparently in good order. The weather was almost continuously sunny and hot. Travelling times had been calculated on the basis of steady running on the autobahn at around 70 mph, more than 10 mph below the car’s flat-out speed, but our best laid plans went seriously awry.

As day-time temperatures soared into the mid-80s (Fahrenheit), the Triumph very soon reached boiling point and we were obliged to reduce speed and travel in the inside lane, sandwiched between the thundering lorries. Ordinary roads became the only viable option and Austria was reached nearly a day late.

On the return trip we inadvertently headed from Salzburg through the mountains towards Munich. It was a go, boil, stop-go, journey. At one of the unwelcome halts, standing outside the car waiting for it to cool down, we heard the manic sound of an engine running at high revs fast-approaching up the hill. Charging round the bend came a Citroën 2CV, heeled well over, hood rolled back, windows flapping, and with four people aboard. They cheered us as they passed. The comment was made: “Air-cooled engines don’t boil all the b……y time”.

Early in 1971 we set out to buy a 2CV, but they were not then available in the UK, so the white Dyane seen here, with its horizontally-opposed two-cylinder 602cc air-cooled engine driving the front wheels, became our car. It was soon joined by ‘The Clockwork Orange’. For the next 30 years there was always at least one Dyane or 2CV in the fold. We travelled many thousands of miles in these cars both at home and abroad, comfortably, economically, at respectable speeds, and with complete reliability. Later they were joined by a series of the excellent GSA model with their four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engines, which were also air-cooled.

To round off the saga of the Triumph 1300, on our return home enquiries were made about the boiling problem. Eventually it transpired that export models were fitted with a larger capacity radiator. Apparently the thought had never crossed the minds of those who planned these cars that a native example might sometimes venture into warmer climes. Such a parochial attitude did nothing to help alleviate the steady decline of the British motor industry.

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