Happy birthday little duck.jpg

Happy birthday little duck

By: JENNY GRAINER

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Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1968. She is a freelance writer and her book Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then has sold more than 2,000 copies.

THE DUCK in question is called this name very affectionately, although many other more derogatory names have been levelled at my favourite car – the Citroen Deux Chevaux or 2CV, which celebrates its 60th birthday this year.

When I first arrived in Portugal in 1964 my little run around was a convertible sky blue Triumph Herald in which I cut quite a youthful dash, mane of dark hair blowing in the wind on the EN125.

I progressed through a series of other unsuitable cars that had their glorious lives curtailed by the potholed state of the highways and byways of the early Algarve, until I finally succumbed to the charms of the little duck.

While this heroic piece of engineering was developed initially for the French farmer, it was not long before Portuguese immigrants writing home to their families here were singing of its virtues. Citroen saw the possibilities, installed an assembly plant and 2CVs with their bigger sisters the Diane and Ami started to roll off the assembly line, bringing not only employment to the Portuguese but the automobile to families still using mules and carts. They were just about the only cars to be seen on the roads for many years. In fact, when production was tragically halted in 1988, many were the fans that rushed to buy these last little gems of an era.

The reason for its huge success was the car’s sheer simplicity and bargain basement cost. It could climb hills, bounce over holes and ruts and was in every way perfect for both the road conditions and pocket of the poorer citizen. Who needed a four wheel drive if they had a 2CV?

Of course we now have decent roads and a lot more choices of cars at our disposal, so why do I currently run a wine and cream coloured Dolly?

Owners of the little duck are passionate about their cars and range from collectors who may have a stable of selected models kept under cover from different years in mint condition to be exhibited only, to the poorer owner, like me, who has just always driven one and fails to see why I shouldn’t continue to do so, on a day to day basis as my only vehicle.

Popular Dolly

When I drive along, other 2CV owners wave or flash their lights. Anyone who knows me does, because they recognise the car – how many drivers can say that? All cars look the same today. People keep tabs on me. “What were you up to in Faro? Saw the Dolly in Lagos, why didn’t you pop in?” I can’t go anywhere without someone knowing I was there, but I like that.

I’m not a mechanic, but I do know that there seems to be very little to go wrong with whatever lies under Dolly’s elegant bonnet. My specialist mechanic in Monchique services her about once a year then off I go for her yearly inspection, which has produced many a giggle when a youthful inspector has no idea how to manipulate the gearshift.

While others complain of their lack of air-conditioning due to some malfunction of the computerised engine, my little duck sails forth with air blowing in through the ingenious little flap at the front, which I can manually control, or through the flip up windows, no electronic devices to jam; I can even peel back the roof and find myself steaming down the road with the wind once again blowing through my hair – albeit no longer long and dark.

I never lock my car – what would be the point? If somebody seriously wanted to steal it they could cut through the canvas roof and bypass the lock completely, and then what? There is absolutely nothing to steal. It would cost me far more to replace the roof than leave it open for them to check for themselves. And who would want to steal it? If they got the engine started, they wouldn’t know how to drive it!

Have you ever found yourself wanting to get something in the car and the boot just isn’t quite deep enough or wide enough? No such problems with a 2CV. If it won’t fit in the boot then I just roll back the roof and let it stick out skywards. I’ve transported floorboards, flat packs of any number of things and even a satellite dish balanced on the rim.

I am also a member of the club, both here and in the UK, no 2CV event escapes my notice although I can’t make it to many. The British club has a magazine, which is full of useful tips on maintenance, articles and letters from other 2CVer’s… and the Portuguese? Well – we do monthly lunches really well and have a great time dressing up the cars for carnival when lots of colourful little ducks come roaring in to the Algarve from all over Portugal and beyond to stay for the weekend – then we do lunches and dinners.