CITROËN DYANE 6 PRINCESS DYANE by Iain Wakefield
This rare survivor may been driven round the clock but it’s all original. The Panhard-inspired Citroën Dyane was supposed to replace the 2CV but the original tin snail went on to outlive the redesigned newcomer by an amazing 27 years.
WORDS IAIN WAKEFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS FROSIN
READER'S RIDE CITROËN DYANE 6
Love it or loathe it, the 2CV helped mobilise a nation during a lengthy period of post-war austerity and instantly captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of its town and country living owners. This ingeniously engineered little car gamely soldiered on to build up a huge following of loyal fans on both sides of the channel, but by the mid-'60s the back-to-basics baby Citroën was beginning to look quite dated when compared to fresher offerings such as the more refined Renault 3 and 4.
desperately needed to update its popular #Deux-Chevaux
to match the models being produced by arch rival Renault, the company's design studio found itself fully occupied at the time developing new versions of the DS and Ami. The only way forward was to subcontract the brief for updating the 2CV to the design arm of the newly acquired Panhard organisation. Citroën had taken control of the non-military vehicle side of this long standing automobile manufacturer in the mid-'60s and the programme to develop the Deux Chevaux's replacement was given to Louis Bioner, a noted designer who had been involved with nearly every new #Panhard
- badged passenger car dating back to the '20s.
However, Citroën's chief designer Robert Opron wasn't over enamoured with Bioner's original design and the concept of what would become the Dyane had to be extensively reworked before it could go into production. As well the styling, the Dyane's Panhard credentials are reflected in its name as Panhard had registered the name along with Dyna, Dynavia and Dynamic before control of the company was transferred to Citroën in 1965. Launched in August 1967 with two levels of trim, Comfort and Luxe, early versions of the Citroën Dyane were powered by the same 425cc twin-cylinder, 21bhp air-cooled engine that could also be found in the cheaper, entry level 2CV.
The more costly Luxe version of the Dyane featured a few extra interior comforts and was identified by its chrome hubcaps. In March 1968, the Dyane 6 was launched with a larger 602cc engine as fitted to the 1961-introduced Ami and power was now up to a neck snapping 28bhp. The newly introduced Dyane 4 received a 26bhp, 435cc power unit, the extra power over the entry-level Dyane's 425cc unit coming from changes to the carburation and a slightly raised compression ratio. Acceleration was little sprightlier than the lower powered base model and the 435cc-powered Dyane 4 could be wound up to an eventual top speed of just under 70mph.
Like the 2CV, the Dyane's two-cylinder engine works on the wasted spark principle where the coil fires both plugs at the same time irrespective of whether the valves in each cylinder are closed or open. Although this tends to reduce spark plug life to around 5000-6000 miles, the ignition system on these engines is very much simplified and like the rest of this tough little car, will keep on working with the minimum of maintenance. the Dyane's suspension is based on the advanced fore-aft interconnected suspension as used on the 2CV and comprises of a pair of springs running in long tubes located under each sill. each end of the springs are linked to a suspension arm connected to a set of knife-edge pivot pins and early models weren't fitted with shock absorbers to control the car's impressive spring rate and axle articulation.
Although the Dyane was supposed to take over from where the 2CV left off, Deux Chevaux production continued unabated. by 1970 sales of Citroën's original tin snail had overtaken the panhard-designed model that was supposed to replace it. On this side of the channel, the Dyane sold reasonable well and its main competitors during the '70s were cars like the Hillman Imp and reliant Kitten. Finding road worthy survivors today in a similar condition to Andrew blather wick’s 1977 Dyane 6, the car we borrowed for this feature, is rare as the lightweight build resulted in many mechanically sound Dyanes rotting away before their time.
The first car Andrew ever owned when he passed his test was a #Citroen-Dyane
6 and that was the reason he jumped at the chance to buy this one when it came onto the market. The Dyane Andrew owns today is not only the same model year and colour as the one he had when he was 18, the registration number is only a couple of digits out, which is remarkable. Even though the other car residing between a couple of classic motorbikes in Andrew's garage is a superbly restored 1953 Bristol 401, he wouldn't be parted from his cheeky little Citroën. During the summer, Andrew tries to use the Dyane as much as possible and in a couple of weeks time he's heading off with his wife for an extensive tour of Northern France in the Citroën – French ferry workers and Eurostar permitting.
Andrew is only this Dyane's third owner and even though this little car's now completed a smidge over 100,000 miles on the same engine, the condition of its turquoise-coloured bodywork is incredible; with not a spot of grot bursting through the paint. Andrew reckons that although the car's first lady owner ran the car for over 20 years, she didn't use it much. the Dyane's Citroën-loving second owner was the one who racked up the majority of this car’s mileage as he went to just about every 2CV event in Europe for the seven years he owned the car. A rear side window on the car packed with oval 2CV club meet stickers is testimony to this Dyane's European adventures and Andrew is proud to point out that many of these events were held hundreds of miles away close to the EU's far flung eastern borders.
You have to be careful when opening the Dyane's bonnet as the steel is so thin, the panel can twist alarmingly as it's being raised. First thing you notice when the bonnet is opened though is that the spare tyre on the Dyane sits in a specially made cradle on top of the engine, rather than being located in the boot à la 2CV. Removing the spare wheel revealed an impressively clean engine bay on this example and engineer Andrew explained that just after he bought the Dyane he took a cylinder barrel off to inspect the condition of the piston.
"Although my Dyane had done well over 100,000 miles, I couldn't believe there wasn't any wear on the cylinder bore. Even the piston rings were in good condition, so I put the whole lot back together and never replaced a thing," said Andrew as he pointed out the huge fan in front of the carburettor that acts as a very basic form of forced induction. Andrew went on to say he'd read somewhere how the team who developed the 2CV's twin-cylinder engine were given the brief to build an efficient lightweight power unit that could be run at near maximum RPM for 1000 hours.
"And that's how this little engine works", said Andrew. "You just put in gear, bury your foot into the mats and let the speed build up until you hit cruising speed". Andrew went on to say how once on the motorway, all you needed to do was sit and wait until the Dyane crept up to a decent cruising speed, then it was a case of maintaining around 65mph on the level and not worry about the speed creeping down to 50 on the big inclines. "It's when you drive a low powered car like the Dyane that you realise there are actually some severe uphill sections on the motorway network. When I'm driving my Bristol down the M1 it's a lot easier to keep up a steady 70mph uphill and down dale, which isn't bad for a car built over 60 years ago, but I love driving the Citroën as it gets so many cheery waves!".
Although the overall condition of Andrew's Dyane is excellent, a closer inspection shows a slight variation in the shade of Turquoise on the leading edge of the car's nearside front wing. This is where Andrew has touched up a few spots of corrosion and even though the panel appeared to be sound, he's going to replace it along with a new pair of rear inner wheelarches while the car's off the road this coming winter.
Andrew's a long-term member of the Citroën 2CV club (www.2cvgb.co.uk) and has invested in a couple of the club's remanufactured rear inner wings, as he reckons the originals have seen better days and could do with replacing.
The Dyane's interior still looks factory fresh and there isn't even any wear on the car's two-tone blue fabric seats. With the fabric roof folded right back, there's obviously no limit to the amount of headroom for even the tallest driver but even with the structure shut there was more than enough room for my bulky six-foot two frame to get comfortable behind the Dyane's slender steering wheel, even with a passenger beside me. It's quite a while since I've driven a 2CV, so was keen to see how the more powerful Dyane compared.
Like the Deux Chevaux, the sound of this little 602cc engine being revved hard is unique and the delightful racket it makes probably comes from the gearing driving the huge fan that blows cooling air across the pair of hard working cylinders.
I'm always amazed at how the gear linkage on these cars works. To me it's a masterpiece of engineering how the push-in, pull-out and twist direction of the gear lever sticking out of the Dyane's dashboard is translated into a traditional 'H' pattern at the gearbox end of the linkage.
Changing gear on the Dyane takes a bit of getting used to admittedly, but it's surprisingly logical once you get the hang of it. The ratios are quite good and you only tend to need first gear to get the car rolling or while negotiating a very steep hill.
Once the Dyane was in second gear, it was best to leave it there until sufficient revs built up before selecting third, otherwise it took ages to get the little car up to a decent cruising speed. Once out on the open road, the Dyane can easily keep up with traffic while dodging around town if you work the gearbox hard, but it's out on the open road that things start to get interesting. Then it's a case of foot down to the boards while trying to remember where the next gear is before dipping the feather light clutch and twisting and pulling (or is it twisting and pushing?) the sturdy gear lever to select the next ratio.
Cornering hard at low speeds in the Dyane was a real hoot as once you got used to the alarming amount of body roll the car produced, it was a delight to see the sheer look of terror on the faces of onlookers while propelling the Dyane out at a road junction and into what needed to be a very sizable gap in the oncoming traffic.
Andrew's Citroën Dyane is a delight to drive and the overall condition of the car is a credit to all the hard work he's done to his pride and joy over the years he's owned it. This little Citroën realy does get a lot of admiring glances when it's out and about as I discovered on my brief drive. Considering there was just under a million and half Dyane's built until production came to an end in 1983, Andrew reckons there are only 195 Dyane 6's (13 Dyane 4's and 18 basic Dyane's) still registered with the DVLA today.
Even though the value of Andrew's prized Bristol 401 is about ten times that of his little Dyane, there's no way this very fortunate classic enthusiast is going to part with his rare little Citroën and he's looking forward to the reaction the Dyane will receive when it goes back home to La Belle France in a couple of weeks' time.
TECH SPEC CITROËN DYANE #1977
TRANSMISSION: Four-speed manual
POWER: 28.5bhp at 5750rpm
TORQUE: 30.5 lb.ft at 3500rpm
TOP SPEED: 71mph
0-60MPH: 32.7 sec
Five doors, a decent load area and a full length sunroof make this Dyane a practical classic for summer use. The side exiting stainless steel exhaust pipe is a nice touch!
Basic but functional is the only way to describe the Dyane's interior. Andrew has added an oil pressure gauge to keep an eye on the condition of the engine.
It's in there somewhere! Some brave owners swap the Citroën's air-cooled twin with a BMW motorbike engine, a move that can easily double the power output.
One of the great things about the Dyane is that all the regular service items are reasonably easy to access – once both the front wings and grille have been removed! The fabric sunroof on the Dyane can be rolled back completely or just half way and transforms the feeling in the cabin when its fully opened.
Although the front seats in the Dyane look a bit flimsy, they're comfortable to sit in.