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Citroën 2cv - Beckett In Folkestone

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At its launch in 1948 Autocar reported that the Citroën 2cv “is the work of a designer who has kissed the lash of austerity with almost masochistic fervour.” Famous motoring writer L.J.K. Setright later called it "the most intelligent application of minimalism ever to succeed as a car.”

And design journalist Phil Patton wrote that “Nothing says more about the 2cv than the fact that the only car Samuel Beckett seems ever to have owned was a gray 2cv. He refused for years to upgrade.”

Author Roger Boylan tells us a little more: “Not until he was well into his fifties could he afford a car, and by then he needed one to drive from Paris to his newly built country house at Ussy, about thirty miles away. With his working-class sympathies he unhesitatingly went for the French blue-collar workhorse: the 2cv. The color suited him fine… Beckett liked gray. It matched the Paris sky most days, except in summer, and it suited his temperament.” Boylan had seen an advertisement for the car after Beckett’s death, at a price far higher than its normal value. It sold almost immediately to an unknown buyer, and its whereabouts is apparently still a mystery.

Peter Lennon recounts that “He was a frightening driver... I have a memory of Beckett folding himself into his little Deux Chevaux and beating the car into obedience with his elbows and knees. He appeared to be using the flank of the vehicle to sweep the streets ahead of him.”

This 1961 2cv with its 425cc engine and spartan but comfortable features is very similar to Beckett’s car, except for a few minor changes over its life. These include the coats of arms of La Chapelle d’Armentieres near Lille, and Birchington on the North Kent coast. They date from when the towns twinned in 1989: La Chapelle gave Birchington this car (painted but otherwise derelict) and the return gift was a red British telephone box. A group of enthusiasts later rescued the car from an uncertain fate, restored it structurally and mechanically, but otherwise left it as it was in 1989.

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