Will's Tin Snail Site





Buyer's Guide

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5


2CV Buyer's Guide (Part 4)

You've found the car you think you want. This checklist should help you identify any problem points, and find a good 'un.

Chassis (frame)

This is the 'backbone' of a 2cv, or "A-series" vehicle, and for this reason, its condition is very important in holding the whole car together. However, it is also prone to corrosion, especially on later (1980s) 2cvs.

Pay attention to:

  • Front and rear chassis 'legs'. Rear legs are usually most vulnerable to corrosion.

  • The welded seams along the sides of the chassis. These corrode from the inside out, causing the seams to bulge.

  • The top and bottom plates rot through from the inside. Patches and plates on the bottom of the chassis suggest it is on its way out.

  • The front and rear axle tubes are bolted to the chassis, and these highly stressed areas are particularly liable to be affected by corrosion.

  • Serious corrosion can cause the chassis to sag or distort, causing symptoms such as stiff steering, difficult gearchanges and a poorly fitting bonnet and side panels.

  • Many 2cvs will already have a replacement chassis fitted These often represent a good buy as are usually made of thicker metal than original chassis. It still pays to check the condition and quality.

  • Remember, though, that the end of the chassis needn't mean the end of the car. If the bodywork is good, the chassis can be replaced, bringing it

  • a new lease of life. To this end, it may be viable to buy a generally good vehicle with a rotten chassis fairly cheaply, and fit a replacement chassis.


Most of the strength is in the chassis, and the bodywork serves to hold the occupants in (and keep the weather out). However, it does have some structural importance. Although most parts can be repaired or replaced easily, it pays to find one in good condition. Look for evidence of good rustproofing as well as filler, bodge repairs etc.

  • Floorpans (either side of chassis) are prone to rust, but repairs here are common, and the floorpans can be patched or replaced. Pull back mats and check.

  • Bulkhead (firewall) is a double skinned box section which can collect water and rust through. Often rusts at the base with the chassis (and should be repaired when the chassis is replaced). Severe corrosion here may cause the body to 'sag'. Check below dashboard.

  • Sills are prone to rusting at the ends (where front wings bolt on) and around the centre post and front seat belt mountings. Behind the back seat, inner rear wings and boot floor (important for seatbelt mounting) are prone to rot, through splash from rear wheels. Check also the condition of the rear lighting panel, and sweeping curves around the back of the car. Repairs are more difficult here.

  • The area around the windscreen can be repaired, but this often requires windscreen replacement. Rust in the vent flap below the windscreen is very common, but this can be replaced easily.

  • Front and rear wings bolt on and can be replaced very easily. Check, though, for siezed fixing bolts, rust around the front indicators and at the bottom of front or rear wings.

  • Doors, bonnet (hood) and bootlid (trunk) are also easy to replace, but check for rust around the bottom of the doors, and at the base of the rear windows.

  • Check the overall condition of the canvas roof, as a replacement costs around œ100. Check for perishing, splits and holes, and the condition of the wires along the edges of the roof (these hold it down at speed).

Engine & Transmission:

The 2cv engine should be rugged and reliable, and extremely durable. However, it does rely on regular servicing, and being kept properly adjusted. Look for some evidence of this.

The engine should be free from any major oil leaks. A blue 'purflux' oil filter (the only type suitable for a 2cv) is a good sign. Check for white "mayonnaise" under the oil filler, a bit is normal but large deposits suggest a worn engine or overheating.

A cold engine should start quickly on full choke and settle down to a smooth tickover. Check that the oil pressure light comes on with the Ignition, then off shortly after starting. Check for exhaust leaks; smell for fumes through the heater and listen for 'chuffing' (a loose air filter lid can sound like an exhaust leak). Once the engine is warm, it should rev fairly freely without spitting or misfiring (this can be caused by badly adjusted timing). 'Blue' exhaust can point to worn piston rings or valve guides. A bit of tappett noise is normal. With the ignition off, turn the engine on the starting hande; there should be definite resistance on each rotation (compression stroke).

With the engine warm, it should be possible to pull away on a flat road in 2nd gear without any problems. The car should just be able to accelerate from 30m.p.h. in 4th.

2cv gearboxes are usually fairly noisy, and will whine in all gears, especially 1st, 2nd and reverse. 1st has no synchromesh, so is difficult to engage when moving. Check for severe whining in 3rd, or any grinding sounds from the gearbox.

Steering, Brakes and Suspension:

Check the front wheels for excess play in wheel bearings, kingpins or track rod ends. Kingpins often show play (pull top of front wheel back and forth), especially if not well greased, and cost about 60 to replace. Track rod ends should not show much play. When driving, the steering is often heavy on corners, but should not feel stiff, or shudder (often a sign of worn kingpins or track rod ends).

Brakes are fairly heavy (no servo) but very effective. Drum brakes may feel a little 'wooden'. A bit of squeaking is normal on brakes which are not used often, but any severe squealing or grating will be due to severely worn or contaminated pads or discs/drums. The steering should not pull in one direction (a slight pull is normal on cambered roads) under heavy braking. This, again, suggests contaminated pads/shoes. Front brakes are mounted on transmission, and are easy to access/check for wear.

Handbrake works on front wheels, and may require adjustment. A small amount of movement when the car is held on the handbrake is due to a bit of play in driveshafts but is normal.

Suspension should be soft, but should not bounce excessively. A bit of squeaking from either side is normal, and can be easily cured. Check that the vehicle stands fairly square without leaning. A severe 'nose down' attitude may suggest a bad chassis.

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