Vid Jeraj, Zagreb and Goran Skrbin’s (photos from private collection)
«My father has started driving a ‘spatchek’ or ‘2cv’, back in the 1960s, when it was kind of a lifestyle, today you get this feeling only on our meetings in the European countries. Up to date he changed 30 of them. Due to all these new European standards and regulations, having one becomes an expensive sport. For us, it is still a lifestyle, as much as someone else can use it to attract chicks. Although driving a cabriolet to achieve that would probably have a bigger success.»
Goran Skrbin, 29-year old from Sisak, once-industrial town South of Croatia’s capital, shares his opinions about Citroën 2cvs. His bread and butter work is marketing executive at «Profil Megastore», the largest bookstore in Zagreb. On weekends, he opens his garage to become the president of the Croatian Citroën Diana Club, founded in 1998. The members count up to 50 people, and on the average, they’re 35 years old. The cars, once a cult-symbol, are now only a mobile museum. Or are they not?
«I was, literally, born in ‘spatschek’, as you may call it. The first European meeting of Citroen vehicles took place in Porec on Istrian peninsula in 1973. The Finns made the first European meeting of Diana’s fans in 1975, strong in their aim, cause no one had supported them before. In former Yugoslavia, two cars usually visited our meetings from Macedonia, then two from Serbia Montenegro, but later the Slovenes took over. In EU people have a better standard, which means this is ‘zweite auto’ for them. Such luxury puts them in the position to look over our ‘cans’ in disgust. This snobbish trend prevails even in Slovenia, because of a Citroen factory there.” Goran explains remembering good old history that resists the odds of the presence.
“2cv is a kind of a cult vehicle, we have gatherings just like the owners of VW Buggies, motorists and old-timers do, the vibrations are very much the same. About ten of us go to these meetings, wherever they might be organized. These are biannual international meetings, country of hospitality is elected four years in advance, and today the organization of such an event requires high standards. Some 4000 cars gather at such a meeting, the members come even from Japan, they come by boat, and some even drive through the whole of Asia. The daily routine starts in the bazaar or oldies’ fairground, and afterwards we go to attractive locations within the organizers’ state. Later, we gather under the great tent and different competitions proceed. The program consists of showing off the various witty rearrangements of 2cvs, as well.”
The history of Citroen Dianas goes way back to the 1930s, when French engineers constructed the first prototype. The first known campaign in the modern world, the one for Citroen cars, consisted of a large advertisement stretched over the Eiffel Tower. The rivalry between the French and the Germans, whose winner would take over the direction in technology, was already at large. Especially among the first tests that showed 2cvs’ advantages in comparison to Buggies. The test said that 2cv could carry 38 eggs in a basket on the second seat, while driving through the cornfield. Buggie’s construction is rather stiff and therefore the eggs would slip from the basket and break. That was the reason why the 2cv’s construction was kept during the WW2 as a top secret! The newspapers said that a certain French journalist has found three prototypes of 2cvs, hidden in the hay near Bordeaux in the early 1990s.
“The 1948 model was called ‘ugly duck’, the car’s mask has been changed in the 1960-ies and the last car was produced in 1990. It is driven on Euro super plus some fuel additives, because the original petroleum, Super 98 is not sold in the market any more. The car’s engine endures over 300 000 kilometres, they can drive through Sahara desert. Two years ago, I drove my ‘can’ to 30 kilometres before Noordkapp, the Northern peak of Europe. My biggest kick right now is to make it to the Off Road Australia 2008.”
The management of Citroen’s factory in neighbouring Slovenia is very exact towards its’ history – they didn’t want to use ‘retro look’ features in their campaign for Berlingo. Yet Croatian Old-timers’ Union tries to come across a symbolic benefit for their enthusiastic members. If a 2cv’s owner has another Citroen car aside, the idea is to make one registration for two vehicles. Thus, the owners would find a way to pay less money for a car that spends two times more money than a usual. Yet it drives slower.
But, the disadvantage of driving slowly may be an advantage for someone else, someone like Goran. Speaking about the new highway built in 2002 that connects Zagreb and Split within three to four hours’ drive, he mentions that now it is an even greater enjoyment to use the old road.
“Our cars are slow, and I take it as an advantage. I always want to find out the particular story of a certain region I pass through. We usually stop, take photographs of the site, and travel mostly off-road. Speaking of the road movies, I enjoy the old French movies the most, the titles with Alain Delon, “Gendarme from St. Tropez”, Catherine Deneuve. Our trips take 20 days, at least. I work the whole year for the gathering that lasts for 2 months in a year. We are trying to keep the spirit of adventure. Luckily, my boss understands me, and supports the way I live. Otherwise, I would be ready to quit my job.”
As mentioned before, Goran and his friend Bojan had participated in the international Citroen rally from Helsinki to Noordkapp. They had to travel through a number of post-Bloc countries, to come to the Baltic where the rally started. “During this trip, we became very aware of “Apua Help”, which is a code for the people within our faction. “Apua Help” are people, who are ready, at any time, to come and help a Citroen 2cv owner, who finds himself in trouble anywhere around the world. The members are spread in 36 countries over the world, from Southern America to Australia, and from Croatia to Kazakhstan. We kept driving even when the temperature was 33° below zero. And the car doesn’t have any heating system, do I have to emphasize that? We made it until 30 miles before the Noordkapp itself, because we realized that further progression might cost us the car. After all, we had to make the way back, too. Our satisfaction was in the fact that we almost made the whole trip, except for the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki.”