In the early 1970s, Citroën added new models to the 2CV lineup like the 602cc-powered 2CV6, and standardized a couple of so-called luxury features such as a third side window. The 2CV was still the brand’s cheapest car, but it had gone up in price. To compete against even cheaper offerings from Fiat, Mini and Skoda, the French automaker had to develop a model that would slot beneath the 2CV4.
The problem with that is that Citroën was in bad shape at the time. It had taken over control of Panhard in the mid-1960s, an arguably useless endeavor that cost them a fortune. Not long after, it had also invested a substantial amount of money in Comotor, an ill-fated joint-venture with NSU that was formed to design rotary engines.
Citroën had spent the end of the 1960s developing the SM and the GS and had no spare funds to design an entry-level model from the ground up. Instead, it created one by reusing parts that were past their expiration date. The end result was the 2CV Spécial, launched in September of 1975. The Spécial name wasn’t new to the Citroën lineup; it was introduced in 1970 on the D Spécial, which replaced the ID 19 as the cheapest D-Series car.
On the outside the most obvious difference between the 2CV Spécial and the other 2CV models sold at the time was the lack of a third window. Omitting it saved costs and created one hell of a blind spot all at the same time. The Spécial was fitted with round headlamps, whereas the rest of the 2CV lineup had temporarily switched to square units. Hubcaps and chrome were removed and the car was essentially free from any trim, save for a plastic “2CV Spécial” emblem glued to the trunk lid.
At its launch, the Spécial was only sold in a model-specific shade of yellow called Jaune Cédrat. A second color wasn’t offered until the late 1970s.
The cost-cutting extended to the car’s interior. Citroën removed the ashtray, the plastic door hinge covers and the passenger sunvisor. The Spécial was retrofitted with the instrument cluster from the 2CV type AZA, phased out in 1970.
There were no changes under the hood and the Spécial used the familiar 24 horsepower 435cc flat-twin bolted to a four-speed manual transmission. It is probably a good thing that the 2CV never came with a three-speed, otherwise the Spécial would have likely ended up with it.
In 1975, a 2CV4 retailed for 12,652 francs and the Spécial carried a base price of 11,852 francs. That was wildly expensive considering the level of cost-cutting involved. Nevertheless, it was exactly what Citroën had hoped for and it slotted in between the Fiat 126 (11,685 francs) and the Mini 850 (12,300 francs). As always, for the sake of comparison we’ll look at the Volkswagen Golf: a two-door base model started at 16,490 francs in 1975.
The Spécial appealed mostly to buyers who wanted a new car for the price of a used car. Its spot on the market was similar to the one Dacia holds on the western European market today. It would be wrong to call it was a success, but Citroën sold enough to justify keeping the model around for several years.
The first upgrade came in 1978, when the Spécial was finally given a third glass. A more discrete color called Beige Nevada was also added to the catalog.
A year later Citroën phased out 435cc engine, leaving only the 602cc. That marked the end of the 2CV4, but also the end of the 2CV Spécial. The name lived on with the 2CV6 Spécial, a better-equipped base model, and the top of the line became the 2CV6 Club. By that time Citroën also offered the GSA Spécial and the Visa Spécial.