Widely remembered as one of the most popular versions of the Citroën 2CV, the Charleston started life as merely the latest in a long line of special editions designed to keep sales from embarking on a free fall. It was based on the 2CV6 Club and introduced in France in September of 1980.
Outside, the the 2CV Charleston featured an eye-catching burgundy and black paint job with white highlights that harked back to the late 1920s and early 1930s. The headlight housings were black, the 15-inch steel wheels were painted in the same shade of burgundy as the body, and chromed hubcaps borrowed from the Dyane parts bin came standard.
Inside, the only Charleston-specific modification was a cloth upholstery borrowed from the Peugeot-based LN. All Charlestons came with separate front seats (as opposed to the single bench that other models models could be ordered with at the time), but the rest of the cockpit was standard 2CV fare.
Citroën made no changes under the hood and the Charleston used the same 602cc flat-twin engine that powered the 6 Spéciale. Linked to a four-speed manual transmission, the mill made 29 horsepower. It propelled the car from zero to 62 mph (100 km/h) in about 33 seconds and on to a top speed of roughly 71 mph (115 km/h).
In late 1980, the Charleston cost 24,800 francs, a premium of 4,820 francs over a 2CV6 Spéciale and 1,500 francs over a 2CV6 Club. For the sake of comparison, that same year a two-door Volkswagen Golf with a gasoline-burning engine cost 29,490 francs.
Back by popular demand
The 8,000 examples of the Charleston sold out very quickly and the car was added to the Citroën catalog as a regular production model in July of 1981. In its transition from a limited-edition to a regular-production model, the Charleston gained disc brakes up front, chromed headlight housings and a a diamond-stitched cloth upholstery. The car became an instant hit and it enabled Citroën’s top brass to justify keeping the car around for a little longer.
In July of 1982, Citroën offered the Charleston with a yellow and black two-tone motif that was not particularly popular among shoppers. It was replaced by a gray and black motif in July of 1983.
The Charleston became the best-selling 2CV in the 1980s, and it was part of the lineup up until the deux chevaux was given the axe on July 27th, 1990.
All photos were kindly provided by Citroën’s archives department.