How many people do you know who bought a new 2CV in 1965, tucked it away and left it untouched? Probably not even one. Its perfectly preserved condition is what makes this car totally exceptional.

As stated on the original invoice, it was bought new from the Citroën showroom in Beverly Hills, CA, by Bill Harrah. An enthusiast of classic cars, Harrah was one of a very exclusive group of collectors to have owned a Bugatti Royale, in addition to the hundreds of marvels that he exhibited in his museum. It is here that the 2CV was delivered. In January 1965, it was pushed into the museum on a flatbed, where it stayed without moving for 40 years.

The current owner bought it some 10 years ago and has scarcely used it, explaining the 116 miles showing on the odometer. Yes, 116 miles.

This is probably the lowest mileage for any 2CV from this period. Having been stored under perfect conditions, it is pretty much as new as the day it left the factory.

In addition to these unbelievable circumstances, it also happens to be a desirable version, boasting suicide doors, the small, aluminum “Double Chevron” grille, 425-cc engine and painted metal dashboard. The AZAM specifications include polished aluminum beading, bumpers with chrome overriders, red Ami 6-style bench seats and a baggage net in the back.

It was one of the last models of its type, before the bodywork changed to feature six side windows. And to add a touch more exclusivity, as if there is any need, this 2CV is a “California “ version, fitted with special indicators on the front, and rear wings shaped like drops of water. To cover the fixing holes where the standard indicators would have been, Citroën added a horizontal double chevron pointing forward, like two arrows launched at speed. This charming detail is part of what makes this 2CV like no other, and the envy of all 2CV and iconic car enthusiasts.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1965 Citroën 2CV sedan

This car, Lot 345, sold for $78,391, including buyer?s premium, at the Artcurial Rétromobile sale on January 21, 2012.

No, your Chevrolet Chevette with 100 miles on the clock is not now worth any more than the value of its parts. Yes, prominent collection provenance does have an effect on value. No, valuable cars aren?t always rare. Yes, sometimes things happen in the universe that can?t be explained within the bounds of current knowledge. No, it?s probably not possible to duplicate this sale outside of France.

There — I think I?m done with this profile. There was certainly a score of really interesting vehicles sold in Paris in February at the Artcurial and Bonhams auctions. Rare cars — some one-of-a-kind — the most desirable sports, luxury, classic and vintage models found buyers, and some set records in the process. This was one of them, but it?s not hard to figure out why this remarkable sale occurred. Start with the somewhat strange market attraction to the ultra-low-mileage car, add the siren call of famous provenance and finish with a touch of “people?s car” appeal.

Okay, maybe I?m not done yet.

Bill Harrah had a particular affinity for buying and maintaining low-mileage cars, such as the 1957 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Tour de France he bought new and hardly drove. In this case, it’s hardly likely that he intended to actually use the Citroën, but that it was acquired to include an iconic car in his vast collection. This 2CV is a so-called “California” model, and rather than having special indicators as indicated in the catalog copy, it actually had front and rear turn signal lamps that the corresponding French model lacked. As a 1965, it is also the last year before a C-pillar sixth window was introduced to deal with the fairly massive rear quarter blind spot the 2CV had.

Not the record price for a 2CV

The Harrah car did not challenge the highest price achieved at auction for a 2CV. That honor goes to the truly wacky 1962 Sahara 4×4 Bonhams sold by an SCM contributor at the Quail Lodge in the Carmel Valley, CA, in August 2008. This twin-engined dune climber made a massive $93,600.The Sahara is quite rare, with fewer than 30 thought to survive of the original run of just fewer than 700.

So, who would want our subject car? Well, it was in superb condition, much nicer than any 2CV that was actually used — and most that have been restored. It was a perfectly preserved example of what the factory shipped to North America in 1965.

So, two warnings present themselves:

First, if you drive a 116-mile car, you quickly diminish the freshness.

Second, Bill Harrah is a name that means a great deal to an ever-shrinking group of aging people. Many, including myself, know him and his once-legendary collection only through reference materials and visits to the rump collection of the National Automotive Museum in Reno, NV.

There is one remaining factor that might explain this sale.

Living French history

The real motivating factor in this result may be the everyman appeal of the people?s car. The French feel about the 2CV the way many Americans feel about the Ford Model T, Germans the Volkswagen Beetle and Italians the Fiat 500.

These cars are reminders of a time when the masses moved from bicycles and carts to cars. Having what is, in effect, a brand-new 2CV is to possess a time machine. There are certainly very few practical, everyday cars that have been preserved in aspic as this one has, and if you wanted it, you had to step up and pay for the privilege.

And, if they ever start a Citroën 2CV Classiche Program, you?d have the touchstone against which they would be compared. Well sold.

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