Thursday, 22 April 2010

“BUILD ME AN UMBRELLA WITH FOUR WHEELS”

André Lefebvre and the cars he created for Voisin and Citroën by Gijsbert-Paul Berk is BOOK OF THE MONTH in Australian Classic Car (May 2010).

“Build me an umbrella with four wheels.” These instructions were given to Citroën engineers in 1936. Head of those engineers was Andre Lefebvre, and the result was the iconic Citroën 2CV. It’s one of the many stories contained in Andre Lefebvre, by Swiss national Gijsbert-Paul Berk. Andre Lefebvre graduated as an aeronautical engineer and was working for Gabriel Voisin during the dark days of WWI. A shrewd businessman, Voisin realised the demand for military aircraft would plummet following hostilities – so he began producing cars using many aircraft techniques. His engineer was Andre Lefebvre, who went on to design a range of road and competition cars used to promote the Voisin name. With engines featuring Knight sleeve valves, they proved successful until the Great Depression. Lefebvre then moved on to Citroën and his name will always be linked with the French manufacturer.

While Lefebvre died in 1964, his legacy (apart from the Viosins) includes such great cars as the Citroën Traction Avant and DS. The former was the world’s first mass-produced chassis-less car and led the way for decades to follow. The DS, of course, startled the automotive world in 1955. The 2CV? Well, looking at the initial cars you can understand how Lefebvre interpreted what an umbrella on wheels looked like. Andre Lefebvre is a most entertaining and informative book – I can’t say I have read much on Voisin cars, so that was a real delight (especially the parts about its competition cars). The text, which I suspect has been translated from French, is nevertheless easy to read and the period photos are a delight.
An excellent publication.
PQ

Click here for more info about the book.