Thursday, November 06, 2008

The ugly duckling.

When does something ugly become beautiful? And how is that possible?

I've spoken before about my concept of 'Beautiful decay', whereby an object on the evidence of a casual glance would appear to be scrap, but on closer inspection, and seeing it in a different way it can actually become quite beautiful.

A case in point would be the Citroen 2cv. Made in France between 1948 and 1990 this car was as basic a concept as you could find, 'an Umbrella on wheels' is what the design brief called for and the designer Mr. Boulangier gave them exactly that!

This is a car that from any angle, even by the standards of 1948, was considered ugly. It was as spartan a vehicle as had ever been conceived, made from very thin steel, with canvas 'hammock' or deck chair like seats, and a cloth full length roof.
As a young man I thought these cars were hideously ugly, many's the time that I wondered just what it was that posessed anyone to buy one of those things! Of course they were cheap to buy and run, but to a young male the ownership of such a device would ensure that you remained a batchelor for some time to come!

More recently, as the numbers of these strange little cars began to dwindle on our roads, I came to see them as a quirky but cheap second car, or hobby car... and I bought one!
At that time back in the late '90's these cars were literally being given away, there was a standing joke among owners that you never have just the one as they seem to multiply!

The cars simplicity, ruggedness, fuel economy, and the ability to cruise flat out for hours on end without complaint won me over. Mechanically they don't come much simpler, and can be dismantled completely in a matter of hours with the minimal of tools, and are almost supernaturally reliable in any extreme of temperature.

I immediately appreciated the surprisingly good ride quality and comfort, superb brakes, and the way the entire roof rolls back in good weather is great!

So is it still ugly? Well, yes and no.
This is a car that is ugly to the unacquainted, but as familiarity grows, so does the respect for both the original design and the functional yet minimal form of its components. It's the automotive version of the Ugly Duckling, and only ownership then reveals its true beauty.