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updated: 6/5/2017 6:41 AM

Chicago man finds his French connection

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  • 1976 Citroen 2CV Charleston,

    1976 Citroen 2CV Charleston,
    Photos Courtesy of Matt Avery Media

  • The 1976 Citroen 2CV features two-tone, Art-Deco inspired yellow and black paint.

    The 1976 Citroen 2CV features two-tone, Art-Deco inspired yellow and black paint.

  • For those sunny, summer days, the Citroen's canvas roof rolls back.

    For those sunny, summer days, the Citroen's canvas roof rolls back.

  • Houphoue has had to do no major work on the car but maintains it in top shape.

    Houphoue has had to do no major work on the car but maintains it in top shape.

  • Citroen manufactured the 2CV from 1948 to 1990.

    Citroen manufactured the 2CV from 1948 to 1990.

  • The Charleston is the top trim model for the 1976 Citroen 2CV.

    The Charleston is the top trim model for the 1976 Citroen 2CV.

 
 

Laurent Houphoue grew up in Côte d'Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), Africa, where French influences abound. Laurent remembers seeing cars from the likes of Peugeot and Renault, but the one he came to adore was the Citroen 2CV.

His first memory as a small boy was seeing a gray one motor by. Then, years later, he recalls when a friend took him for a spellbinding ride in hers. "I loved it and wanted to have one," Laurent says.

In 1987, he asked a mechanic friend to locate one for him. His buddy came through, finding a blue example.

After 10 years of searching, Laurent Houphoue of Chicago found and bought this French-made, 1976 Citroen 2CV Charleston here in the Midwest.
After 10 years of searching, Laurent Houphoue of Chicago found and bought this French-made, 1976 Citroen 2CV Charleston here in the Midwest. -

The 2CV could be described in a lot of words but you'll never hear "fast" as one of them. The most you could squeeze out from its tiny, air-cooled engines was 29 horsepower. Hoping to squeak out even better gas mileage, the seller had installed motorcycle parts on the engine. All this did was further hamper the 602-cubic-centimeter powerplant.

"I would push the gas pedal to the floor and nothing would happen," Laurent laughs now. He bought the car but quickly recruited his mechanic mate to rectify the mismatched parts.

Laurent remembers driving his new purchase and hearing the exhaust pipe fall off the car. "It was such a small car but everybody would look when I was coming because of the loud noise," he says. "They could hear me coming several blocks away."

The tiny "microcar" is powered by an air-cooled engine rated at 29 horsepower.
The tiny "microcar" is powered by an air-cooled engine rated at 29 horsepower. -

He drove the car up until 1992 when he moved to Chicago. For two decades, he told his new friends in the Midwest about his beloved, quirky car. They listened but never believed something so odd existed. Eventually, in 2002, he began looking to buy another Citroen to show them firsthand.

Ironically, this car found him. While walking to lunch on Wabash Avenue in 2012, a yellow and black 2CV cruised past. "I chased the driver down and as it turns out, he was French!" Laurent says.

A deal was struck and Laurent's "dream car" was his.

The vehicle is a top-of-the-line Charleston model, which features striking two-tone, Art-Deco inspired yellow and black paint. He's done some maintenance but not much more to get his quirky coach in tiptop shape.

Laurent isn't afraid to drive it; he's driven as far as the Wisconsin Dells.

"The car is so basic and simple," Laurent says. "And the reaction when people see the car and go crazy is priceless."

• Share your car's story with Matt at auto@dailyherald.com.

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