This booklet describes how one DIY mechanic and 2CV enthusiast with no special skills fitted a new chassis to a six year old 2CV. The purpose of this document is to pass on to other 2CV owners some of the experience that I have gained. Many of the technical tasks are well described in the Haynes manual, and indeed such a manual is indispensable to anybody undertaking this job, but the Haynes manual does not provide the overview that this booklet tries to provide. Here I set out to describe what the tricky bits were, what I would do differently if I was doing it again, where I obtained some of the parts and tools that I needed, and so on. Before I started the job I would have liked to have read a booklet like this. That is why I have written it.
How difficult is it? Not very, although it is time consuming. The most difficult aspects of the job are around the suspension and the suspension cylinders. No very special tools are required, although of course a good set of socket and open ended spanners are absolutely essential. The nuts at the ends of the suspension mounting cylinders need a pair of very large spanners, although as I describe I made do with fairly cheap ones. The most useful 'special' tool I used was an angle grinder which proved invaluable when the easiest way to remove parts from the old chassis was to cut them off, and when it was necessary to trim away stray bits of weld on the new chassis. I also found that the angle grinder with a metal cutting disk was the only way that I could cut the stainless steel sheet that I used for some of the underbody 'extras'. A good drill and plenty of spare bits were needed to drill the chassis, not least for the mounting of the stainless steel underskin where a thread cutting tap was also required.
How long did it take? About sixteen working days of my time - not overlong days because the Olympic Games were on the television and I tried to be cleaned up for 5pm every day to watch. These sixteen days included the occasional trip into town to buy a part, a tool, or some materials. As well as my time I had the help of my engineering-student son for about five days. That is is total a lot of time, but by-and-large it was enjoyable time. I wasn't rushing the job, fortunately I didn't have to. Moreover, the job was not limited to the chassis exchange; I ended up doing, or having done, a fair amount of body restoration. I also fitted a new clutch, new brake lines and a new fuel line.
How much did it cost? More that I expected. The basic chassis cost was reasonable, but carriage to the North East added a fair bit. I spent a lot on odds and ends - paint, etc., but the biggest extra cost was the body welding that I had done, an unexpected £200 or so. The grand total was about £800. Most of the costs are shown in the Appendix.
Would I do it again? Possibly. It cost more than I expected and took longer than I expected. It was enjoyable work but towards the end I was looking forward to getting it finished. I now have a car that I know is sound. I also know the car far better than I did before. I expect to be able to maintain the chassis and body so that the car will last for many more years. If I did not love the 2CV and want to own one in the future then the job would certainly not be worthwhile. But I do!
No other car would require such major restoration at such an early age, and indeed it seems that C and D-registration cars are particularly vunerable to rust. I owned a K-reg Dyane for a number of years during the 1970s which showed no evidence of rot, and before that, briefly, a Slough-built 2CV which was well into its second decade but (from what I remember) was fairly rust free.