Revealed: How Citroën sabotaged Nazi trucks in World War II
Simple yet brilliant
The year 2019 marks an important milestone for Citroën, as the French car maker celebrates its 100th anniversary. They basically started celebrating in January and haven't stopped yet.
Over the course of a long and rich history the French manufacturer has built more or less anything and everything motoring related including, in the world's darkest hour, Nazi trucks.
When the Germans occupied France in 1940, they started sweeping the large factories, shutting down those that couldn't be useful, while forcing the rest to build equipment for them. Citroën had to build trucks. Obviously, they could not refuse but Pierre-Jules Boulanger, chairman of the Citroën at the time, hatched a brilliant plan to mess things up for the Nazis.
The details of Boulanger's plan were revealed in John Reynold’s book "Citroën 2CV". Monsieur Pierre-Jules instructed workers to set about building trucks like the T45 and told them to set the oil level indicator a little higher than it should be, so that it would show more oil than it actually contained and the trucks would constantly run on low levels of oil. The German mechanics couldn't know that because the notch kept telling them the oil level was spot-on. Eventually, this would make the trucks would come to an unexpected halt, leaving the Germans stranded.
Pierre-Jules Boulanger was chairman of Citroën from 1935 until his death in 1950
A very clever plan by a very clever man. It was obviously almost impossible to know there was something with the trucks until they actually did go wrong, and when they did realize, it was too late.
Boulanger was a key figure for the French manufacturer and he contributed greatly to the evolution of Citroën. He was good at messing stuff up for the Nazis but he was also a great innovator and creator. In 1936, Boulanger began working on an idea for a new car called the TPV, short of "Très Petite Voiture" which literally means "very small car" in French. He wanted to build a car that could be driven by anyone and carry anything, and it had to be cheap to run. The project later developed into what we know today as the 2CV, which was built in 1948, two years before his tragic passing in a car accident.
Way to go, Pierre-Jules. Way to go.