The Nazi conquest of Europe came quickly in 1940. That meant that many French companies had to destroy the fruits of their labor lest they fall into German hands and be used against them. The car manufacturer Citroën decided it did not want to destroy the prototype of their next vehicle, the 1939 Deaux Cheveaux or 2CV, and took a chance and hid it. Some of the cars were stashed in a barn near the test track at Ferté-Vidame, others were buried in the ground and one was even converted to become a pickup truck and hidden in plain sight.
The cars survived the Nazi occupation and their existence was not forgotten by the company but the public believed that everything had been lost during the occupation. Citroën ordered them to be scrapped anyway. Some of the workers who appreciated their historical value and may have helped to keep them hidden could not let that happen and they were hidden for a second time. Management never apparently bothered to check whether the cars were scrapped and the workers obviously did not dare let anyone know what they had done. The workers simply hid the cars in the roof of the barn underneath a blanket of straw.
The 2CVs were eventually forgotten until 1994 when they were rediscovered hidden under the beds of straw in the roof of the barn. For sitting in a barn for 55 years they had little corrosion and still had their original tires. A crane was used to lift the cars out of the barn after removing the roof. The cars were placed on display at the 1998 Paris Retromobile show for the public to see.
One of the prototypes had small hydraulic rams fitted to the front suspension. Another had one headlight still attached, which was all that French law required at the time. The seats were made of canvas which survived intact. Citroën cars were meant to be affordable by the general public as well was handy. The car had to be tall enough to accommodate a man with a hat and the car had to be spacious enough to fit an animal being taken to market. It’s suspension was tested by driving across a plowed field with a basket of eggs and seeing how many broke.
Despite having the prototypes for the car available manufacturing was not able to begin until 1948, such was the damage to France in the war. Since the company ordered the prototypes to be scrapped they may have just wanted to start over from scratch. The 2CV became one of France’s most iconic cars and was for Europe what the VW Beetle was in the US. The 2CV remained in production until 1990.