This is a typically story Citroën: In the middle of the development of a car, the human aspect prevailed over any other consideration. The main protagonists were the Italian designer Flaminio Bertoni, the general director Pierre Bercot, and the chief engineer André Lefebvre.
It all started in the mid-1950s when it was decided to develop a "medium" car, with an engine of about one liter of displacement to be sandwiched in the range between the 2CV and DS19. At that time, the company's economy, affected by many factors, was not at its best.
Ideas were not lacking: from the super-aerodynamic model C10, Lefebvre's "drop of water", to C60, designed to be manufactured in two versions, with a two- or four-cylinder air-cooled boxer engine and torsion bar or hydropneumatic suspension ... What was lacking, however, were the financial resources and the personnel needed to allocate them to development and industrialization of such complex projects.
MANAGING AN IDEA
At the end of 1956 a meeting took place between the three heads of the Citroën and Bercot technical center, future President and CEO of the brand. The executive made a request that was a real challenge: Create a “medium” four-door saloon, with an engine of less than one liter, capable of transporting four people and all their luggage with the comfort of Citroën. And without providing the car with a tailgate (which Bercot did not like) and with a three-volume line.
As if considering all these conditions was not complicated enough, the final sentence was the one that forced the engineers present to rack their brains: "All this using the chassis and most of the mechanical organs of the 2CV."
At this point and after the meeting between the technical and commercial management, the discussion moved to the Technical Center where Bertoni, the designer who joined Citroën in 1932 and who had created masterpieces such as the Traction Avant, the 2CV and the DS19, waited. .
Bertoni listened to the explanations of his colleagues and, undeterred, replied: "Well, it can be done" and added "But I must speak directly to Pierre Bercot." The ItalianAs Bertoni was called at the company, he was famous for being able to ponder over long periods of time about the characteristics of a project and then, under pressure, find great and definitive solutions in a few minutes. For this reason, when Bertoni concluded that "Can be done" everyone in the Technical Center knew immediately that there was already an idea in their head that, although it bordered on the impossible, could come true.
DO WE BET THAT I GET IT?
So Bertoni went to meet Bercot and asked him to recite the specifications again: 2CV chassis, reinforced where necessary, three-volume, four-door bodywork, large trunk separated from the passenger compartment ... Bertoni nodded and said "We bet I get it?". Bercot sarcastically replied "I don't like gambling, but this time I'll make an exception."
Bertoni presented himself to Bercot a few days later with a plaster model of the future car. It had a streamlined and streamlined front hood, headlights integrated into the front, a "pontoon" line connecting the front to the rear, and a large trunk of more than 350 liters of volume. But the roof ... it was a large resin roof, like the one on the DS, which started from the front windshield and greatly exceeded the height of the passengers' heads to "return" backwards to their backs, thus generating abundant space. An unprecedented "Z" line allowed the required four passengers and their luggage to be comfortably accommodated on the 2CV's chassis.
Bercot was impressed: All the mechanical organs of the 2CV, with the engine displacement increased to 602 cc from 425 of the 2CV. More rigid chassis, but like the 2CV, the same wheels and body with molded panels and shapes that allowed the use of thinner sheet metal, but maintaining the rigidity of the whole. Bertoni's solution was functional, efficient and answered what was asked of it.
What nobody knew, except Bercot, logically, was that this car would be the starting point of a great project, with important social implications, that would soon take place in Brittany, a French region that was experiencing major social conflicts over the shortage of employment (the Bretons were essentially dedicated to fishing) and that led Citroën to commit to the De Gaulle government for the construction of a new and large car factory in that area of the north of the country.
THE CITROËN AMI 6 IS BORN
It was decided: the new "medium" model would be made in Rennes, in a new full-cycle factory that would be ready by the end of 1960. And the name? A game of letters and pronunciation: it was a “A”(2CV acronym) for the“Mi"Understood as" middle segment "and a 6 that read French meant "Friends." And so the Citroën AMI 6.
The construction of the factory, after a surprise visit from the General De Gaulle who wanted to personally supervise the progress of an ultramodern plant for the time, continued until the beginning of 1961, but the machinery of the assembly lines was already completed so that in February the first units were manufactured.
The press response to the new AMI6 was good: the car was quieter, faster and more comfortable as a whole than the 2CV. The press praised the space for four passengers, the capacity of the trunk, the economy of use and the use of some common elements with the ID and DS such as the interior door handles, the design of the exteriors, the shape of the steering wheel (single arm ) and numerous dashboard components.
The evolution of the AMI 6 included the launch of a Break in 1964 and an increase in performance thanks to a higher compression engine and a completely new one (since 1968), changes with which the power went from 18 to 35 horses without increasing the displacement. In 1969 AMI 6 yielded the baton to AMI 8, more modern and elegant, designed by Bertoni's assistant, Robert Opron.
Produced in more than 2.500.000 units, the AMI remained in the Citroën range for 17 years and until July 1978 when it was definitively replaced by the Visa.