A twin-engine, all-wheel-drive, chopped and channeled Citroën 2CV built by a mad Frenchman might be the wildest vehicle ever to raid the desert. “Whoever heard of a car with two engines?” asked Frank Locker, a retired architect and educational planner. He has a driveway full of rusting Volkswagen buses at the home he built on the coastline of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But when he stumbled across the 2CV on a French antique parts site, he immediately fell head over heels. “It was as simple as that. I’ve always loved 2CVs, and this was the only way I was ever gonna get one.” And what a 2CV it is.
In the mid-1980s, accomplished race car driver Jack Hanon wanted to tackle the Rallye de l’Atlas, a grueling, 1800-mile trek across Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Strapped for cash, he disappeared into his garage in the Parisian suburb of Gennevilliers. After more than 3000 hours of work, he reemerged with his wild 1785-pound race car.
It has 12 inches of ground clearance, double sets of springs and shocks at each corner, and disc brakes. It is possibly the only race car with three-lug wheels and two engines. The dual Citroën GSA 1300 flat-fours produce a combined 130 horsepower, a 500-percent increase over a period 2CV’s 26. The frame is actually two Citroën Ami frames cut and welded together. For mechanical access, all the fiberglass bodywork fore and aft of the doors can be raised skyward, like ring boxes. Both engines retain separate transmissions, with a shared gear shifter; a crude linkage connects the powerplants.
Hanon’s high-tech method for engaging the rear engine? Shove a metal pin through a pair of eyeholes.
When he’d finished it, Hanon affixed a sign to the back window—”Seeking Sponsors to Participate in the Rallye de l’Atlas”—and then circled the Eiffel Tower until someone noticed. Ultimately, an underwear company rose to the challenge.
Two decades and nearly half a dozen liveries later, the 2CV wound up in Montreal, owned by Hanon’s widow and entrusted to a caretaker named Jeff Silas. “I called him as soon as I saw it,” Locker said. “It was a Sunday morning, around eight, as early as I could imagine calling someone on a Sunday. I had to be in Burlington, Vermont, on that Tuesday, so it was a no-brainer to say, ‘Hey, Jeff, I’ll be there on Tuesday with my trailer.’ ” Locker then began a loving restoration, returning the 2CV to its original 1985 livery, with the help of Silas, who did the graphics. “It cost more than I expected, but it was worth it.”
At a quarry near his home, with only the front engine engaged, Locker drove the 2CV for just the third time since completion. Running this car without the full fury of both engines would have been a shame, and if you’ve never bump-started a car’s rear engine with its front engine, you haven’t lived.
So Locker got the car up to speed, shifted to neutral, then jammed Hanon’s trick pin into the eyeholes. A series of grinding noises ensued. It took a few attempts, but the rear engine soon fired up. “It was working hard on one,” Locker said, “Two was like night and day.”
Hot, cramped, and scary, Hanon’s mechanical wonder is as otherworldly today as it was when first conceived 35 years ago.
Frank Locker has been a Hagerty member since 2017.