Citroen’s advertising agency obviously tried hard to ensure the AMI6 was photographed at the most flattering angles. No success it seems.
Time has not been kind to the Citroen Ami.
Its sheet metal was not appealing when it was launched in 1961 and even today few people have a kind word to say about it.
The things is, the Ami 6 was the result of Citroen’s design team having to wrap new sheet metal around the old “hard points” of the aging 2CV model.
That’s never an ideal starting point in the car design world.
You must remember the 2CV?
It is just one step up from a horse and cart, but beloved by Francophiles across the world.
Anyway, back to the Ami.
The idea was for the Ami to be a modern, more powerful and passenger-friendy version of the spartan 2CV.
Citroen hoped the AMI6 would become as iconic as these three models. And it did, for its styling.
Ami’s designer was Flaminio Bertoni.
He had styled Citroen’s Traction Avant, 2CV and the iconic 1955 DS.
With that resume expectations were high that a svelte shape would emerge from his design studios.
And initial intentions aimed high.
Ami’s interior was based on the innovative DS, including the one spoke steering wheel.
Even today, the interior impresses with its elegance layout.
But it is the exterior where there had to be compromises.
First, was the 2CV’s engine.
The four-cylinder engine, which was a meagre 602cc unit puffing out just 22bhp (16.4kW) was too tall for a low-profile bonnet.
Bertoni “solved” the design problem by creating a strangely curved bonnet.
It looked like pastry dough rolled over misshapen and lumpy pie filling.
Second was the 2CV’s frame, wheelbase and passenger location points.
They were set in steel, so to speak.
To increase rear seat space and headroom, Bertoni reached back to the 1950s for a styling device that Ford, GM, Chrysler and others had well and truly overused.
Yep, the old tried and tested reverse-raked notchback rear window.
Why he did not just do what Renault had done with its newly released R3 and R4, and make it a hatch back, is one of those automotive mysteries.
It was not until 1964 that an Ami 6 wagon (basically a hatchback) was finally released.
In 1969 the reverse angled window was eliminated and a more conventional rear end applied.
To mark this long overdue change, Citroen renamed the car Ami 8.
Despite its visually challenging appearance, the Ami was a reasonable success.
By the time production was terminated in 1978, Citroen had sold 1.8 million of them.
But the winner of this race was certainly Renault.
It shifted a staggering eight million R4s from 1961 to 1992.
It shows that styling really does matter.
David Burrell is the editor of retroautos
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