The Success of Citroëns on Southern Africa Strip Roads

A strip road is a dirt road with two narrow, parallel strips of asphalt, one for each wheel. Roads of this kind can be found in parts of southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe. The limited road construction budgets of South African nations meant strip roads could be developed as an improvement over dirt trails without incurring the higher cost of building completely paved road surfaces. However, driving on them presents a few challenges:

With oncoming traffic the correct protocol is to edge over so that the car occupies just one strip to let the approaching vehicle pass. The same hold true when a vehicle is being overtaken, but at that point the passing car is going at higher speed. Maintenance hasn’t been a high priority on many of them and the asphalt trips alone can be in precarious shape let alone the dirt portions on each side of the strips as rain and other erosion factors leave potholes that can easily wreck ordinary engineered cars.

Citroëns have proven to be popular on strip roads commencing with the Floating-power ride of the 1930s C4 and C6 models where the engine and chassis vibration was reduced by placing rubber mounts between them.

The introduction of robust torsion bar suspension on the Traction Avant in 1934 further popularized their presence on strip roads and of course the long travel suspension of the 2CV made it a ubiquitous choice from the 1950s on.

From the late 1950s onwards, the ability to glide along undue surfaces in a Citroën DS with its hydropneumatic suspension afforded an uncanny mastery of strip roads. The DS, ID and subsequent hydropneumatic Citroën models were the preferred cars in such environments.

We would be amiss if we did not mention Peugeot for its soft suspension and Mercedes Benz. Both marques offered durability but they were hardly as sophisticated as hydropneumatic Citroëns, clearly giving them the edge in comfort and control.

2 comments

  1. I was born in Kampala, 🇺🇬, my father had always had Citroëns as far as I can remember it.
    I have seen black and white photos of his early C6 and the TA latter on.

    He even had the first Citroën ID on order when they were announced back in 1955, for this there was a very long wait. I don’t know if by the time he had received it, if it was really driven and or always at the dealership garage being fixed, early LHS2 fluid DS ID had issues with the suspension not able to rise after it was parked for 24 hours-;(

    My father had passed away on the 04th March 1958 as he was driving his Traction Avant on a road that was fully paved , he was too tired at night , driving through the strip of road from Tororo via Jinja passing through the Mabira Forest, this latter strip no one stops by on the road for the fear of the wild life from the forest, man eaters , lions and other animals , along with snakes had lurked in that forest.
    He had a fatal accident whilst behind the wheel of a Traction Avant Right hand drive as that country share the U.K road mannerisms. He fell asleep , I wasn’t made aware of his passing away back then, as I was only two at the time, but my siblings had told me much latter, as in many years has passed away until 1962.
    I had often wondered about my love of the French Connection lol

  2. Strips, eh? I remember them well when I lived in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (Harare, Zimbabwe) in the early 50s. My mother would load my sister and me in a Fiat Topolino for the scary drive from Salisbury to Umtali (on the Mozambique border. It wasn’t unusual to have to stop while a pride of lions crossed the road! Erosion meant that the paved strips were a few inches above the graded dirt road surface. That made for interesting on and off transitions for oncoming or passing traffic. Sometimes a TA or ID would go blow by the Fiat’s struggling 15hp…

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