Admittedly, we don't feature many products from the big three French manufacturers: Renault, Citron and Peugeot. However, this is one car too good to miss. Regardless of whether the base Citron C2 is sold in America, a true auto enthusiast can appreciate the blistered lines and inherent muscularity of this mighty mini. After all, how many times do you remember sitting in class daydreaming about cars? You may still be doing so... Well go ahead, devour this Ducati red eye-candy while the teacher goes on about Chaucer, but understand that if you attended the ESPERA school in Dijon, France, this C2 you're drooling over would be the subject of the lesson, rather than a distraction. You see, those students attend a nine-month program that imparts the knowledge to design and build a car from the ground up.
The C2 V6, as this car is called, came to fruition as this semester's ESPERA project. The car would have only been a vision in a student's head if it weren't for this unique program. And the program wouldn't exist if it weren't for the man behind it.
You may have heard of Franco Sbarro but for those who haven't, he's the granddaddy of tuning, if there ever was one. He was born Francesco Zefferino Sbarro in the rolling hills of southern Italy. Being a farmer's son, he was immediately immersed in the world of mechanics. As you may now be doing, he went off to study literature but quickly tired of it. At the tender age of 17 he discarded his books in favor of a set of wrenches at Filipinetti Racing in Switzerland. It was here he'd eventually build his first car, the Filipinetti Coupe. He also had his fingers in the Ferrari P3, the AC Cobra and the GT40.
Eventually he left Filipinetti to create Ateliers de Construction Automobile (ACA), where he built some of his more extreme vehicles such as a 1930 BMW 328 replica using modern BMW mechanicals and a Mercedes 540K roadster from the same era using a modern Merc V8. He also built a VW Rabbit with Porsche's 928 V8.
Today, Sbarro builds prototypes at ACA. These include everything from streamlined tractor-pull vehicles to BMW-powered Corvette lookalikes. This mechanic cum fabricator cum designer has limitless imagination and his booth at the Geneva Automobile Exposition is always one of the most popular at the show.
This prolific car builder figured out a way to pass on his passion to those who also eat, sleep and dream cars. In 1992, he opened Espace Sbarro outside his workshops in Grandson, Switzerland. In 1996, ESPERA (a complicated French acronym) opened its doors in Pontarlier, France, along with a museum of the same name. Since then, students have pumped out projects like the C2 you see here.
They are involved in every facet: design, modeling, maquetting, molding, polyester bodywork, mechanical engineering and chassis design. Just take a look in the hatch on this C2 and you'll find a well-placed Peugeot V6 - the students designed every aspect of the car, from the air filter and induction system to the exhaust tips.
If you're ever on the eastern side of France, the museum is well worth a visit. It's not every day you get to check out Ferrari-powered Citrons and Porsche-powered Golfs. www.espera-sbarro.com.fr
While ESPERA teaches all aspects of car construction, the main area of expertise is design, modeling and its execution. It's obvious from the wide fenders and hinged rear section the school is doing its job.
The shape of the fenders was designed in a CAD program with the molds laid on site. A wire shell was built in the shape of the rear section and Peugeot 307 tail lights were integrated into the design before fiberglass was laid around it. The air scoop molded into the roofline is fully functional, directing air to the brakes and engine intake.
The interior is spartan, adhering to the performance theme. Step inside and Isotta race seats grab you. The pedals and steering wheel are from the same Italian company. Peugeot 406 dials portray engine and road speed. OMP harnesses ensure the driver doesn't smack his head on the carbon dashboard but still allow enough movement to reach the alcantara-lined doors. It's not the kind of cabin you'd choose for a cross-country excursion, but is sleek and racy all the same.
Wheels And Brakes
The choice of wheels and tires is one of the most sublime aspects of this collaboration des tudiants. The rims line up perfectly with the fenders; there's even a term for it in German: Fukentuken.
The wheels came from OZ since the company has worked with Sbarro for a very long time - a walk through Sbarro's museum makes this perfectly clear, with almost every vehicle shod in the lightweight rims.
This particular set on the C2 are an inch smaller in diameter and width front to rear, so while the Superturismo GT wheels measure 19x9" and are wrapped in 225/35-19 BFGoodrich in the rear, the front 18x8s are wrapped in 225/40-18s.
Pulling these rollers down from speed is a set of Peugeot 406 brakes. Thanks to these discs and calipers, the C2 comes to a grinding halt when least expected.
Inevitably, the suspension is a hybrid system, but the Sbarro students tried to keep everything in-house. All four dampers are again from the 406. The front springs are stock C2, while the rear assembly deletes the C2's torsion bar rear springs in favor of an independent setup. In fact, the cages in which the rear springs sit resemble a linebacker's facemask, ready to sack the quarterback, pounce on the fumble and spike it in the end zone. And as wacky as this arrangement may appear, it seemed to do the job during our laps around a local airport.
If you want a car to handle well, there's one place to put the motor: in the middle. But sticking one in the middle of a C2 is no easy task, especially if it's a 220hp V6.
After designing the mounting subframe on the CAD system, the students took the 200hp 406 engine and placed it into its cradle. The radiator was from the 406 as well as the drive axles, which amazingly required no lengthening. The students built the 2.5" exhaust and also constructed the intake system, incorporating a Green filter.
The fuel tank sits up front now, covered in carbon fiber and holding 60 liters. The transmission uses a five-speed gearbox, while the harness has a dual identity: half of the motor is controlled by the 406 and the C2 controls everything else. Not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of Stella-drinking French kids!
2006 Citron C2
Engine: 3.0 liter V6, 24v with custom intake using Green air filter, custom 2.5" exhaust system, mid-mounted on custom subframe
Brakes: 260mm front rotors, 220mm rear from Peugeot 406
Suspension: Peugeot 406 dampers all round, Citron C2 front springs, Peugeot 406 rear springs in custom mounts
Wheels & Tires: 18x8" front and 19x9" rear OZ Superturismo GT wheels, 225/40-18 front, and 225/35-19 rear BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler tires
Exterior: custom widebody with hinged rear section, Peugeot 307 tail lights, painted Ducati red and Fiat white
Interior: Isotta seats, steering wheel and pedals, OMP harness, carbon dash, Peugeot 406 instruments