Home » Whoever Chose A Citroën Ami For This Chinese Parking Sign In LA Deserves Some Love

Whoever Chose A Citroën Ami For This Chinese Parking Sign In LA Deserves Some Love

Chinese Ami

“I hope David is feeling better after COVID.  I hope that Torchinsky is on the mend.  You & the Autopians write in a way that makes us readers feel like friends,” reads the incredibly kind email from a reader named Lorine. “Like David, I live in the Los Angeles area. (I was out of town for the Auto Show.). I pass by The Citadel Outlets on the 5 Freeway in Commerce… the building used to be a tire factory and it has quite distinctive architecture,” the email continues before getting to an extremely serious and pressing issue.

That pressing issue has to do with the car on that sign you see above. “Lots of foreign tourists like to shop at the outlets,” Lorine continues, before asking: “Lately there has been an image of a vintage car with text in an Asian language.  Whenever I see the electronic billboard, I think of Torchinsky.  Too bad we can’t see the taillights.  Why would this image resonate with its target audience?  What car could this be?  Thought you might get a kick out of it.”

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Thank you, Lorine! This is a great spot, in part, because it’s deeply, deeply bizarre.

The sign is Chinese, and it reads: “”Free parking, exit the highway now,” and the car is an original 1960s-1970s Citroën Ami — a very not-Chinese and a very French car.

Cs Ami


I’ll let our currently-in-the-workshop Jason Torchinsky talk a bit about the Ami, since I miss reading his beautiful voice:

I’ll admit that I’ve always loved the Citroën Ami’s design, despite knowing that, objectively, the front end is really, really awkward-looking. Some may say “ugly,” but I won’t. It’s too interesting to be ugly, to compellingly weird. It introduced rectangular headlamps, but then surrounded them with oval bezels, and draped everything with that strange, languid arc of a hoodline, like the hood was fabric, held up by the headlight pods. It’s so strange.

The grille is awkward and small, the indicators are set into a strange linear, chrome-bordered recess that feels like part of something else, and the hardware for the bumper doesn’t look like automotive hardware; the bumper looks like it’s made from bathroom grab handle railings, or something.

And yet, despite all this, somehow I like that weird, grumpy face. It has real charm behind it, a peculiar sort of fussy, weird charm, like an annoying friend that would do anything if it makes things more fun, even if they won’t shut up or not make weird noises when they chew.

I love it. It’s a front-engine, front-wheel drive, underpowered but wonderfully practical machine that came as a van, a wagon, or a saloon/sedan, also called the “Berline.” It’s the sedan that gets all the love, because the Z-shaped roof is to this day one of the great automotive design-wonders of the world — so much so that in 2021, Stellantis (which is part of a huge company that includes Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, Citroen, and a bunch of other brands) felt compelled to send out a press release commemorating the vehicle’s 60 year-anniversary and especially giving love to the Berline.

Here’s part of Stellantis’ press release that discusses the iconic roof:


After designing the Traction Avant, the 2 CV and the DS with the Citroën design team, Flaminio Bertoni was asked to create the lines of a middle-range car, known as the AM Project. Ami 6 was the result of this; his masterpiece, as he confided to his friends and family. Since here, for the first time, the designer could express himself fully and alone without interference from anyone else imposing the style of the car. For Ami 6, he had the bold idea of the inverted rear window which remains clear when it rains, also preserving a respectably-sized trunk with traditional opening, and spaciousness in the rear seats, while retaining reduced outer dimensions. The dual-cylinder 602 cm3 engine was extrapolated from that of the 2 CV, In addition to its front end with refined lines set with wide rectangular headlights (a first at that time), its bonnet sloping in the middle, its pagoda-style roof and sides highlighted with embossed lines, Ami 6 displayed a strong character, even a “baroque style” in the words of some observers! Ami 6 was not content with being just an aesthetic success. It was also innovative in terms of marketing, presenting itself in advertising documents as the “second vehicle ideal for the lady of the household”.

The interior of Ami 6 was inspired directly by that of the DS, a gold standard in the field. From its single-spoke steering wheel and door handles to its controls and seats, everything suggested top-of-the-range Citroën.

In terms of road behaviour, everyone applauded the road handling and flexibility of the saloon, inherited from the famous suspensions of the 2 CV. From its creation, in keeping with the Citroën spirit, Ami 6 has been an original and innovative car. Its die-hard fans maintain a particular interest in the Club versions with four headlights and white side trim, sold from September 1967.

The iconic advertising slogan for Ami 6 remained “the least expensive comfort mile in the world”.

The press release includes vintage images of the Ami 6 (as the original Ami was called — an updated Ami 8 came later):

Citroen Ami6 1961 Georges Guyot.jpg
Image Exclusive * Femme posant contre une Citroën Ami 6 garée sur un chemin de forêt en 1961. Photo de Georges Guyot. Utilisation éditoriale uniquement, nous contacter pour toute autre utilisation

Citroen Lifestyle Ami6 Typhon Grey 1967 V2.jpg Citroen Ami6 Brochure Commerciale 3.jpg

Citroen Ami6 Brochure Commerciale Delpire Publicite.jpg
Image Exclusive * Brochure commerciale pour une Citroën Ami 6 signée Delpire Publicité, années 60. Utilisation éditoriale uniquement, nous contacter pour toute autre utilisation
Citroen Ami6 Usine Rennes La Janais Interieur.jpg
Image Exclusive * Europe, France, Bretagne, Ille-et-Vilaine, Chartres de Bretagne. Ouvrières au travail près du tunnel de contrôle des Ami 6 en 1965. Utilisation éditoriale uniquement, nous contacter pour toute autre utilisation
Citroen Ami6 Press Reveal 24 Avril 1961.jpg
Image Exclusive * Europe, France, Île-de-France, Yvelines, Villacoublay. Ami 6 garées devant un bâtiment lors d’une présentation le 25 avril 1961.

What’s especially cool about the press release is the original 1961 press release from Citroën:

Communique Presse Citroen 1961 Ami6.jpg

The press release talks about how developing cars inherently involves compromises, but how the AMI represents a beautifully “balanced” machine, with Citroën writing:

The new Citroen (front-wheel drive, 600 cubic-centimeter engine) which will be presented before the summer is called “AMI 6.”

This model is in no way intended to replace the 2CV from which it differs completely in its appearance, its use, its price. The 2CV is the minimum automobile, capable of adapting to the most varicose uses, of traveling on any terrain. The AMI 6 meets other goals:  It will offer its user not only the essential, but also more features.

Each type of automobile has its own qualities which correspond to the choice that the manufacturer had to make among often contradictory characteristics: one is fast but not very comfortable, one is luxurious but very expensive. Citroen, with the AMI 6, intends to present to the public a balanced car.

It will be neither a small nor a large car, but a “Large small car”: a small footprint for ample roominess. It will be sufficiently responsive and fast (more than 100 km/h top speed) for low consumption. It will be practical without sacrificing its elegance. Finally, it will be extremely comfortable.

I love the “large small car” phrase in there,  because you may recall a similar bit of advertising used by American Motors just over a decade or so later:


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The whole “small on the outside, big on the inside” concept has been compelling since the beginning of time, and likely will continue. To be honest, I tell people the same thing when I brag about my BMW i3.

Anyway, back the Stellantis press release, because it’s got some great fun-facts about the Ami:



  • The name Ami 6 comes from a phonetic combination that refers to the name of the Design project (AM vehicle), the title “Miss”, and amici (Italian for friend), probably inspired by its designer, who was himself Italian.
  • Yvonne de Gaulle, wife of General de Gaulle, drove an Ami 6. The vehicle inaugurated the Citroën plant in Rennes-La-Janais (France) while it was still under construction on 10 September 1960, a little over a year before its production began on site.
  • A rally named “Le Tour de Gaule d’Amisix” was held by Citroën, setting off from Rennes-La-Janais on 19 January 1966, with two standard Ami 6 station wagon models to demonstrate their endurance and road qualities. At the finish line, 23 hours and 11 minutes later and guided by an escort, the team had covered 2,077 km at an average of 89.6 km/h.
  • In June 1963, Ami 6 was presented in the United States. The export model adopted four round headlights and reinforced bumpers.
  • Production location: Paris (France) from 1961 to 1963, Rennes-La-Janais (France) from 1961 to 1969. With Ami 6, Citroën inaugurated this brand new plant in Brittany, the brand’s first major decentralisation from Paris. Forest (Belgium) from 1961 to 1969. Catila (Argentina): continued production of the Ami 6 station wagon until 1971 (cars shipped in parts to be assembled on site).
  • 1,039,384 Ami 6 vehicles produced in total: 483,986 Saloons (April 1961 to March 1969), 551,880 Estates (October 1964 to September 1969), 3,518 Entreprise (two-seater service estate, glazed and panelled versions).
  • On the last Ami 6 models, the brightness of the dial could be adjusted with a small knob that controlled a rheostat.
  • Today, an Ami 6 vehicle in good driving condition is evaluated at €5,000 and up.

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Anyway, thank you Lorine for the email. Next time I drive by the Citadel Outlets in Commerce, California, I’ll keep an eye out for Chinese text strangely surrounding a historic French car.

Whoever chose that vehicle: Nice work! You’re getting noticed.

Top image inset: YouTube/Ragnar Ragnarson

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3 months ago

Just watched “Monsieur Spade” on BritBox, and the hero (Sam Spade) is driving around the French countryside in one. It’s a nice shiny one, as it would be pretty new in the time period of the show.

Jonee Eisen
Jonee Eisen
3 months ago

My girlfriend and I noticed this a couple weeks ago and both said we need to take a picture of that on the way home for the Autopian. But, it was a different sign on the drive back. I’m happy someone else handled it. I’ve owned one Ami. I found it in someone’s backyard in San Bernadino, CA. I spotted it out of the corner of my eye through the slats in a fence thinking, “that couldn’t possibly have been the front of a Citroen Ami.” I stopped and sure enough it was. Made an offer and towed it home. It had sat for who knows how long, but started right up after a little carb cleaner and new gas.

3 months ago

A couple of British cars (eg: the Ford Anglia) had this roofline too. It allows for a much bigger trunk opening while not compromising rear seat head room. I think it’s brilliant.

Last edited 3 months ago by Hamish48
Ward William
Ward William
3 months ago

That little Ami has such a typical smug French look on it’s front grill that I half expect it to light up a Gitane and show us some pubic hair in it’s door jams.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago

You completely forgot to mention that statue of Lamassu just behind the sign.
I can’t see if it has the authentic five legs but what the hell is it doing there?


Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Does a little looking around and it turns out the building is based on the palace of Assyrian king Sargon II.
Slap forehead— well of course!

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