A Time Warp 1969 DS21 Pallas Citromatic

by Carl Munro, Victoria BC…

Since childhood, I dreamt of owning a Citroën DS. Imagine my delight when a decades-long search for the right example uncovered a genuine 883 mile, one-owner, local example a few hours from my home!

The subject Citroën (VIN 4627482) was purchased ‘new’ on September 9, 1969, at Vancouver Citroën on Burrard St., by Roy Arnold of Richmond, BC. It was a demonstrator with a just a few hundred miles on it when Roy purchased it. While a ‘demo’, it sustained light body damage. Roy purchased it with the damage unrepaired at a discounted price.

Roy was an aircraft technician with Air Canada and planned to do the repairs himself. Turned out Roy was more proficient at repairing DC-8’s than Citroëns. In fact, Roy essentially drove the car from the dealership to his home where it remained unrepaired and in his garage for decades. In time, Roy repainted the DS himself, albeit not to standards befitting a low-mile example, yet he never relicensed it.

For the first forty-eight years of this Citroën’s life, it had only been licenced and insured, in total, for 5 months, from September 9, 1969, to February 9, 1970. Additionally, there was a four-day permit taken out in 1990, around the time Roy completed the body repairs. Other than these periods, the car has not been licensed. In fact, it has spent virtually all of its life in a garage in Richmond, BC. Even the 48-year-old Michelin tires were in ‘as-new’ condition. Seats and carpets had been covered since new.

I purchased the car in October 2017. By this time Roy had been placed in a care home and his family was selling his car collection. When I asked the selling family member why Roy never drove or licenced the DS, he replied, “Roy was a highly eccentric individual who spent his life doing things that defied explanation.” Hence, upon my purchase, the Citroën had travelled a total of only 883 miles.

The DS was then shipped to Coachwerks, Victoria, BC where it underwent a full restoration. Technical support and parts were supplied by Paul Heilig of Citroën Classics in California.

The goal of the restoration was to maintain originality wherever possible while turning out essentially a ‘new’ 1969 DS 21 Pallas and do so by summer 2019, in time for the 50th anniversary of the car’s ‘birth’ & the 100th anniversary of the Citroën car company.

Fuel and cooling systems were refurbished and the engine gently brought back to life, running well with minimal effort. Mechanical systems – including all hydraulic components – suspension, brakes, steering, transmission actuator, etc. were replaced or refurbished as required. New exhaust and Michelin tires were fitted. All body panels, roof, glass, and stainless trim were removed exposing a virtually ‘new’ chassis, frame, floor pans, etc. Body panels were stripped to bare metal and refinished in the original ‘gris nacre.’ All exterior stainless was polished. While the sub-structure was exposed, it was gently cleaned. No painting, undercoating or repairs were required to the sub-structure. The interior is completely original – upholstery, carpets, door panels, headliner, dash etc. are all 50 years old and unrestored. The restoration was completed by July 2019 at a value of approximately $80,000. The DS has now travelled a total of 1,500 miles from new.

In August 2019, this DS was entered in the Vancouver Island Concours D ’Elegance where, amongst million-dollar cars, Pebble Beach judge Dr. Paul Sable awarded it the ‘Honorary Chief Judge’s Award.’ Undoubtedly this must be one of the finest, lowest mileage DS’s in the world.

And here are pictures to substantiate that. The trunk is original. Engine compartment almost entirely original as well — that unused spare is 50 years old! No painting was done to the engine or related parts other than the rad and some fluid containers when they were re-furbished. I added the ‘Total’ stickers although I doubt they were present on Canadian cars.

Click on the pic or this link for a full picture gallery: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmMkuBL5

Another small detail you may be interested in: You will see in one of the photos, a front seat shot showing the carpet encased in a moulded, clear plastic sleeve. The selling family told me that sleeve had been on the carpet since new and came that way from the factory, intended to be removed by the dealer upon new car delivery. I removed, cleaned and retained that sleeve. It was clearly manufactured for a single purpose – to cover the front carpet of a DS. Interesting!

UPDATE: Carl sold this DS21 on May 18, 2020, in Bring a Trailer’s online auction for $83,000 USD.

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