– by George Dyke

For those of us in the CAC who met Quentin Renaud, 26 and Tristan Villemain, 23 the past few days have been like living a Citroën fantasy.  What fantasy?  Quentin and Tristan are driving a 2CV from Cambodia to Paris, across 5 continents!

The stories about their experiences so far are fascinating.  The basis for the journey is even more so!  They are driving a 2CV that was originally driven from Paris to Saigon in 2003.  Once there, the keys to the car were left with a farmer who was given a dollar to keep an eye on it.  Quentin and Tristan read about the car (called “Bucephale”, the name of Alexander the Great’s horse) and decided they were the ones to drive it back to Paris.  They have been on the road since January.

My active involvement began with a telephone call on Monday night (Nov 3, 2010) announcing that they had arrived in Toronto.  I had heard they were in the U.S. but was not sure if they were actually coming to Toronto.  In any event, I was pleased to hear from them and made some schedule adjustments so that I could show them around our city on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday.

View a full Photo Gallery of the visit here.

Quentin and Tristan are living out a year-long adventure literally by the seat of their pants.  Shipping the car from continent to continent, dealing with mechanical problems along the way and dealing with issues at various border crossings are just typical horrors that they take in stride.  Even if it means that the car is one month late arriving in Chile from Australia or that the car was covered in salt water ocean spray because it sat on an open boat deck from Colombia so much so that extensive bodywork had to be done in Mexico.  Or that Bolivian customs don’t want to let you into their country, so you camp out in front of them for 3 days until they’ve either had enough of you or you look so familiar that they finally allow you in, because for them trying to explain what a 2CV is and why you are there in the first place, will cause an administrative nightmare that’s best ignored altogether.

Along the way, they have met up with a whole Citroën community that has hosted and helped them out as needed.  As they arrive in Canada in November, the one thing we can’t assist them with is the weather!  On the outbound trip to Saigon, the original owner decided to cut the roof off in Romania so that he could more easily speak to curious folks.  This resulted in a frame that had completely cracked by the time Bucéphale arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Quentin and Tristan were able to source a replacement frame locally, fit it and continue on their way.  Later they had a soft top roof made in Thailand.  However, given the way the roof was cut, side windows were now out of the question.  So here they are now driving pretty much exposed to the freezing temperatures of Canadian fall weather.

By the time they arrived in Mexico, Bucéphale needed structural re-enforcement.  At that point, the body had sagged so much that driving in a straight line was virtually impossible.  Quentin and Tristan found a Citroën dealer there, who in spite of having had a number of Ds, had never actually worked on a 2CV.  He bravely took on Bucéphale as a challenge and learning experience to give new structural integrity to the 2CV.  He did this by welding steel bracing below the doors on each side and cross beams mounted under the seats and bolted into the side bars.  Hopefully, that will be enough to see it through Canadian road salt as they are off to Chicago, Washington DC, New York and then to Montréal where they hope to arrive in late November!   From Montréal they will ship Bucéphale to Senegal and begin the African leg of their journey back to Paris.

I spent all day on Wednesday showing them around Toronto.  That evening some other CAC members joined us to hear about their adventures.  No doubt they were wishing that they could do something as crazy as shipping a 2CV parts car from Paris to Cambodia to make drivable a car that had been abandoned in a water-filled rice paddy six years earlier, and then taking a year off to drive it home more than halfway around the world!

I said to Quentin; “Once Bucéphale has made it around the world laterally, maybe you could make a trip longitudinally, – pole-to-pole so to speak!  Or at least as far as the top of Alaska to the bottom of Chile and the Arctic edge of Russia to Cape Town, South Africa.”  He paused for a second with a whimsical look in his eye.   Then later in the evening, he brought up the subject again, outlining where he would like to go.  Obviously, he had been thinking about it.  For two guys with such a passion for adventure in a Citroën, thoughts for the future world excursions only add more reason to complete this one.

Editor’s note.  The name Bucéphale is derived from two Greek words: bos – bull and cephalos – head. “Bullheaded” certainly is an appropriate description for two gentlemen undertaking such an adventure.


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