Citroën DS Rescue – and a Confluence of Events

The 1967 Citroen DS 21, parked in Southern Maryland in 2014 (Photo by Brian Petrie)

By Peter Kristensen, Bob Robinson, Paul Robinson, and Daniel Zavala,

On January 13, 2023, Bob sent an email to the DC Citroënistes Club with the subject “New Home Needed for Two DSs.” He was selling a property where the two DSs were, and the cars were free to anyone willing to take them away. Two free cars!

One was a white 1967 DS21 Pallas with the engine and 5-speed transmission from a DS23 that Bob had purchased from his brother Paul in 1981 (that’s a story for another day). Bob brought the DS21 back from England in 1983 when he was stationed at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. The other, a 1974 DS23 Pallas 5-speed that was once an embassy vehicle (complete with a flag tube on the right front fender), with Coolaire AC with the under-bumper condensers, and was originally injected but later converted to carburetor prior to Bob’s ownership in 1989. The idea was for Bob to restore the cars but obviously that did not happen… Well, as often happens, don’t we all take on more than we can chew?

Reading further in Bob’s email, it read “I don’t think there is any rot in any of the body panels,” “the frame may still be OK,” “The engine ran last time I tried it 10 years ago,” “there’s a good chance it is still solid,” “a large branch broke from a tree and crashed through the corrugated roofing covering the car and broke the rear window,” “getting the car out should be fairly easy – especially if the engine starts,” and “I really don’t want them to go to the crusher, since they have a considerable number of useful parts.”

Clearly, this package of two free DSs was a great project in the waiting for the right person.

Suspense… who among the Citroënistes would take on these two magnificent DSs?

Bingo! On January 14th, just one day after, Henry wrote to the group: “I talked to Bob this morning and I’m happy to report that I will try to revive his two DSs.”

Henry just couldn’t resist, blaming his “DS-itis” condition. And there is a story for that! Henry already owns several DSs, including his grandfather’s very special 1967 DS21, from which he has vivid memories. His grandfather who lived in Brittany loved cars, and he took Henry to the 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans with a camper trailing the DS. Henry’s grandmother, in the front passenger seat, would have the transistor radio on her lap with the antenna passing through the half-open window listening to singer Carlos’ “Tout nu tout bronzé” and Diane Dufresne singing “J’ai rencontré l’homme de ma vie.” Henry would share the back seat with Vif, his grandfather’s hunting dog. Henry’s “DS-itis” stems from these memories. His grandfather, who passed away 30 years ago, insisted on keeping one DS till the end and made sure it was passed on to Henry. That very DS is with Henry in Maryland today!

Back to the rescue. The complicating matter was how to get the cars out within the two weeks’ notice, as Henry works overseas and would not be back until two months later.

Again, the DC Citroëniste community stepped in and helped. This is a pretty amazing community. Paul would join his brother Bob for the pick up in Southern Maryland, while Daniel offered to be at the receiving end at Henry’s home. Gene’s Towing from Rockville, MD is the communities’ trusted Citroën towing service.

The “rescue” in February 2023 (Photos and video clips by Paul Robinson)

And then, the moment of truth: Bob wrote, “The rescue came off pretty well. Unfortunately, the probability is that neither will be restorable, but I’ll leave that determination to Henry, once he returns from overseas.”

Now to the confluence.

It was in Washington, D.C., September 2018. Peter was out of the country, and his wife Sunny passed a cyclist on the side of MacArthur Boulevard, NW, looking disillusioned next to his bike with a punctured tire. Helpful as Sunny always is, she offered the cyclist to repair his bicycle in Peter’s garage, a block away – that is if the two of them could find the tire repair tools amid the car repair tools… The cyclist turned out to be Brian Petrie, a freelance photographer from Southern Maryland, whose passion for photographing cars goes back over 20 years. Brian was surprised to see a rare Citroen CX parked in the driveway and told a story about an old Citroën he had encountered in Southern Maryland while cycling in 2014, and for which he later went back for a photo shoot. Long story short, Brian repaired his punctured tire, and as a thank you for what had been a very serendipitous encounter, he in return gifted Sunny and Peter a gorgeous print of that old Citroën in Southern Maryland!

The 1967 DS from the 2014 photoshoot (Photos by Brian Petrie)

So, what’s next? Well, we’ll have to see. Right now, the two rescued DSs are safely parked at Henry’s home, spark plugs removed and lubrication applied in the cylinders, awaiting his return.

To be continued…

The two DSs at Henry’s place, awaiting his return (Photo by Peter Kristensen)

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