by George Dyke….
While I was in Belgium and France for the Traction Avant 80th Anniversary celebration, as luck would have it I was able to visit some extraordinary classic Citroën collections and locations where Citroëns are being restored.
See the full photo gallery here:
It began with a visit to a garage near Norgent Le Retrou (covered in our blog “Driving a “True” DS in France“). A peek inside revealed restorations in progress for three 2CVs, a Mehari, a SM, a 1951 Traction Avant and a 1955 Traction 15-6H, as well as other cars including a Simaca and a right hand drive Delage.
When in Belgium I had the good fortune to be introduced to two Citroënthusiasts who graciously hosted a tour of their collections. Kris Vermeersch explained his passion for collecting Tractions and IDs, and showed us his 11B that was totally original and ran beautifully. He then uncovered a few stunning ID’s that were totally original and a 1966 ID that he restored to a concours standard. Chis was in the process of restoring a 1937 Traction 7C that he hopes to complete by next summer. From there we went to visit Joris Dericks. Joris also has a love for Tractions, as does his girlfriend, but this time we focused on his assortment of stunning DS, CX and SM’s. One of his DS21’s is the rare Jubilee Edition model with the burgundy dashboard. He has a CX Turbo 2 Prestige that simply oozes luxury. He keeps hands-on with his collection; He is presently restoring a SM, and he managed to recently acquire in Paris the most desirable C6, a mint 2007 model equipped with the 4 valve V6 engine and all the options. Oh yes, he had a XM tucked away in his collection as well.
I next made my way over to Tinténiac France (near Rennes) to visit Ronny Kienhuis. We went for a tour of the region and discovered a huge collection of Citroëns and parts near Guenboc. What initially looked like a field of junked Citroëns scattered about a farm turned into a most interesting conversation with a Monsieur Lambert and an invite into his barn that housed dozens of Cits including a Chapron DS Lorraine and a DS cabrio conversion. The previous owner had a DS and wanted a convertible so the top was chopped, the rear doors filled in and an entire metal rear section was fabricated including a metal trunk lid. (True cabrios have a fiberglass trunk lid). The owner said that as a convertible he had no use for a roof, so none was fitted. And there it sat, it the garage among the other Cits…
Monsieur Lambert showed us a SM that he claimed had an original red leather interior that the factory made on client request. We walked among the cars and he enthusiastically told us the story of each one while 4 of his cats jumped from car to car attempting to photo-bomb the various shots I took.
Monsieur Lambert mentioned that he was at the 80th Anniversary of the Traction Avant held La Ferté-Vidamme selling his fuel pumps. At that point the light went on for me and I recalled that he had a variety of pumps for sale there all with primer levers on them. He explained how useful they were when starring a Citroën after it has sat for some time. I decided to buy a DS21 pump and bring it back for the next member in our club that needs one to give it a try. As it turned out, the pump was located in a storage area in the nearby town. “Na pas problem” said Monsieur Lambert as he hopped in his CX Break Diesel and escorted us there. Once we arrived we realized we in the mecca of Citroën parts compound! There was a CX Tissier, (a double rear axle CX “bus”), that inside had a fuel tank mounted vertically behind the rear seat, acting as part of the divider between the normal passenger compartment and the enormous rear section that appears to be a limousine compartment unto itself. Aside from the many CX and XMs parked outside, inside was a selection of DS models that had us spending another hour with Monsieur Lambert as he shows us some of their unusual features; There was a 1958 DS19 Berline that still had the original ashtray with a clock insert. (If any of these early DS’s have survived they are almost all missing the clock ashtray, for it is an elegant piece of art that people used to take out of the car and mount in their homes in cabinets or someplace.) This clock was in very nice shape and the entire car would be a very easy restoration! Also in the warehouse was a 1959 ID Safari, – the very first year of the station wagon. It had very rare Bamboo motif covered interior seats.
And then we toured the part of the warehouse where their Citroën parts are based and they are doing some restorations. It was so vast I was speechless. The photos show the extent of what stock they have. I spotted a brand new set of lower sill DS stainless steel covers and a beautiful “new” blue cloth armrest that would be nice enactment to my DS21. So I bought those along with the fuel pump. We thanked Monsieur Lambert for taking so much time to show is around both locations and all the information he provided about the cars. We were due to go to another nearby town to see Ronny’s 1935 Traction 11A limousine that unfortunately did not make it to the La Ferté-Vidamme Traction Anniversary meet because of a brake issue. It was at repair garage and we went by a nearby garage to inspect the repair progress. It would be in the shop for a few more days but the garage had good news; It was only the rear brake cylinders that needed replacing.
The following day Ronny and I decided to take a break from Citroëns and visit the medieval city of Dinan. We walked about, had a lovely lunch and came upon a kiddies’merry-go-round that had a 2CV. As we were driving out of town, waiting at an intersection, a white Mehari passed horn tooting and a bride and groom inside. They were heading in the direction we were going so decided to stay in hot persuit. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to take a closer picture of the wedding couple in the Mehari. What a funky wedding vehicle! 20kms later, after driving though towns with people waiving, oncoming cars flashing their lights in appreciation, and driving some back roads at a very good clip, they pulled into a lovely chateau where a reception area had been set-up on the front lawn. I jumped out of the Citroën C3 I had rented and explained that I had a Mehari in Canada. They seemed genuinely pleased that we had made the effort to catch up to them and were happy to let me take a few pictures. No question, a Mehari is a “très chic” vehicle to get married in!
Read about my adventure driving a “true” DS in France here.