by George Dyke….
Just going to France to celebrate the Traction Avant Anniversary is a dream come true, but the trip I recently made was heavenly. For starters, a friend of mine, Pierre Cambillard, who purchased two DS in France and wanted to ship them to Canada, asked if I would mind driving one of them from Norgent Le Retrou to Antwerp. “Mind? My pleasure” was my instant response.
Plans for my trip called for me to fly into Charles De Gaulle airport at Paris and make my way to the Montparnaisse train station where I would meet Pierre. From there we would take a train to Norgent Le Retrou where the two DS were located with his friend Didier Blin. We’d spend a day checking them out and then head to Antwerp.
As it turned out, Norgent Le Retrou is about 25 km from La Ferté-Vidamme, where the 8oth Anniversary of the Traction Avant was being held that upcoming weekend. A location I was destined to attend. Proximity aside, I ended up driving a DS to Antwerp and then met up with Jeff Teerlinck and his wife Nicole near Brugges where we stayed at his parents place before heading out with his Dad and Jeff’s brother to La Ferté-Vidamme. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to Norgent Le Retrou.
See the full photo gallery here:
Part of checking out both DS involved us driving them about 30 km to a garage where Didier needed to pick-up a hub puller to change out driveshafts on his Traction 11B before the big 80th Anniversary weekend event. This adventure led us to a rather amazing place, Garage Francois Gilles, that was in the process of restoring various 2CVs, Tractions, Meharis, a SM, a Delage and a Simca (to name but some of the cars sitting apart in the shop). From there we went to a local garage where Didier proudly showed us his Traction, DS Break and his H-Van, all in the shop needing some state of repair. Out back a few other Citroën carcasses (not Didier’s) lay strewn about.
Larry Lewis in Toronto asked if I would mind picking up a few Traction parts at the Traction celebration. When I emailed him to tell him of my fun morning at Norgent Le Retrou, he quickly responded saying that Depanoto (on of the largest Traction parts vendors) was in that town. I asked Didier if they were close by and he casually replied, “Oh yes, they are just four blocks away.” I was flabbergasted that one of the biggest suppliers of Traction parts was right under my nose! So we went over and sure as shooting, they had all of Larry’s parts. Their facility was packed with parts from a number of French cars of the pre-war era, but clearly Tractions were their specialty. As we drove away I commented to Didier and Pierre that with Depanoto close at hand, one could easily have a Traction as a daily driver in Norgent Le Retrou and keep it on the road easier than ANY modern car.
That evening Didier and his lovely wife treated us to an amazing dinner at their home. Didier recently retired as head chef for the French military brass in Paris and his wife owned a restaurant in Thailand. We had a French meal with Asian influence that would have notched out the waist belt of any four star general. Didier also showed around his property where he has stored a DS ambulance, a CX GTI and a BX. In addition to that he was storing a DS Prestige for a fellow that has paid his rent, but not been near the car for over 20 years! It is a dust-covered treasure for someone!
Pierre purchased both a 1970 DS21 Fuel Injection and a 1973 DS23 Fuel Injection. The DS23 was bought from Didier. I drove the DS21 that came from the Citroën museum in Castelaine and was the owner’s, Henri Fradet’s, personal car that he transported to Didier’s place prior to our arrival. It was in exceptional condition and drove like new. Minutes into my test drive, on mix of French secondary roads and expressways, I knew the car was in its element and so was I. Great fun! I always wanted to drive DS in France and now I was able to experience the roads the the Citroën engineers designed the car for. The drive to Antwerp was such a pleasant trip that seemed like only a few hours rather than most of the day.
The next day, after loading the cars at Antwerp in the morning into a container destined for Canada, I made my way by train to Brugges and from there my Traction adventure began with Jeff Teerlinck and his family. Read about that in our blog “Traction Avant 80th Anniversary Celebration at La Ferté-Vidamme, France”.
The cars went from Antwerp to Halifax, then in the same container on a train to Toronto, (Brampton). Pierre had a fantastic forwarding agent in Antwerp, Ronny Verschaeren. The Bill of Lading indicated that wooden blocks used for blocking the wheels had been properly fumigated and that the compulsory seals were applied. And cleaning certificates from a garage in France were also copied in the documentation.
All went smooth, with a very supportive and qualified government officers at Service Ontario in Brampton where Pierre was able to purchase 10 day temporary permits to drive the vehicles to Paris Ontario. He called his insurance company an added them to his automobile policy. (Though he subsequently insured them with a classic car insurance broker that is far less costly). He did the Canada customs clearance at their West Street office in Toronto and used Brytor International Moving Inc. in Mississauga for getting the container to their Customs Bonded warehouse. I drove them out of the container and they were immediately appraised on site by Dean Renwick of Antique & Classic Auto Appraisal Service. I drove the DS 23 back to Paris while Lloyd McBride came along for the day to drive the DS 21 and Pierre drove his daily driver Audi as a ‘support’ vehicle if need be. No need as the only problem encountered was a flat rear tire on the black DS 23 when the wood support was removed in the container. A nail had been driven through the tire when securing the wood in Antwerp. It held air until the nail was pulled in Toronto. At that point we got to demonstrate how to change a tire on a DS to the amusement of the Brytor warehouse personnel..
Once safe at home in Paris all Pierre needed to do is go to Service Ontario for license plates, pay the fee and show them a certificate issued from his local repair shop which did the road safety test. The Service Ontario office also certified the VIN was not the usual 17 digits that their data system normally processes.
And now Pierre can enjoy his 2 wonderful DS in Canada!