by George Dyke…..
Citroën Autoclub Canada had known about this DS for years in Toronto, located in the High Park area, it sat in a driveway, uncovered and seemingly neglected. Rotting away, bit by bit like the home on the property at 241 Evelyn Avenue. We affectionately referred to the goddess as Evelyn.
Many of our members knew of it and passed by on occasion to inspect, noting that the house was also very rundown and the whole place was overgrown.
During one stop about 10 years ago I chatted with a neighbour who, noticing my curiosity, mentioned that the owner was away but he commiserated with me that it was a shame to see the Citroën just sitting there so unloved. He said the fellow that lived there was very eccentric and pretty much a hermit, keeping to himself.
During my last visit 5 years ago, a voice yelled from inside of what looked like a truly abandoned home by then (we’re talking major holes in the roof), saying “get off my property”. I obliged and departed, patiently anticipating that one day, we would get the call.
That day came 2 weeks ago, when I received a phone call from a lady asking me about the value of a Citroën that was part of an estate she was managing. The property had just been sold, and when she mentioned the address, she was surprised when I said I knew of the car and that nature had not been kind to it. I offered to go by and take a look once again, but I was pretty sure that Evelyn was in a state well beyond any means of practical restoration.
Yet another visit confirmed that I was right in my assessment. However, I did ask that rather than Evelyn merely being picked up for junk, could we have a crack at salvaging a few bits. The turning headlights appeared to still be intact, but the hood was jammed closed and rusted in the manual front release points, so the engine bay was going to be a surprise. The rest of car was swiss cheese. Trying to open the doors had them literally fall off in my hands! The rear was even worse… It was evident at some point, years ago an attempt was made to restore what even then was a rusty DS, by bolting steel beams to the decaying sills and trying to strengthen the rear by adding aluminum inner panels. Evelyn may have made it a few more years on the road in doing so, as the sticker on the rear license plate had a validation date of 2002. Clearly though, she had gone seriously downhill after that.
And with that to report, the discussion came down to how move it and not so much for the value of parts, but our expertise at making old Citroëns disappear. Evelyn was probably not going to come in one piece, and Lord knows, even if we could get her onto a flatbed, there could be a lot of debris flying off the carcass in transit.
As luck would have it, one of our Club members in Toronto, Jeff Teerlinck, who does major home renovations in the area, was working on a project just one block over, and on the property he had a crane that can lift, scoop, drag… basically whatever needed to be done to extract the remains of Evelyn from the driveway! He also had a dump trailer used for all the debris he tears out of homes and volunteered to let us use it as repository for the DS. It was not going to be a pretty end to Evelyn, but given the amount of corrosion, the only outcome possible.
Speaking of outcome, we also found out that her owner and that of the property, Mr. Vairis Laukswas, was discovered deceased in the home on March 4, 2020 and it was estimated (by the Toronto coroner) that he passed away 3 months earlier!
What’s even more astounding is that the property sold for $750K above the asking price of $2.1 million and there were no direct descendants to inherit any of it. With that kind of fortune he could have lived in the lap of luxury in a retirement condo with an underground garage housing a fully restored DS 21 for his driving pleasure anytime. Instead he went the Howard Hughes way and became a recluse. In common with Hughes, we also learned that Vairis had an aviation engineering background, which may explain some of the work he did on the DS. What is it about Citroën owners when they go way beyond engineering determination and totally over the edge?
And there was a bonus car if we wanted it — a 1970 Peugeot 404 that was his late mother’s car (Anna Laukswas). She was a physician of the “old school” – who actually made house calls. The car was mostly used for patient visits. When she died, the car was put in the garage at the back and then, over time, stuff piled into and around it by Vairis.
And so, on Saturday May 2nd, 2021, a small group of CAC members; Jeff, Berny Fresco, Larry Lewis, Mark Ockwell and myself, (limited because of Covid gathering restrictions), descended on 127 Evelyn Ave. in an attempt not to raise a DS but to get the goddess out of there and save a few bits. One thing we did find in the trunk was 7 sealed litres of LHM+. At least a small reward!
Equipped with a sawzall and a grinder, we worked on Evelyn to get the headlights, the rear turn signals (a member’s request) and cut though the added steel beams beside the gas tank, because we knew the back would break away and we needed her in two pieces to fit into the dump trailer.
These pictures and accompanying video tell the rest of her story:
Here’s the video:
As for the Peugeot, we did crack open the garage door and carefully look around, but didn’t feel the car was worth saving as the roof of garage had massive holes, 2” of water was sitting in the floor of the car, and it was rusted in many other areas including holes in the hood directly over the engine. The door to the garage if opened to extract the car, was jammed and supporting the entire front the structure. We discovered in the garage what appeared to be 2 more DS in parts, but there was so much junk and corrosion that 2 more DS fenders with turning headlights was all we could extract.
With the final demise of Evelyn, the saga of another Goddess in southern Ontario has come to an end. We know of a few more out there, but their condition is rapidly approaching what Evelyn’s was. I can only wonder what next Citroën extraction awaits us?