By Geoff Fitzgibbon…..
I was vacationing from my Citroën sales job in the UK in the 1970s at a small Spanish coastal town called Lloret-de-mar. My three friends and I came out of our hotel one morning and witnessed a most interesting Citroën moment.
The town was old, with tiny squares and narrow roads built long before the automobile came. It also lacked much in the way of parking.
As we waited to cross the street, which was one of five roads that met in front of our hotel, we saw a French-registered DS sedan waiting for a break in the traffic to enter the intersection. Adjacent to this street was another where a SEAT 600 (Spanish-assembled FIAT 600), about the size of a slightly stretched Smart car of today, was also waiting for the traffic to clear.
Unusually, there was one narrow, vacant perpendicular parking spot in front of a small hotel on the far side of this uncontrolled intersection. It may have been a shade over 6 feet wide.
We could see the drivers of both cars had spotted the vacant parking spot at the same time. This looks promising we thought: the SEAT was the clear winner for best fit but the DS would likely cross the intersection faster.
The outcome of what was developing into an amusing parking contest seemed to be a foregone conclusion; the DS might reach the space first but that car was too wide: the family inside it could not possibly get out. The obvious conclusion would be for the French driver to defer to the Spanish car. But both drivers looked pretty motivated, and we had time on our hands, so we stood and waited to see what would happen.
A break in the traffic began to open up, the drivers revved up their engines, and the race was on. Both vehicles shot across the road, with the DS pipping the SEAT to the vacant spot. The Spanish driver just missed the rear fender of the DS as he braked hard.
The DS looked like a cork in a bottle, but a cork that also contained the parents, their several kids and a roof-rack of the family’s luggage.
Lots of horn noise and Latin/Gallic shouting from the participants went on, before the SEAT eventually backed up. The driver stopped close by to wait, knowing the DS would have to give in eventually.
The driver of the DS was not only determined but pragmatic. He was not giving up his prize and pulled nose first into the parking space. He lowered his window and somehow cantilevered his body out of the car, stepped onto the hood of the neighbouring Peugeot 404 and stepped down onto the sidewalk. He beckoned the family to follow in the same manner, which they did one by one, while he unloaded the roof-rack’s luggage from the rear.
That car never moved all week long. It just accumulated more and more traffic grime as it sat there, close to the ground.
The end of the week came, and my friends and I were waiting outside the hotel for the tour operator’s bus to take us back to the airport. The Citroën still sat there in its mucky covering, with zero room on either side.
The French driver retraced his steps back over the Peugeot and contorted himself back into his car. It started, rose up, and backed out of the space enough to allow the family to get in. He tied the luggage down on the roof-rack – to the accompanying horns and yells of complaint from passing drivers whose path was now blocked by the DS.
Ignoring the other drivers, and with everyone now aboard, the DS serenely pulled away to head north and to home.
I decided then and there to never drive down to Spain on vacation.