DS Rescue – Don’t let the Looks Fool You!

By Peter Kristensen….

Do you remember the story about the rescue of two DSs free for grabs from southern Maryland and Henry who willingly adopted them, blaming his “DS-itis”? Many asked what happened, so here’s the update since we left you with the video of the DSs on a flatbed en-route to their new home.

A First Close-Up Look

In March, I went to check on the cars as Henry was out of the country. He wanted me to make sure the covers were still on securely and to check on the spark plugs. What I found were two cars that appeared to be pretty far gone, and I was wondering what could possibly become of them. Henry’s idea with the rescue was to see if the cars could be made road worthy. Alas, the closer look revealed pretty much deteriorated vehicles, so that idea seemed elusive!

Check out this video for a first close-up look at the cars:

Will they start?

I went back in June to see the cars and Henry once he was back in the country. After he got a closer, in-person look, Henry’s idea is to resurrect the cars. Missing or rotten parts will be replaced with better ones from Henry’s stock in his barn, and if all goes to plan it’s possible the cars will have a new life! If that fails, the good parts from the cars, including 5-speed transmissions, rare AC system, and European spec lights, would be used on other project cars, of which Henry has many!

When I arrived, Henry was in full swing peeling rotted parts off the red 1974 DS Pallas so I gave him a hand with that. Parts of the car were bad to the point that while attempting to jack up the car, the whole trunk area cracked. However, Henry still managed to prop up the car with a specialized tool to manually engage the suspension cylinders and fitted a set of good wheels on it that allowed for moving the car around and parking it in the garage for later disassembly of the reusable parts. As for the engine, unfortunately, as the rear-most spark plug broke, the idea of restarting the car was aborted. However, after soaking the cylinders and engine in oil, it did rotate! So, at some point, if fitting a new spark plug succeeds, another attempt at starting the engine may happen.

As for the white 1967 DS Pallas, some good surprises ensued. First, the WD-40’ing of the spark plugs back in March had worked, and new ones could be installed. As the electrical wiring had crumbled, a direct feed from the battery to the coil and the starter motor was installed. The ignition points worked after a simple cleaning. The dysfunctional fuel pump was bypassed with a separate electric pump fed by a fuel hose from a jerry can. With that, the car started for the first time in 33 years! And even better, watch Henry’s surprised look when he realized that the clutch and gear could engage with the engine running. With both front wheels spinning, the car jumped up and down as the rear wheels were still blocked.

Could it be driven?

Using an engine crane, Henry lifted the white 1967 DS Pallas and fitted it with a set of good wheels and treated the car with a temporary “wooden suspension technology” in lieu of the hydraulic system. With the fuel pump, start motor and ignition already functional, taking the car for a ride was now possible. Come on, admit it! It’s a very happy sight watching the white DS drive though the tall grass with charming squeaks along the way.

What’s known about the history of the two DSs

Barn finds are fun. I love to imagine the stories of the people who owned the cars and what the world looked like at the time of their glory in the 60s and 70s. Here’s what we know about Henry’s two DSs:

The white 1967 DS Pallas was built in Citroën’s Quai de Javel factory in Paris, France, likely in July or August 1966, according to the serial number. It was likely shipped out of the port city of Le Havre to New York. The U.S.-required sealed beam headlights were unavailable in France and installed along with accessories (seat belts, radios, and air conditioning) by U.S. Citroën Cars Corporation. As an aside, making the Citroëns compliant with U.S. regulations at the time was quite a commitment with the D-Series and Ami6 vehicles being were fairly straightforward but the 2CV, however, required a bit more work, and the Mehari even more. The white DS would have been transported to Texas where it, according to the book in the car, was sold in February 1968, so 18 months after production. For February 1968, records show that three ID19 and one DS21 Pallas were sold by Lee Huckaby Motors in Dallas, Texas. Hence there’s a good chance that the DS21 is the one that is now with Henry. The story of the car is then largely unknown until Bob bought it in 1984 while on duty at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. An early career service man, he was not looking to purchase another car, as he already owned the first DS23 to be seen in the United States that he had brought home from Europe. A coworker spotted the 1967 DS at a dealership in Abilene. A haggling ensued over several days concluding in a $2,000 finance deal. A few issues needed attention on the car. It turned out that someone had put Castor Oil (heavy and sticky!) instead of DOT3 hydraulic fluid in the suspension system so that had to be flushed and all spheres rebuilt. Later, the head gasket had to be changed (done in Bob’s apartment complex parking lot in North Dakota!), and then the clutch and pressure plate were replaced. Finally, he installed the drivetrain from another car that had died because of rust. Bob parked the white DS for good when he, in error, replaced the DOT3 fluid in the hydraulic system with DOT5 silicone fluid, which caused the steering rack hemorrhaging, and soon after all hydraulic fluid was gone!

Regarding the red 1974 DS Pallas, there is not much history known, except that the European spec car had been owned by the French embassy in Washington, D.C. (thus the flag post on the right-front fender). It was originally an injected DS, but someone removed all the injection parts and installed a carburetor. Bob bought it in 1989, and due to a lack of resources, the restoration never got started.

So, what’s next?

Well, we’ll have to see. The white 1967 DS Pallas is taking a rest in Maryland until Henry will be repurposing the many parts that have been saved from the cars. The chassis of the red 1974 DS Pallas will be assessed, engine re-looked at, and with some luck, it could be made to drive!

To be continued!

Thank you to Henry, Bob Robinson, Richard Bonfond, and Gert Bue Larsen who contributed to this story.


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