by George Dyke….
Back in late August Bob McLeod from the Ottawa Citroën Club wrote me to say that he had been contacted by a fellow by the name of Rob in Gravenhurst Ontario. Rob was charged with cleaning out a garage that contained a Sunbeam Alpine hardtop convertible, a DKW 1000, 2 Citroëns, and stuff piled so high around them that they were barely visible. He wasn’t sure of the years of the Cits, but guessed they were from from 1960’s and 1970’s. The garage owner was 93 and for the last 30 years, since his wife passed away, lost interest in the cars and closed the door on that aspect of his life. At one he owned numerous Citroëns including one complete car, in the garage, that was running when put there. In the 70’s he was the only person in town that knew what and how to repair them. Now, with his family about to put him in a nursing home, and the garage roof caving in from neglect, everything had to be cleared out. Rob said the cars and all the other contents were up for grabs to the highest bidder. Any takers?
Bob was in possession of a few photos showing what a pack rat the old fellow was. Since no-one in the Ottawa area was prepared to travel west to Gravenhurst, perhaps I and a few other members from the Toronto area could make the 90 minute trek north to check out what’s there? Looking at the pictures I could determine that the “complete car” was a 1972 DS21 Jubilee edition model. I know, – I used to own one. (My very first D in fact that now resides with a very happy owner in Nova Scotia.) Jubilee editions are quite rare and should be deservedly saved. Though with any Citroën stored that long in an unheated garage in Ontario, there are likely to be issues that could make getting the car roadworthy again quite a challenge!
On September 3, a small contingent from Citroën Autoclub Canada went to see the stash; Arnold Korne, Bernard Laborde, Lloyd McBride, Pierre Cambillard, Herns Pierre-Jerome, Steve Loria, George Klein, and me. What we discovered was that all the cars were shot. Dirt floor, collapsed roof, stuff piled on top of piles of rotted stuff… You get the idea. See the full picture gallery here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/62790594@N03/bzw1Yz
There was a 1972 DS Jubilee and a 1960 (ish) ID 19 that we could barely see. Rob said there was some fellow prepared to come from Montreal with $500 in hand and felt that the parts on the vehicles are worth far more than that. Moreover he wanted the cars sold in whole, meaning that if we were to try to take parts off the cars, they would have to be moved to a different location. There wasn’t much that was usable; windshield, front bumper, some dash switches and window trim. Oddly the seat fabric was still pretty nice in the DS, but the foam and seat frames were not.
After some discussion at our September Club meeting, we all concluded that the Montreal buyer is more than welcome to buy the Cits. I informed Rob and Bob of our decision saying that the only way we could make this work is to take a few hours to come by and try to remove what we feel is worth saving. If we could do that, then we would be prepared to pay for the parts we harvest. That may well be a few hundred dollars per car but we really need to see the condition of the parts in hand to actually know what is worth keeping in making that determination. And of course Rob would still have the revenue he would get by sending the balance of the cars to scrap. Rob wasn’t too receptive to that, and so a waiting game began to see what would happen as summer weather turned to fall and all had to be gone before winter set in…
In the meantime Lloyd mentioned the discovery to a fellow he knew in Bradford who once owned an 1959 ID19. He recalled that he was driving near Gravenhurst in the mid 1960’s and broke down in the car. It was towed to a local garage, and though the fellow there could not get it going right away, he traded it for a Ford Prefect at the time and drove home happily in that. Could that be the same ID in the garage? I noted that the rear license plate sticker was from 1964, – a high probability it was that very car given how few Citroëns would have been in the area at the time! So at least now knew with some certainty what both the Citroëns were.
With the club voting not to expend funds to purchase them, a small group of us still wanted to make an effort to salvage parts; Herns for the Jubilee interior, Pierre for DS windshield and rear lights (that he wanted to ship to his friend in Europe who wanted US spec lights), Arnold for the hood of the ID19 (he is restoring a 1959 DS) and me for the dashboard panel from the ID19 (as I have an identical car and a spare panel could be useful). We decided to fund the purchase and outbid the fellow from Montreal. We offered Rob $700. To make a long story short, Rob accepted our offer in early October, and disclosed that the fellow never followed up on his initial bid. So the cars were ours but they had to be moved out soon and he didn’t want any dis-assembly done there (other than the stuff that might naturally fall of the cars trying to load them onto a flatbed.)
Fortunately Arnold know a fellow just north of Barrie (about 30 minutes south of Gravenhurst) with a farm property who was prepared to let us put the cars there for a week or so and strip them. All he wanted in return was a case of beer and the revenue he’d make disposing of the carcasses. I managed to make a deal with a local towing company to get the cars from Gravenhurst to the farm, agreeing to meet them at the garage on Oct. 15. ($50 for beer, $360 for the tows of both cars and $700 to Rob meant that aside from our time and gas, the total cost to us was $1,110.)
The DS21 was not to difficult to move but the ID19 was lodged into the mud floor of the garage. We initially tied a chain around the back trunk section (there was no trunk floor). A slight tug and that section told us that we had better go further in so we chained through the back seat and tried a pull from there. That only managed to separate the car at the rear door sills… time to look for a solid point at the front of the car. We dug in the mud and ended up running chains on each side over the front wheels and through the rusty fenders to the cross section around the steering rack. Pulling from there we managed to drag the ID out of the garage but needed to move it sideways as well to clear the door! Not pretty as the as you can see on this video.
We re-routed a chain around a birch tree on the right side and that enabled us to get the car out and onto a flatbed. Wanting to preserve the hood we had a dilemma… It had been propped open for years and wouldn’t close open for that 15 degrees from its current position. Since the car was going on the flatbed backwards I figured it was best to leave it as is and hopefully the hood would just float in the airflow from the ID on the highway. That turned out to be the right choice. It traveled the 70 km with no damage!
With both cars now in Barrie all that remained was for us to go back and harvest the parts. On October 21, Herns and his friend Dominique (an experienced Citroën mechanic), Pierre and I came with tools in hand to do 8 hours of dis-assembly. In all we got what we wanted but the ID19 was a huge disappointment. The dashboard speedometer and surround section was not good and to remove the dashboard switch panel took 90 minutes! I had hoped to save the sill covers but they were ripped and rotted. And the windshield had a huge wiper scratch. We managed to delicately extract the DS21 Jubilee interior stuff. The DS21 windshield was in perfect shape as was the European headlights. And the 4 wheels on the DS held air, so we took took those off to keep in the club for the next time someone needs a set of “rollers” while they have their rims out for refinishing. But other than a few other bits we were able to scavenge, we left 2 very sad looking Ds behind.
And so ends the life of two more Citroens that have succumbed to neglect in Ontario, while other rescue adventure is staged by devoted fanatics of Citroen Autoclub Canada. At least we saved what we could.