by George Dyke….
Back in April I received an email from Marcel Dehue of The Netherlands about a group of Dutch classic car owners who were planning a trip across the USA in October from New York to Los Angeles. They were planning on stopping in Buffalo, Toledo, Chicago and then traveling along old Route 66. Marcel wondered about meeting up with some of our Club members at Niagara Falls. I suggested we meet and accompany them to Buffalo and have dinner. Over the course of the summer things firmed up and I was introduced to the group’s travel co-ordinator Gerrianne Olijslagers. She and I exchanged a few emails and set up a rendezvous on Oct 6 at 4 pm in the parking lot on Goat Island as the group was driving from Watkin’s Glen that day, would be arriving at the Falls early in the afternoon and wanted to take a few hours to experience the wonder of Niagara Falls.
Larry Lewis, Roland Voegele and I met the group as planned. We were pleasantly surprised to see not only Citroëns with Dutch license plates when we arrived, but 3 Jaguars (including a XK-120), a Saab, a Peugeot 403 and a 1937 Bentley!! And low and behold there was a DS23 4 door cabriolet like nothing we had ever seen. As Agbert, the owner, explained, it was a custom creation that he did based on a few other 4 door DS conversions he had seen. After extensive research he took the brave step to cut the top of his and make the necessary re-enforcements and a complete folding roof structure. Then he and his wife demonstrated how the roof retracted. Release pins in the back fenders allow them to spread outward at the top to accommodate the roof mechanism as it retracted. Once fully back the fenders are pushed back in place. Very cool. The sedan side posts between the front and rear door were pinned so a mere pull upright and they could be lifted off with ease. The front windshield area contained a small fixed portion of the roof that ran straight across from the side pillars. Not only did it act as a bit of a windbreak and sunshade, but it helped provide rigidity. To ensure structural integrity in the critical front cowl area, Agbert added additional strengthening to the vertical sides of the front footwell area. He did the same between the front and rear doors on each side to properly support the back doors. Windows in the back doors he cut a little steeper on the top and raked more at the rear to accommodate the folding roof. It’s a most impressive bit of engineering. Henri Chapron would be impressed!
Franz Kleinschmidt and his wife, who live in Buffalo, brought their North American spec DS21 to meet them along with a mini-keg of beer that became the basis for a tailgate party! Almost as much appreciated as the beer was the Dutch folks being able to look at the unique features Citroen offered on the US spec cars; – the exposed sealed beam headlights, the cover plates in the front where the turn signals reside in european versions, the round turn signals in the lower front valence, the side-visible turn signals that flank the rear window and the round tail lights.
Gerrianne’s efforts in preparing for the trip included producing a 2 volume book, each one a half an inch thick and spiral bound, showing maps of each daily route with detailed driving instructions, and photos interspersed of some of the sights that would be seen along the way. Talk about preparation!
We made our way to Buffalo and got Gerrianne and her husband Will, who drove their lovely DS21, checked in the Adams Mark Hotel. Then they, and many of the group, joined us for dinner at Coles on Elmwood Ave. Coles is one of Buffalo’s best spots for a great election of beers, tasty food and a friendly pub atmosphere. The group brought postcards, club magazines and ribbons with tiny wooden shoes that they gave to us. Even though they had been up since 5:30 am, we partied to 11:30 pm and then said our goodbyes and best wishes for an enjoyable and memorable trip westward.
Here is their traveling schedule:
3 oct. Arriving in Newark
4 oct. Pickup cars in Newark Harbor
5 oct. New York to Elmira (240 miles)
6 oct. Elmira to Buffalo (210 miles)
7 oct. Buffalo to Toledo (305 miles)
8 oct. Toledo to Chicago (260 miles)
9 oct. Chicago (day off)
10 oct. Chicago to Saint Louis (290 miles)
11 oct. Saint Louis to Joplin (315 miles)
12 oct. Joplin to Oklahoma City (255 miles)
13 oct. Oklahoma City to Amarillo (290 miles)
14 oct. Amarillo to Santa Fe (290 miles)
15 oct. Santa Fe to Gallup (240 miles)
16 oct. Gallup to Flagstaff (230 miles)
17 oct. Flagstaff to Grand Canyon to Flagstaff (185 miles)
18 oct. Flagstaff to Oatman Kingman (270 miles)
19 oct. Kingman to Las Vegas (110 miles)
20 oct. Las Vegas (day off)
21 oct. Las Vegs Palm Springs (265 miles)
22 oct. Palm Springs