by Nebo Djurdjević…..
Dragan Radovanović has been a good friend of mine for 43 years. He is a master mechanic for classic Citroëns and the GS in particular. And for those of you who own or know something about the GS and GSA, you know intricate experience working on these models is a very rare attribute these days.
Dragan’s reputation for working on them doing many tasks like; valve adjustment, timing belt replacements, engine seals — all in record time and with total competence, has made him legendary in the Citroën community both here and abroad.
Here is an interesting story that maestro Dragan told me in late October 2021, while we were driving back from the city of Nish (in Serbia) in my 1978 CIMOS GS Pallas.
Dragan told me how he became acquainted with Oskar Hudales, the CEO of CIMOS and how his “maestro” status came to be as a result of a chance encounter. (CIMOS was a Joint Venture by Yugoslav TOMOS and Citroën – https://www.wikipe.wiki/wiki/nl/Cimos).
One Sunday afternoon in August 1976, Dragan was returning with his brother Doca and another friend in his 1969 2CV from Kraljevo, where they had watched car and moto races.
Along the way, Dragan’s two companions made jokes that it would be great to come across a CItroën that broke down, so that the young master Dragan, who had a reputation even then for being very good at fixing them, could come to the rescue. Since 1971, after finishing his apprenticeship, Dragan worked as a mechanic at the main CItroën/CIMOS dealer in Belgrade. Even then, DS and GS were cars that few mechanics wanted to touch, so the specialists were very much appreciated.
And as chance would have it, as it was already dusk and about an hour from Belgrade, next to the road in a village there is an orange GS 1220 Club with a raised hood and quite a few guys huddled around the engine bay.
The license plate was KP (Koper, the town in Slovenia where CIMOS factory and HQ was based) and in the car — a middle-aged driver with his wife and a ten-year-old girl. They were returning from a vacation in Greece and the battery had got discharged. The car couldn’t go any further.
As Dragan approached, a couple of local guys had already started to open the voltage regulator. Dragan’s brother Doca exclaimed; “Here’s a CItroën specialist!” The lady beamed “what luck that he came by.” It turned out that the owner of the GS was none other than Mr. Oskar Hudales, the CEO of CIMOS from Koper. His plan was to go to Belgrade, where they had a reservation at the Hotel Yugoslavia, and then continue on to Slovenia the next day.
The local guys immediately moved away from the GS. Dragan asked if they had looked at the alternator belt. Of course they didn’t, they didn’t even know where it was, because you can’t really see the belt on the GS, tucked behind the fan. Dragan slipped his fingers through the fan’s fins and pulled out the remnants of the broken belt!
Once seeing the shredded belt Oskar got really upset. The GS was a couple of years old and before leaving for the trip he took the car in for service at CIMOS in Koper and asked them to inspect it. When he picked up the car, they said it was ready for the long trip. He assumed that they checked/replaced the belt.
All the auto parts stores were closed on Sunday evenings, and except at CIMOS stores, they were not about to find a belt of such a small diameter.
Dragan suggested that Doca and a friend take Mrs. Hudales and her daughter to the Hotel Yugoslavia, and at 7 am tomorrow, when the CIMOS spare parts store opens, they pick up the belt and bring it over. Not wanting to leave a disabled GS for others to harvest parts from, Oskar elected to stay with the car. Dragan stayed with Oskar until the morning to keep him company. They spent the night in the GS, striking up a pleasant conversation. They talked about everything, family, work, the army. Dragan served his military service in Postojna, Slovenia, and learned a little Slovenian… When Oskar heard that Doca and his friend could not find a job in Belgrade, Oskar immediately suggested that they come to Koper to get a job at CIMOS.
In the morning, Doca arrived with a new alternator belt. Dragan put it on without removing the fan (a trick where the belt is pulled through the fins), started the GS, checked that everything else was fine and then said goodbye. Since it was already after 10 am when Dragan arrived at Belgrade, he did not go to work, instead, he went home to sleep.
The next morning, as Dragan arrived at the dealership, the service manager and the foremen were standing in front of the service entrance. Dragan apologized for not coming to work yesterday, saying that he did not sleep all night, so he was not fit to work. The two bosses jumped on that; ”What? Apology?” They said that he didn’t know what an honour he brought to the dealership for the service he performed. And now he is so modest that he doesn’t even say where he was and what he did! They took him straight to the service manager’s office for a drink and breakfast.
It turned out that Oskar Hudales went to the CIMOS dealer the day before and told everyone how wonderful a man and mechanic Dragan is. The bosses said that they knew that, that they recognized Dragan as a talented and nice guy while he was still an apprentice and that is why they offered him a job. To this day Dragan doesn’t know exactly what Oskar said, but all his colleagues viewed him differently from then onward.
As for Dragan’s brother Doca and his friend, they went to Koper and took Oskar up on his job offer. He hired both of them at the CIMOS factory. And there, at the first assembly of all workers, Oskar gave a speech and at the very beginning he managed to single both Doca and his friend among the crowd, invited them to come up beside him, and told the whole story with so much praise that Doca and his friend even blushed a little.
To know more about Dragan, read why Citroën Autoclub Canada awarded him a Certificate of Excellence in 2009: https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D1866000_06300102_959611
And to see some the work he has performed, check out the CItroënvie article about his visit to Toronto in 2013: https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D1866000_06300102_950664