By Geoff Fitzgibbon…..

Prior to my joining a Citroën dealership, it had needed a new workshop foreman. The person who described what happened subsequently was one of the best technicians in the service department; I can easily believe his version of the following events:

The successful candidate for foreman was “Wilf”, whose key qualification was his having worked as a foreman in the nearby Slough factory when it manufactured Citroën cars. Wilf’s hiring became a source of friction among the technicians, because the owner’s son, the Managing Director, would keep on boasting how clever he had been in finding in such a well qualified technical expert; this would come back to haunt the MD.

A few days after Wilf started work, a DS21 came in for a new clutch. The owner and his family were going on vacation in the car, early on the following Saturday, and so they dropped off the DS at the start of the week to ensure the car would be ready in good time.

The allowed time for a clutch job on that model was around 23 hours, although a good technician could do the job in a little more than half the time.

Wilf was assigned the car and started work bright and early on Tuesday. He was still at it when Friday morning came around but the car was finally ready at the end of the day.
The customer arrived at 5:00 PM, paid his substantial bill, and collected his keys. He started the car, selected first gear, and a loud “CRUNCH” sound emanated from under the hood. Wilf (the “great expert”) had installed the clutch the wrong way around, apparently.

This happened just outside the open workshop door, in full hearing and sight of the workshop technicians who were cleaning up to go home.

Wilf leapt into action instantly. He picked up his tool box, threw it into the back of his car, got in and drove off without a word – never to be seen or heard from again. Everyone, customer, technicians and receptionist, stared in disbelief.

The Managing Director was called for. He apologized profusely to the customer and set about rectifying the situation. He no doubt regretted his earlier and extravagant praise of the now-departed miscreant, as almost all the technicians had melted away when Wilf took off, thus leaving the MD to dig himself out of the hole he had dug for himself.

The MD’s humiliation was made even worse by having to ask the one remaining technician – whom the MD disliked mightily – to look at the DS. The tech started the car and selected first gear, a move that produced the same, awful sound.

The tech lifted the hood and said to the MD, “OK, I am looking at it. What do you want me to do?” 

The MD’s humiliation was complete; and knew he now had to try to cajole the technician to work on the car long into the Friday night. 

As the technician tells the story, the MD’s anxious request would have proved fruitless in itself, but the customer was a nice guy – who had patiently observed all that had gone on without complaint or temper. The technician agreed to stay and fix the car that night. The technician would also deliver the the customer’s car as soon as the work was done. The technician called home to tell his wife their plans to see a movie would have to be cancelled; however, the lovely lady dropped by with a Fish and Chips dinner for her husband, later that evening.

The technician, who was already nicknamed “The Greyhound” for his speedy work ethic, had the car finished and road-tested by 1:45 AM. He duly returned it to customer who then drove the technician home.

If the MD had asked Wilf the correct questions before hiring him, he would have known what became known afterwards, that Wilf had been only an assembly and re-work foreman at the Slough factory; he had very little knowledge of how to actually fix a DS21. The MD was often his own worst enemy, as his frequent mistakes showed.

This event proved to be one debacle too far for the MD, who went on an extended break for his nerves shortly after. 

The company’s owner offered “The Greyhound” the now vacant job of foreman.  The technician told the owner he would not take that position, because he said the company really needed a Service Manager, especially in the current absence of an MD. The owner agreed, and Service Manager was the job the technician was subsequently given.

Nobody ever heard what happened to Wilf, but we assume his future career did not include any more work on Citroën cars.


  1. Wilf became the chief technical designer for Citroen and went on to oversee the introduction of “corrosion resistance” on the BX/XM/AX. After that success he was promoted and designed the C3 Pluriel.

  2. A noisy pilot bearing in customer’s 71 DS Citromatic. At 60,000 miles would it not make sense to replace disc, pressure plate and throw-out bearing while in the depths? Fourteen careful hours later to my astonishment and horror a nasty noise blared out on start up. Gears wouldn’t engage at all . Five hours back into the depths revealed the “remanufactured”” pressure plate I had bought from a company that specialized in clutch rebuilds had failed to notice (as had I) the pivoting release fingers were unguided as a result of broken off or cracked locating tabs. Cosmetically gorgeous this refurbished coil-sprung pressure had been sandblasted and accurately repainted. The clutch just wouldn’t release! Redid the whole procedure, in and out, only eleven hours total this time but not including the time taken to discover the culprits, those broken tabs. Didn’t include time convincing the brand-name parts supplier of the faulty merchandise or the delay getting a second remanufactured pressure plate amid minimal apologies for the fiasco. All this horror over a pilot bearing worth less than $10. My loss, customer billed for 14 hours and parts. Parts supplier handsomely charged me for only one pressure plate. Aaargh!!!

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