Carter Willey, the greatest contributor and source of knowledge for us in the North American Citroën community, has left us. Carter died peacefully, at home in Bennington Vermont, as he wished. He had been in hospice care since stopping years of cancer treatments last fall. His greatest distress as his illness ran its course was that he was “not useful” anymore. He most certainly set a high bar for usefulness…
Even before Rendezvous started back in 1978, Carter was a vital resource for Citroën owners. In 1967 he landing a job in New York City at a Citroën dealership and after while moved to the West coast where he worked at multi-line car dealership that had Citroëns. When the dealership dropped Citroën, Carter was hired to work in parts at Citroën’s West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles, California. His parts knowledge was savant-like — and his ability to delve into manuals, know the configuration if virtually any classic Citroën, and recall part numbers in his head was an unparalleled talent. Tired of working for Citroën in Los Angeles, he drove back across the country in the late 1960s, returning to work at a Citroën garage in New York City. He also worked at a Citroën dealership near Buffalo NY.
After Citroën closed it operations in North America, Carter set up his own shop in Waterville, Maine and amassed a collection of Citroëns, Pahnard, Tatra and various motorcycles. He hosted Citroën gatherings and was a stalwart participant at Rendezvous and Carlisle.
When the internet came about, Carter embraced it scavenging for repair manuals and parts books of Citroëns and pretty much any other eclectic car ever manufactured. He downloaded them on his computer which was always by his side. If you were ever on a forum and came across an insightful post from “Metric” usually in response to a question posed, it was Cater sharing his knowledge willingly. He also did that with countless emails, providing much needed advice to many of his Citroën friends.
In the early 2000s, he and his wife Gabrielle assisted Dave Burnham as his business grew, moving near Dave to help him repair and restore Citroëns and other interesting cars such as Tatra T87 and 603, Panhards, and Subaru 360’s for 10+ years. Their policy was if you owned a Citroën and had another odd ball car they would work on it, but that was primarily because Carter could do it.
Carter Willey and Gabrielle retired last February and moved to Bennington, where he continued contributing knowledge on the internet until very recently.
Shortly before passing, he read an email from a Citroën owner friend expressing gratitude for his encouragement and patient attention. He turned to Gabrielle and remarked, “That’s how I want to be remembered.”
For anyone interested in a tribute, Carter asked that his friends help, in turn, those who helped him so much when he most needed it: The Hospice of Southwestern Vermont. https://www.vermontvisitingnurses.org/support hospice/
Carter is survived by his wife and noted Citroën enthusiast Gabrielle Isenbrand. It is her hope that we can gather this coming year and raise a glass in his memory.
Update: Jan. 17, 2021: Michael Cox sent an article written by Carter from Citroën Quarterly and published in 1999. In it Carter tells of his time initially in New York and then on the West coast. You can read it here.