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.

4 comments

  1. I first met Carter when we worked for my dad at Citroen Cars Corporation in the late 60s, he left shortly after the company moved from Wilshire Blvd to Beatrice St when he returned to the east coast. Years later I’d occasionally see Carter at Citroen events and we would communicate via email usually when I couldn’t recall something as, chances are, I knew Carter would probably remember.
    He never raised his voice or spoke badly of anyone, just a gentle soul who will be missed by all.

  2. I was deeply saddened by this news. Condolences to Gabrielle. Both such wonderful people. I met Carter when he was operating Metric Motors in Waterville in 1999 and I had just bought my SM. I wanted someone to give it a going over and someone, I don’t remember who, suggested I visit Carter. I bought an oil filter which was supposedly the equivalent of the Fram and would have changed the oil myself had I the right wrench. Thank god I didn’t. By feel, Carter said the seal was not correct and I would have had a gusher. After a going over that included changing the LHM, he absolutely refused to accept any money. He was just happy to work on a Citroen again while his bread and butter was Subarus. I remember a party he threw where a bunch of us delighted in driving some of his weird machines – a Trabbie, a Messerschmidt, and ogling his Tatra. Carter, we will miss you.

  3. I am saddened by the loss of Carter. I found him to be the most Knowledgeable person in the Citroen world. He could bring up 2CV parts numbers from his memory. He was a warm loving person giving his immense experience freely to anyone who asked. My Condolences go out Gabriellle.
    Robert Lachman

  4. It was my extraordinary good fortune to work with Carter in my previous stint with Hemmings Motor News, when I edited Sports & Exotic Car. We featured no fewer than five of the cars that he and Gabrielle owned. He was an editor’s dream — the owner with a deep knowledge of his cars, and an eagerness to share what he knew with others.
    He was a kind man, and he was not interested in sugar-coating things. This excerpt from the article I wrote about his Tatra T603 is a good example of that: “I’m willing to forgive the shifter’s legendary balkiness, but Carter is not so quick to let the engineers off the hook. ”People drove Greyhound buses in the 1950s with rear-mounted engines,” he points out. ”The difficulty of doing a job does not excuse its being done poorly.'”
    I miss him dearly.

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