Today we received the sad news from our friends in Quebec that Claude Guillot passed away. The Citroën community has lost a passionately active member.
Claude was service manager for Citroën’s corporate office in Montreal until the company closed their operation and left Canada. From there, retirement wasn’t in the cards as he kept actively working on Citroëns, particularly the extensive collection of Louis Grenier. He regularly went to CitroExpo in Europe to buy spare parts for Louis and to make sure his 1957 DS 19 was in top form when he participated in the Mille Miglia in 2014.
Claude was also a faithful regular member of the Vintage European Automobiles (VEA) Club in Quebec for their monthly dinners and was very often present for their outings, driving his sublime black DS 23.
André Verner noted today in the VEA bulletin;
Few of us have rubbed shoulders with our friend Claude from the days of Citroën Canada on Royalmount Street. I treasure the memory of a passionate and competent workshop manager of the brand. It was there that he met his Lucille and that he, by the same token, knew a host of Citroënists who appreciated him at that time and who have become sincere friends until today.
Claude was factory trained to be a Citroen mechanic in France, and was always proud to display his credentials:
In Quebec, Claude took his knowledge and applied it to keep Citroëns operating in the harsh Canadian winters, and sometimes at odds with what factory officials said should be the defacto service means. He recounted one amusing scenario to us back in 2019;
Montreal DS owners often had dead batteries in winter – the generator only produced about 100 watts in traffic, with the wipers, fan and headlamps on, the battery didn’t stand a chance of recharging. Some customers were getting pretty angry, and Claude got a mission from his boss, the general manager of Citroën Canada, to find a solution.
Requests to the head office did not result in any practical solution. Claude found an alternator that would fit from a Delco agent, designed a bracket, installed it on his company car, and showed the result to his boss. He was told to install the alternator on the car of the angriest customer. Of course, it was a success. The general manager then instructed him to make a similar installation every time a customer complained.
A few months later, the Export VP from Quai de Javel visited the Canadian head office. The general manager asked Claude to have a DS available to show the alternator installation. As Claude was showing the setup to the VP, he quickly felt that the VP was far from happy. Even before he could finish, the VP ordered the general manager “In your office. Right now.” His screaming could be heard even with the door closed; “You can’t do that! Only the bureau d’études can alter the design! You will hear about that!” and he left the place, almost ripping the door from its hinges as he stormed out.
Claude asked the general manager what he was now expected to do. The reply was; “Keep going!”. Claude tells me he installed well over a thousand before the factory introduced alternators on the 1968 models.
We found this press clipping from May 24, 1959 in Montreal showing Claude (working as a technician for Auto-France Ltée) greeting Mr. Jean Troublé who was traveling around the world in his 2CV.
His friend Richard Boudrias paid a most fitting tribute to Claude, saying;
The “Citroënists” have in fact lost the ultimate reference in brand authenticity and pointed skill in many restorations and repairs. Also, how many times have we seen him at the Saratoga Springs Rendezvous give technical explanations in his personal English to attentive Americans.
When I lose a friend of mine, what can I say… a big brother who tirelessly fixed my favourite toys so that I could make the most of my passion for the past thirty-five years. What a privilege I have had by my side. I will think of him every time I turn the key in my Traction ignition and also when I see oysters because yesterday, again on the phone, he told me he was really happy to be able to taste before leaving, the succulents oysters than his grandchildren had taken to the hospital.
Have a nice trip Claude.
You will be truly missed.