More insight into Citroën Canada Headquarters in Montreal in the 1960s and 1970s.

by Yves Boulanger…..

I am a former Citroën owner and recently read some of your Citroënvie articles about the Citroën showroom in downtown Montreal. I had never heard of it, and was curious to find out more so I questioned Claude Guillot, who was service manager for Citroën’s corporate office in Montreal at that time, about what he could remember from that period.

Claude Guillot’s original Service ID card (front and back) from when he started with Citroën in France

Claude says this downtown building on Rue St. Catherine was Citroën Canada’s headquarters up until 1971. The showroom was first class, with its expensive 3 stories high glass on the facade; the service area as stated by some readers was the pits, as it was cramped and any major service involved lifting the cars to one of the upper floors with an elevator that broke down on a weekly basis. But most importantly, the location did not have any space to store new cars.

Citroën HQ & showroom building on Rue St. Catherine.

Citroën Canada had another facility on Pie IX Boulevard, much farther east in Montreal and close to the harbour, where cars were stored on a large lot, and where a small shop allowed them to prepare the cars before delivery to the dealers.

By 1971 Eugene Carrié had opened his Lamborghini/Fiat/Alfa/Citroën showroom two blocks east, and maintaining another showroom downtown was no longer necessary. Citroën Canada’s new location was formerly a Renault facility in an industrial area of St-Laurent, close to the Orange Julep ball.

This was a large facility with a showroom and 50 service bays. The timing was bad, as after a year or two. (It seems they overstocked 1972 DSs and had new cars to sell well into 1973.) All they had left were SMs, and the 5465 Royalmount facility could not be justified anymore. Claude says they moved again to a smaller location on the Transcanada service road, to offer service and parts after new car sales were over. By 1979 Citroën Canada was history.

Check 5465 Royalmount on Google maps, including the aerial view. Apart from the 2nd story « Galerie Shayne » that was added in this century, the building is what Citroën Canada occupied in the early 70s.

5465 Royalmount – photo taken in 2019.

Claude says that a handful of Chapron cars and 11 cabriolets usine were imported by Citroën Canada over the years. The whereabouts of these cars are mostly unknown. He remembers one of them being sold to singer Robert Charlebois, eventually replaced by an SM that he owns to this day.

Claude Guillot – photo from 2006.

The cabriolet usine was already twice the price of a base DS21, explaining that they only sold about one per year. Most of the 11 cars had the earlier, pre-1968 nose. Citroën Canada also imported a handful of Maseratis after Citroën bought them.

Claude also remembers seeing Jean Béliveau on a regular basis at the downtown facility; he remembers Béliveau already had a DS when they struck a deal with him to drive the CH decorated car, which was supplied to him by Citroën.

Related Citroënvie articles:

Also, the original Jean Béliveau article can found here on page 18 of the Summer 2009 issue of Citroënvie (in the Download drop-menu of this website).

And finally, here’s a great story about how Citroën Canada operated ‘independently’ of Citroën in France;

20 years ago I bought my first DS, a 1966 DS19AM, from a former Citroën mechanic in Quebec city. That car was peculiar in that it had a Delco alternator. I mentioned that to Claude, and he replied, “Oh that was me.” He then told me that 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Access further archives on our Archive Documents page.

Citroënvie © Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.