By Keith Martin….
My love affair with Citroëns started 50 years ago in San Francisco. I was 20 years old and in between studying intellectual history at Reed College and dance at The Juilliard School in New York City.
I had decided to spend a few months with my grandmother, Dorel, at the family home in the Avenues.
In those days, I was a San Francisco Chronicle reader. Herb Caen’s column was a stalwart, and the sports section, “The Sporting Green,” was printed on green newsprint.
The classifieds always had an interesting array of cars for sale. A 1959 Citroën ID19 soon caught my eye.
“Mechanic owned, recently rebuilt, $350,” read the ad.
I knew nothing about Citroëns, but the whole notion of a car that raised itself up and down intrigued me.
My grandmother used to call to me, “Keefie, come wake up the camel; I want to watch.”
She would sit on the sofa in the front room and look out the window as I started the car. First, nothing would happen. But as the car warmed up, first it would raise its rear haunches, then its front, and finally settle down to a normal ride height.
Grandma said she had seen camels getting up on television, and that was exactly how they did it. I will be thinking of her watching from the front window every time I start the car.
I recall one afternoon driving home on the Bayshore Freeway during rush hour. The headliner began to come loose. Soon the wind from my open window caught it and tore it completely free from the roof.
It fell, enshrouding my head and shoulders. I quickly rolled up the window, but it was too late. All of the aged, yellowed foam insulation above the headliner disintegrated into a swirling dust storm inside the car.
There I was, with my own individual desert disaster, totally contained within my car. Trying to pull the headliner away from my face while keeping up with traffic on the freeway, I can only imagine what the other commuters thought as my mobile sandstorm passed them by.
I find my DS
I’ve been a follower of SCMer Greg Long for several years. In addition to being the author of the delightful book Found: The Lives of Interesting Cars & How They Were Discovered, he has also established a reputation for knowing his way around Citroëns.
Three years ago, he was a part of our Caravan to Concorso, a non-homogenous group that included a Citroën cabriolet (“Décapotable”), a 1972 Alfa Berlina, a 1967 Alfa Giulia Super and an Autozam AZ-1. Of the four cars that started, only three made it to Monterey. Which one do you think we left in Bandon, OR, near a portapotty, waiting for a tow back to Portland?
As changes in my life have led to my exploring the world of cars without clutches, a 1971 Citroën DS Pallas that Greg listed on Bring a Trailer caught my attention. The DS was fully restored to a high standard. It was equipped with a 4-speed, semi-automatic transmission called “Citromatic.” That could easily be the name for a kitchen appliance that slices and dices.
I had some discretionary funds in the SCM 401(kar) account, about $40k from the Porsche 928 and $20k or so from the Volvo 122S. With a few keystrokes, the car was mine at $68k.
Was this too much to pay? We have all learned that you cannot buy a $40k “driver,” put $30k into it and have a luscious, restored car. I consider it well bought.
Our Senior Editor Rory Jurnecka recently drove the Citroën down from Greg’s home outside Seattle. When he dropped it off, Rory remarked, “It’s nice. I’m sure you will get used to it.”
Executive Editor Jeff Sabatini gave me a brief ride in the car last week. “I don’t have a single reflex learned from driving any other car that is of use when driving the Citroën,” he said. To put this in the proper context, consider that in his career as an automotive journalist, Jeff has driven nearly every new production car over the past 20-plus years.
“The brake button is like stepping on a racquet ball. When you move the shifter from first to second, the car stops to reflect, take a drag on a cigarette and a sip of wine, and then moves on to the next gear,” he quipped. “I’m sure you will get used to it.”
Welcome Bill Warner to the SCM 1000.
Bill and Jane Warner will be the Hagerty Grand Marshals of the 2022 SCM 1000. Bill is the founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and a lifelong motorsports enthusiast. They will be joining us for the tour, and Bill will be participating each night in our “Conversations with Collectors,” where we discuss various aspects of collecting, focusing on the changing market.
The tour dates are July 17–22, 2022, and we will be spending five nights at Skamania Lodge in the Columbia Gorge. In addition to tremendous roads and local attractions, other activities, such as golf, zip-lining and spa treatments, will be offered.
I’ve offered Bill the Citroën as a ride befitting a Grand Marshal. I told him I was sure he would get used to it.
Courtesy of Sports Car Market magazine (www.sportscarmarket.com)
Addendum: The DS broke down on Keith on January 16th. You can read about that adventure here: https://www.sportscarmarket.com/blogs/keith-martin/keiths-blog-the-citroen-and-the-flatbed