The Hardiness of a DS and Reusability of a 2CV

by Ken Nelson…..

I recall two firsthand experiences on subject:

DS Robsutness

I was driving my ’67 rebuilt DS cabrio to Northfield Mountain meet in June ’94, having installed a used engine bought from a friend in Detroit in 1989.  He said engine had about 70k miles on it.  I installed it, used it for some time, then when my son Karl and I left Detroit and crossed the bridge to Sarnia, Ontario, the car started misfiring repeatedly. 

My 1967 DS Cabrio.

We pulled into local station, checked distributor, fiddling with it for about 9 hrs. It would run smoothly for a bit, then start coughing, backfiring, I’d fiddle some more, thought dizzy was shot.  Finally borrowed a spare one from the son of Phil Devingt, who had already left for the meet.  I installed, and it seemed to solve the problem. 

We finished the 750 mile drive to Northfield, drove flat out overnight to make up for lost 9 hrs.  Got there Saturday morning — dead tired.  Enjoyed meet, drove 750 miles back at 80+, no sweat.  Next day was Monday, I drove to an offsite lunch meeting in the cabrio.  It ran fine, came out of lunch, started engine, rattleBANG!!! Total quit!! Tried starter again, and engine sounded like rock crusher.  Flatbedded home. 

Yanked everything out, removed valve cover, all pushrods pretzeled!!  Chain cover off, & saw that the whole hydraulic chain tensioner was missing!!   Chain was flopping around completely loose.  The engine had jumped timing so far the pistons slapped all the valves, and bent every pushrod!  What the hell??? 

I pulled the pan and found the tensioner pressure foot in the sump!  And the top of its socket bolted to the block was cracked off!  To this day, I don’t know how that tensioner foot got into the sump – there didn’t seem to be enough room for it to get past the crank sprocket and pan.  At first look, it seemed that maybe the chain was SO worn that the tensioner went beyond its normal travel, the rubber-faced pressure foot got so far out that the chain slapped it upward, levered the top of its socket off via cracking, and then fell into the pan.  I could only conclude that the engine had 170 K miles on it – not 70, or 270 K miles! 

Amazingly, the valves weren’t bent as I recall.  I was worried about the bottom end, but talked with Brad Nauss, who said it was probably ok, so I replaced the pushrods, had a head shop clean up the valves & seats, reinstalled everything with new chain & tensioner – sprockets looked ok – and that’s the way the engine is today, 30 yrs later – & it runs fine.  The later 5 main DS engines are remarkably tough!  

I realized later that if we had been cruising freeway speed when the chain jumped, it would have most likely lunched the engine!  We were extremely lucky. 

You Can’t Kill a 2CV

Two weeks after reassembling everything on the DS, Karl and I drove the car from Detroit to Vancouver in 5 days, to join Adam Reif’s 1994 Raid America Northwest – a 3 week road trip/camping adventure – the only DS to join 26 2CVs that came into Vancouver from all over the globe. 

Adam did have his DS break to lead us, so we became the breakdown car, full of tools, to help along with 3500 mile drive, that turned into 8000 on the rebuilt engine with the return trip from the San Francisco endpoint. 

The group broke 5 windshields, all replaced en route, had one Duck driven by German couple do a rollover in a desert one-horse town in Washington State, ignored by local police!  

We came onto them near sundown with the car on its side. I got a wrecker to roll it over, the body had paralleogrammed from the roll, windshield gone, stuff all over, couple OK mercifully, front wheels splayed outward. 

I duct-taped the rear glass to front, cut a new spline groove in steering linkage to overcome the spiralled steering relay to bring wheels together, and we followed them 2 hrs in dark to next campground. 

The next day, the group tore the car apart, pounded out dents, had glass made, got bottle jack & a 2×4, jacked body back parallel, painted & back together in 4 hrs at the campground — and it looked great! 

That was the greatest trip of our lives.  Karl drove the last 500 miles at 80+ straight from 4 Corners Monument park to Detroit!

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