Transatlantic Odyssey of a 1971 DS21 EFI

by Pierre Cambillard

Once upon a time, I lived in Germany and, from the ’80s, was the proud owner of several DS models including a 1966 manual DS21 Decapotable.  Due to overwhelming job commitments at the time, coupled with the fact that a DS needs to be driven and maintained regularly, not just kept in a garage, they were all reluctantly sold in 2000.  Once retired, I moved in 2012 to settle in Ontario Canada and this is where this story really starts.

I discovered and joined Citroënvie (also Citroën Autoclub Canada), a very active Citroën club in Toronto, under the leadership of its charismatic President, George Dyke. The Club has several driving events every year, with circuits carefully planned for a scenic full day drive with a sightseeing stop and meal. The most iconic of these is the June meeting in Saratoga Springs, New York State, USA, which kindles a lot of interest since, in 1974, Citroën dealerships disappeared completely from North America.

Saratoga Springs meeting 2017 – Sunday brunch.

Since I had maintained many contacts with DS owners in continental Europe, I thought about getting a couple of nice DS’s shipped over in a 40-foot container to dull the pain of losing my previous ones.  In 2014 a customized 1973 DS 23 EFI was acquired from a friend in Nogent-le-Rotrou, and then the 1971 DS 21 EFI in question from Citromuseum owner Henri Fradet in Castellane, 2 hours drive north of Nice. Henri only sells a car from the collection if he can acquire a similar model with less Km on the odometer and in absolutely original condition. As an accomplished mechanic, Henri always overhauls everything to be safe, respecting the originality and so I  was most fortunate to get a pristine car with only 84K km on the clock.

Henri Fradet (left), Self & DS 21EFI.
RV at Nogent-Le Rotrou – Antwerp next. George Dyke (left) & DS23 EFI (front).

The 1st leg of the journey for the DS 21EFI was from Castellane, in the South to Nogent-le-Rotrou to the west of Paris, approx 900 kms – with no ill-effects! George Dyke kindly met me there and we drove in convoy, him in the DS21 EFI and me in the DS23EFI, the 500 kms to Antwerp – again with no dramas! There, they were put into the 40ft container with suitable restraints, then shipped oversea to Halifax, Canada where the most stressful period took place due to stringent environmental conditions about importing potentially dirty vehicles carrying possible viruses/insects that could cause damage to Canadian agricultural economy. Fortunately, both our cars were deemed clean enough by Customs officials to warrant only a “door check” (opening the container door) rather than driving it out for a serious wash by dock personnel who, despite having detailed instructions how to start and handle a semi-automatic DS, could seriously damage its mechanical health! However, unbeknown to us, during the emplacement of the timber restraints with a nail gun in Antwerp, a projectile had been put through the rear tyre of the black DS23 at the front of the container which was not discovered until the final unloading of both cars in the Toronto warehouse!

Halifax 2014 – terra firma at last.
Citroënvie support – Lloyd McBride at Toronto warehouse.

Time marches on and in 2018 our family plans were firmed up to move from Canada to the Shetland Islands, a place I had travelled much in the past with a special attraction for its scenery and people. I decided that this time at least one of my collection was going to join me! The DS 23 EFI found a new home in Ontario.  The DS 21 was prepared for its next journey over the Atlantic, this time in a 20-foot container from Toronto via train to Montreal and from there shipped to Grangemouth, Scotland, via Antwerp. Import regulations were quite straight forward as part of my residency move and I became a Citroën Car Club UK member in March 2019.

From then I started a new adventure with new friends within the CCC: Brian Drummond was very helpful and provided me with the important paperwork advice for DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in the UK). In May, I reached out to the CCC Scottish section for sharing my journey to and from Grangemouth and the potential mechanical challenges of several weeks at sea! I had the good fortune to meet up with Committee member David Park in Perth and went with him and his DS23 Pallas on an outing in Dundee prior to the successful retrieval of the DS21 from its container.

Safe arrival in Grangemouth (no flat tires!)
David Park at Dundee V&A: a perfect design match.

I drove it from Grangemouth to Shetland via Aberdeen to Lerwick ferry with insurance only on the VIN. DVLA confirmed it was legal if I drove directly from Grangemouth to a Shetland garage with an MOT appointment, which I booked for the morning the ferry arrived in Lerwick. Regrettably, a well-meaning but overzealous mechanic stamped on the foot hand brake whilst on the rolling road during its not-really-required-MOT test! This required a ‘flying doctor’ visit of Darrin from Citroën Classics to ascertain/ rectify the damage and carry out a proper service.

So what is next? The DS 21 EFI will be part of a very interesting Classic Motor Show on Shetland over the period of June 5 – 7, 2020 and I hope to welcome David and a few more CCC members from Scotland or further away.

1 comment

  1. Reading some of this had reminded me of my own importation of the two 1988 CX25 TRI , one being a 5 speed and its twin an Automatic , both have the same Orga numbers : 4111 from the same assembly line and only a few last numbers apart, had belonged to a couple in Switzerland.
    Hence they were shipped via Zurich, boat, train , ship, train from Montreal to Brampton.
    Although they were both very clean, customs Toronto wouldn’t release them without a thorough checkup of the underside , because of the Mad Cow disease- thought to myself that it was only in the U.K and not the rest of EU countries?
    After paying them a certain fees , they were released , in the meantime the 40 foot container was being charged over three days , eating me up alive, if I didn’t pay for their release.

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