Posts Tagged ‘ 1965 ’

DS progress

Well it has been a while since I updated progress on my Citroën. It is all fixed and running now although still unregistered and stored in a garage in the Netherlands. I would like to sell it as I am moving back to Australia next year and transporting it just feels like it will overcomplicate my life. However, if it doesn’t sell then I will take it with me. In the meantime I am planning to spend my summer holiday fixing a few cosmetic things and getting it running sweetly. I’d also like to register it in the Netherlands so I can drive it around a bit but I’m guessing that will require me to register myself as resident there. Not the end of the world I guess.

Here is a link to the car for sale anyway:

DS progress

Following the thwarted attempt to collect my DS myself on a trailer some time ago I enlisted the help of a professional car transporter who picked up the car and took it to a new, more reputable garage (Herman Janssen) in Bennekom in the Netherlands. Finally I can report I have found a garage that is not only honest but fast and exacting and really seems to know what he is doing.

Rather than the 4000€ quoted by the thief in Middelburg he fixed my broken axle and electrical problems for around 700€. Finally I was able to take my car for a test drive without it breaking down!

It still had a problem with not selecting reverse on the hydraulic semi-automatic so I left the car there with instructions to fix this also. Unfortunately this was quite complicated and took Herman three days to fix. To his credit he only charged me for 16 hours work and also fixed a number of other things to make the car ready for the road such as lights and the horn. This is all done now and apparently the car is ready for collection.

Unfortunately since my last post I have moved to Madrid, Spain which makes popping to Bennekom slightly more problematic. I am thinking now of what I should do with the car but in the meantime I guess I will have it transported to a storage garage while I think about it.

All in all, having finally dealt with someone honest, I am feeling a lot better about the whole experience even though it has cost me more money. I think I will head to the Netherlands in a few weeks to check it out.

I will keep you posted on whether I decide to sell it or keep it. I am moving to Milan, Italy in February which is also not such a suitable place to drive a classic Citroën but I will think about it.

A Citroën DS that works!

Today I had a treat. I seem to have had a few lately but anyway, this was a nice one. I met a guy, Paul from the Netherlands, on the Citroën forum who has a 1965 Citroën DS19 Pallas, exactly the same model as mine, only his one works. He lives north of Eindhoven so we arranged to meet halfway on the “grens van België en Nederland” (the border between Belgium and the Netherlands) here. I drove up from Antwerp in my BMW and arrived at the prescribed time. A few minutes later the “snoek” as they are known in Holland also arrived, gleaming and shiny in our uncharacteristically hot summer weather. Snoek means Pike (as in the fish) and refers to the shape of the DS.

This is a truly magnificent example of a DS, actually in better than showroom condition. It has had a full body-off-frame restoration from top to bottom and it shows. The body, painted in its original Gris Palladium is perfect. It has the original “Sombrero” wheel covers which were only ever sold on the ’65 Pallas model and the interior has been beautifully restored with tan leather and new carpet. I was told that the leather is actually the leather used on 1970s Mercedes but is very very close to the original Citroën leather that is no longer attainable.

We sat initially for a chat and a beer before we set off for a drive in the Déesse further into Holland. Paul drove and I could immediately tell that this car is in perfect working order. The engine started easily, it idled smoothly, the hydraulic suspension lifted up smartly, and everything just worked. We drove a few kilometres before arriving in the town of Baarle Nassau/Baarle Hertog.

It’s worth taking a second to tell you about this very unusual town. As I said, we were now in the Netherlands and Baarle Nassau is indeed a Dutch town. But Baarle Hertog (which is part of the same town) is actually Belgian so it’s a little bit like the old West Berlin when Germany was still divided. However, unlike West Berlin which was a fairly uniform shape, the two Baarles are a complicated jigsaw puzzle of different pieces including bits of the Netherlands completely surrounded by bits of Belgium which are again completely surrounded by the Netherlands. If you don’t believe me check out Google Maps.

The border between Belgium and the Netherlands at Baarle-Hertog

When I first saw this a few years ago I thought someone had made a mistake but it’s real and is a result of complex medieval treaties, agreements, land-swaps and sales between the Lords of Breda and the Dukes of Brabant. Wikipedia elaborates. My favourite bit is the fact that in some restaurants which straddled the border the customers would have to switch tables from the Dutch side to the Belgian side because the Netherlands had an earlier compulsory closing time back then!

Anyway, I digress. Paul pulled over in Baarle Nassau (or it might have been Baarle Hertog – I lost track) and graciously allowed me to take the wheel of his precious DS. At least I’ve had some experience driving these so it was no problem for me and I smoothly pulled away and piloted it out of town. It was wonderful. This was the experience I had hoped for when I bought my own DS but unfortunately, thus far, it has not been the case. Anyway, I now have renewed faith that it is in fact possible for these cars to run smoothly and reliably and give pleasure rather than heartache. Whether mine can be brought to this state is yet to be determined…

While out driving we passed a number of classic American cars as apparently there was a gathering on nearby. We even saw a ’61 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, one of my personal favourites. Given the glorious weather it seemed that everyone was out enjoying their classic cars, convertibles, and motorbikes and everyone was waving to one another. The DS certainly attracts a lot of attention as they are particularly popular in the Netherlands.

Driving a DS is an extremely calming experience. Because it is French it will not be rushed. This is not to say it is slow, they are capable of well exceeding the speed limit, but it does not like to be rushed. The semi-automatic gearbox works best if you smoothly lift off, flick the lever, pause for half a second, and then smoothly press down on the accelerator. Any attempt at haste will result in jerky gear changes and indignant Gallic muttering from the car. Likewise the suspension, its most famous feature, requires that you pause and give it a minute to get ready before you set off. I’m sure the DS has been used for the occasional bank robbery but you would want to leave the car running while you did the job. Otherwise you would have to sit and wait for the suspension to raise the car before you could leave.

I steered the DS back to the border with Belgium where, after taking a few photos and having a bit more of a chat, we said our goodbyes. Getting back into my BMW with it’s M-sport suspension and firm sports seats made the differences between the French and German philosophies of car design even more apparent. They very much reflect their countries of origin as well. The French car emphasises comfort, relaxation, a slower pace of life and is quirky if not deliberately different, whilst the German car is serious, single-minded and built with lots of words such as effective, efficient, and purposeful in mind. They are at opposite ends of the motoring spectrum and both are brilliant in their intended functions which is about the highest praise one can give in industrial design. I love them both.

Citroën DS – the saga – thwarted again

Yesterday I borrowed a car with a towbar, rented an enormous trailer, and drove back up to Middelburg in the Netherlands to collect my DS. All went well and I even managed to avoid the enormous traffic jam that engulfed most of Antwerp yesterday afternoon.

Upon arrival I was presented with another bill of 197€ which was for finding my chassis number and getting the car started. Scandalous but what can I do? I paid it. Then began the process of getting the DS on the trailer. Luckily I had taken my friend Dimi with me because André refused to help. Didn’t want to be responsible for it he said. Could have still bloody helped in my opinion given that I have paid him 700€ for basically nothing!

More bad news was to follow. The locking mechanism of the winch on the trailer turned out to be broken so it wasn’t clicking as I wound it. This meant that if I let go of the handle it would spin back the other way. It also meant that it didn’t provide any help in securing the DS, something that you would want in normal circumstances, but is essential in this case as the handbrake isn’t working. The straps that I had brought wouldn’t be strong enough on their own to hold the car.

So after winching the car on to the trailer I decided it was not safe to try and transport it with just the straps holding it on. I was forced to take it off the trailer again and leave it there. Now I am being charged 65€ a month storage for it to stand outside. I don’t know what to do next. I’m not prepared to try again with a trailer myself so I guess I will have to pay someone to transport it. It never ends…

Update: The trailer rental place has agreed to give my money back so that is something I guess…

Citroën DS – the saga – moving on

Since I’ve been told via the Citroën forum and various other channels that the amount quoted to repair my driveshaft/axle was outrageous I’ve decided to reject it and pick up my car. I’ve requested that André simply get the engine started so that the car can be raised and I will collect it with a trailer. Given that he charged my 520€ for collecting it there is no way I’m making that mistake again!

So the question is now whether I should continue with another repairer or just put it up for sale and cut my losses. The masochist in me wants to continue but I’ve been burnt so many times…

Citroën DS – the saga – costs and more costs

Just got back from Zeeland where I went to check on the DS and find out how much it’s all going to cost to repair. As I expected, a lot. I’d braced myself to accept 5k€ but it seems it is likely it will be closer to 10k€. The broken axle alone is going to cost nearly 4k€ to repair because of the amount of time required. The most annoying thing is that this could have been prevented if whoever previously did repairs on that had bothered to put all the bolts back in but they didn’t and now I have remaining bolts sheared off which need to be drilled out. All the parts are relatively cheap but it’s the 32 hours labour that kills it.

So anyway, I’ve spent about 10k€ so far on buying the car and various aborted attempts to repair it. Now I’m going to have to spend 4k€ to fix the axle and once that is done and the car is running, André will be able to give a more accurate assessment of what else needs doing. I’m seriously considering cutting my losses because I’m scared that even after the axle is fixed he is then going to find multiple other problems and it’s going to cost even more. My current assessment of 10k€ to fix it would mean I have spent 20k€ on it. It is definitely not worth that much. And I’m not sure I want to keep it after all the trouble it has caused. I’m never going to enjoy driving it as I will always be waiting for it to break down.

So should I sell it as is and cut my losses? In it’s current state I might be able to get 4-5k€ for it I guess… Need to decide asap.

Citroën DS – the saga – VIN & transportation

Today is a holiday in Belgium so I am at home browsing through my Citroën bible, “Original Citroën DS – The Restorer’s Guide to all DS & ID models 1955-75 including saloons, estates and convertibles”. Exciting I know. But trust me, this is the ultimate DS book and it is very hard to find now as it is out of print. I managed to find a copy on eBay in Australia of all places.

It has a handy data section at the back of the book where it lists chassis sequence numbers, paint colours, trim colours, production figures, dimensions and weights by year for each country of production. Based on the chassis number that I have on the sales documentation I have been able to confirm that Brigitte was indeed built in France in 1965 and that her body, roof, and interior colours are all legitimate for that production year. Even better, her unusual hubcaps are correct for a Pallas version from 1965, the first year a Pallas model was produced and the only year those hubcaps were used. So I am feeling more and more confident that it is genuine and original at least.

You’ll remember from the backstory edition that my car was rejected from the DMV when I tried to register it. The reason was that they couldn’t find the VIN or chassis number which they said had to be stamped on the chassis. I’ve just read in my bible that, and I quote, “The numéro de série, or chassis number, is found in the engine bay, riveted to the top left of the bulkhead.”

chassis number

They even provide a picture. I have one of these attached to my car! And I pointed it out to the guys at the DMV but they insisted it had to be stamped on the chassis. Yes well maybe it does today but a French car built 45 years ago could well have been subject to different rules! Idiots. I was very stressed out about that imagining that the VIN had been filed off and I’d bought a stolen car… I’ll take my bible with me next time I go to register it. So I can beat them with it.

So I was feeling good after reading that. Then I got an email from André with the bill for the transportation. 520€! Not feeling so good now. Safe to say if I’d known it was going to be that much I would have taken it myself, however much trouble it was going to be. Note to self, ask how much everything is in future. I guess now I’m committed (or should be…).

Anyway, we have a date tomorrow at 14:00 to go over his plan of what needs doing to rectify everything. Feeling a bit scared. Will report back.

Citroën DS – the saga – backstory

I’ve been avoiding this topic for quite some time as I have a bad habit of putting off and ignoring anything bad in the hope that it will go away. Unfortunately when you have purchased a 1965 Citroen DS19 Pallas in “perfect” condition only to discover that it isn’t, ignoring it doesn’t tend to help. Nevertheless, I gave it a go. It didn’t work out so now I must face up to it and do something about fixing the damn thing.

Back around July 2009 I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of buying a DS. I have always loved them of course because of the fabulous ahead-of-it’s-time styling and innovative technology, but mostly I just loved the fact that they went up and down on hydraulic suspension. That’s me, a sucker for anything with unnecessary moving parts…

Anyway, after a short but frenzied search of the internet and incessant boring of my friends and co-workers I happened upon what appeared to be just what I was looking for. I had been searching for a 1967 DS Pallas but unfortunately this is the model everybody wants as it incorporates all the most desirable features – the old nose, the second dashboard, and the reliable ‘green’ hydraulic system as opposed to the older problematic ‘red’ hydraulic system. I was forced to compromise and, being me, I compromised on the hydraulics so I could still have the “look” I wanted. A 1965 DS with the old nose, the second dashboard and the older problematic ‘red’ hydraulic system was duly purchased from an old guy in the Netherlands.

DS in a field

Now this car really did look to be in perfect condition. It’s bodywork is in great shape, the chrome has barely any marks and the interior was excellent. It had been recently restored so there was no rust and according to the vendor it ran smoothly. Unfortunately, because he had imported it from Belgium to the Netherlands and never registered it I was unable to take it for a proper drive other than around his paddock. But, again, he assured me it was in great working order. So I agreed a purchase price of 8500€ (far too much in retrospect), loaded the DS on a trailer and towed it back to Belgium feeling very pleased with myself. I was living my dream and I decided to name her Brigitte.

Below are some pictures of Brigitte as she was when I collected her:

Out standing in her field

Old style nose with yellow headlights

Heading to Belgium - bloody heavy!

Parked in my garage at home

Leg cocked for tyre change

Unfortunately, shortly after I had her home and before I had had a chance to register her in Belgium a worrying pool of red hydraulic fluid began to pool beneath her. She had, as far as I could tell, 3 separate leaks. I enlisted the help of a local DS specialist who came and had a look and proceeded to tell me that yes, she was in fact leaking hydraulic fluid and that is not a good thing. She also has rust in all the doors that I hadn’t spotted and the wiring appears dodgy. Great. So anyway, he said he could fix it so I arranged to drive it to his workshop about 20kms away ignoring the fact it was neither registered nor insured – I was desperate.

After several aborted attempts due to the battery going flat I managed to get her going and out of the underground carpark (which I’m sure pleased my BMW a lot as it had been parked on the street while this upstart stole it’s carpark). The DS drove reasonably well most of the way until, as I was nearing my destination, it started to fail and try as I might I couldn’t keep it running at a stop light. She died. I called my friend and he came and towed her the remaining couple of kilometers to his workshop. Bear in mind that this had to be done quickly before the pressure left the hydraulics and she sank down on her haunches rendering her immobile. What had I gotten myself into?

The stalling problem was traced to the electrical system and my friend performed a number of repairs as well as fixing some of the leaks in the hydraulics (not all of them as it turned out later). My next task was to take her to the Belgian equivalent of the DMV for registration. Here it is possible to register an oldtimer on a special O plate for limited use which involves little or no checking of the cars road-worthiness. I still failed. We were unable to find the VIN which is, unfortunately, still necessary. Having failed the registration I began the drive back to my work where I could at least store her until I worked out my next move. We didn’t make it. I found myself in a cloud of smoke on the side of the motorway again wondering what the hell I had done.

This time, because my friend told me he had no further time to devote to this cause, I had the DS towed to the nearest Citroen garage thinking that they at least would be able to diagnose the problem and maybe fix it. Confidence was not inspired when they rang me later asking how to start the car. All automatic DS’s are started in the same way by pushing the gear lever to the left, definitely a trap for newcomers but they are a Citroen garage! Anyway, they got her going and took her for a drive after which they called me to inform me that the engine seemed fine but whilst on the test drive they broke a driveshaft… Sigh…

At this point I began to despair (more) and entered avoidance mode. The garage apparently did too as they never called me to let me know which part I had to buy so I just let it sit there… for nine months. During which time we had the worst winter in 30 years with much snow and ice. I’m scared to see what condition she is now in.

Anyway, to the present. Summer has arrived in Belgium and I began to feel inspired and resolved to do something about Brigitte. I knew I couldn’t really sell her in her current condition so I should bite the bullet and restore her, regardless of what it was going to cost me. Upon recommendation from a Citroen forum I have found a restorer in Zeeland, the Netherlands who is coming this afternoon with a truck to collect her. He is going to make a plan (I like the sound of that – it sounds efficient) and then we will determine what the restoration process should be. Hopefully it can be achieved before I am declared bankrupt.

Probably getting somewhat ahead of myself I have started dreaming about changing the colour that she is painted. She is currently blanc carrare, a very pale mint green which, if I’m honest, I don’t really like. It is colour code AC144 and is her original colour which is heartening at least. But my favourite colour is bleu d’orient (AC616) and this colour was also available from the factory in 1965 with the red interior trim. So I don’t think it will be at all sacrilegious to change it once all the mechanical gremlins have been banished.

Bleu d'Orient

So this is the backstory. Wish me luck with the transportation, evaluation and eventual restoration that is to come.