Posts Tagged ‘ restoration ’

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…

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Classic Mercedes… be still my heart…

1957 300SL Roadster

Repost from Jalopnik. God I love classic Mercedes. Just the right amount of bling and gorgeous paint colours.

See article here: http://jalopnik.com/5541095/

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 – restoration begins

Well as mentioned in the previous Citroen post a man came yesterday from the Netherlands to collect my DS from the Citroen garage where it has languished untouched for the past 6 months or so. No-one from said garage was even on hand to help or apologise for having done no work on her. It was simply left with the key in it for me to collect. No matter.

Andre (the Netherlander) arrived in his own 1973 DS23 with a large car trailer and I met him outside Antwerp so we could go to the garage together. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Brigitte appeared to be in much the same condition as when I last saw her 6 months ago despite sitting outside all winter. I was a bit worried that she would be a rust-riddled hulk but I seemed to have dodged that bullet.

As expected the battery was completely dead but thankfully Andre had the foresight to bring a spare. Despite this and repeated valiant attempts by the starter motor we were unable to coax Brigitte into life. The trailer had a winch so ordinarily this wouldn’t be such an issue but bear in mind the DS sits very low to the ground unless you can get the hydraulics going and we worried she would get bellied as we winched her on to the trailer. As it turned out, she just cleared the edge by millimetres, helped by the fact that Andre could raise his DS up as high it would go thereby tipping the trailer slightly.

I was on winch duty so I slowly but surely dragged her up on to the trailer while Andre performed steering adjustments. All went well until we realised that we had forgotten to put up the windows first and because she now sat so low and the trailer had sides, we couldn’t open the doors to put them up. Hope it doesn’t rain!

With her on the trailer and well strapped down we headed back towards Antwerp. I was surprised how well the DS23 managed to pull it given that I remember it being a struggle towing her behind the Mazda6 diesel. Must have been quite a sight, a DS on a trailer behind another DS. Pity I didn’t have my camera…

Andre dropped me back at my car and off he went to Zeeland, the Netherlands. Hopefully he made it without incident! I haven’t heard otherwise. So Brigitte is now here. This is Andre’s website for his restoration business. Maybe I could offer to build him a new one!

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.