Six Unusual Finds from the 2017 California Citroën Club Gathering
A warmup for the brand’s upcoming centennial
Some car clubs meet where there are donuts and coffee. Others find an excuse to get together near swap meets, so they can forage for old parts. Leave it to the very French Citroën club to not just meet, but rendezvous, in Atascadero, California, where there is no shortage of the French national pastime: wine.
Founded in 1919, Citroën is a little more than a year away from its centennial anniversary, so both Northern and Southern California chapters of the club decided to get the party started a little early for some pre-gaming.
More than 30 hot cars showed up this past sweltering weekend, and we've picked out a few of our favorites but, sacrebleu! Be forewarned: There are a couple of interlopers in the mix.
Sport Maserati (SM)—Nope, it's not an Italian car
Since we got a ride in this stunner, we know how well the hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension still works in this. The smooth ride is one of the innovations borrowed from its older brother, the DS, which came to the market in 1955. And those channeled leather seats aren't just for good looks. They're part of the reason automotive journalists still gush about this model, noting that one could cruise all day at 120 mph in the lap of luxury.
This particular example, outfitted with a 178-hp 2.7-liter V-6 and a five-speed manual transmission, had a top speed in its day of 141 mph. Today, this baby doesn't like to languish in traffic, but we don't know anyone who does. Vive le speed.
The Goddess of Lemons
This D Spécial from 1972 is a base model of the DS that only makes about 92 or 93 hp. Originally bought as a parts car, the owners decided to run it in the Lemons Rally during their Monterey Car "Weeeeak" when the opportunity arose this past August. These guys had a month to get it running and road-worthy enough to cover the almost 2,000 miles from Monterey, California, to Bend, Oregon, to Bremerton, Washington, and back to Monterey in time for the 2017 Concours d'Lemons, which is where we first noticed it.
According to the owners, despite its horrifying looks it drives great. Based on the condition of the interior, we'll take their word for it instead of getting a ride. The hydraulics are still in operation, even with more than 200,000 miles on it. If you're interested in becoming an owner of a part of French history, it's yours for the right price.
No, it's not a Citroën, but this Bugatti Type 44 gate crasher definitely caught our attention at the soiree. The current owners acquired it from a former Bugatti Club president on the condition they not restore it for car shows but drive it as is. With only minimal interior updates that are period correct, this 1928 and its eight-cylinder engine are now driven regularly.
In its heyday, according to its owners, doctors and lawyers primarily used the Type 44 to conduct their business, but they assured us that when you bury the throttle, it still goes like stink. Smells good to us!
This 1988 Hoffmann 2CV Convertible is a kit car based on the 1962 Citroën 2CV. Wolfgang Hoffmann at his factory in Hohenfurch, Germany, manufactured only about 250 of the 1,700 examples that exist. The rest were shipped out to customers in bits and parts to be assembled. It's a steel-framed and fiberglass-bodied car, very few of which found their way to the United States, which probably explains why this is the first one we've seen.
At first glance, we assumed someone had chopped the top off a 2CV and were intrigued. We also thought, as a convertible, it's a little reminiscent of the Volkswagen Thing, which we love. For a knock off, this German did a pretty good job of imitating the French real thing.
The Short Bus
At most car shows usually anything you see is for sale for the right price. This 1958 VW Bus that's been shortened, is absolutely not. The owner, who is also the fabricator of this squishy cutie, claims his to be the first of its kind, though there are lots of copycats now. After putting together a long camper bus out of two buses at his VW wrecking yard, Frank Atkinson put the two left over pieces together and voilá. Hello, shorty!
With a wheelbase shorter than a motorcycle, Atkinson made a lot of modifications to ensure stability. This bus was even used as a daily driver for a while, though a fellow auto journo claims one of these was the most dangerous thing he's ever driven. Equipped with Porsche seats that face each other in the rear, this short stuff has seen more than 40,000 long, fun miles.
While it initially has the appearance of a rare, much older car, the Citroen Traction Avant was a popular French model that remained virtually unchanged from when it began production in 1936 to when it ceased in 1957. This 1954 is a right-hand drive version built in Citroën's factory in Slough, England, so this one is a bit rare.
After being driven by its original owner in South Africa and Botswana for 20 years, it ended up in a barn in Canada for 30 years, before it was discovered in 2005. It was eventually restored in Toronto before coming to California. Of the nearly 800,000 Traction Avants built during its entire run, only about 16,000 of those were made in the Slough factory. This 1954 Light 15 model is one of less than 1,000 made. Jolly good find.