BACK IN MARCH this year I made yet another gesture of selfless philanthropy and rescued my umpteenth neglected Citroen DS.
Some people go to Cambodia and help maimed orphans. Some people go to Africa and feed the starving.
Others adopt lame racehorses or slow greyhounds. I save DS Citroens from destruction.
It was languishing under a tree with a flat tyre and non-responsive motor. Its owner had become somewhat distracted by the energy transfer involved in raising two small children.
So despite having its steering rack replaced and boasting a totally new set of expensive and authentic imported seat covers, the poor gal had become a breeding ground for exotic spiders and the odd fungus, a role never intended by its designers.
First visit – jump starter connected, fuel poured down carbie throat, plugs cleaned – nothing. Then with extra oomph from jumper leads from the 4WD she eventually fired. As expected, the hydraulic pump whirred and clicked, the suspension spheres did their thing and the mildewy carcass rose from the ground and hovered enough to reveal no potentially tragic and life threatening noises. The body was missing something though. No rust. Nil. Zilch.
None at all. Astonishing. Lots of dents, bent door skins and a slightly creased rear bumper – but no rust. Reassured that the old girl had just faked being dead, I took a punt, handed over my money and waited for a tow truck.
A fortnight later – don’t ask – the now more subdued and sad looking DS23 arrived and was dumped out the front. Although it was Easter, nothing would resurrect this body and no matter what I tried she refused to run again.
Praying to all and every god I could imagine did not do the trick, so instead I went back to basics and started checking the small things that make car motors go bang – spark and fuel. Neither was in evidence at all, so no surprise the car would not start.
The fuel issue was easily solved, but not before a skip load of filth, grease, mud and organic debris was hosed and flushed from throughout the engine bay. Once I could actually see the machinery amidst the vegetation, a torn hose at the input to the fuel pump was soon dealt with, fresh juice poured in and at least that side of it was resolved. The absence of spark was weird. There was spark at the jumper leads that led to the battery which led to the coil which led to the ballast resistor which led to the distributor and then it all stopped. Stuck points seemed likely – so off came the cap.
Mr Marchal had me stumped – the boffins at Citroen had crafted a ‘pointless’ distributor. A research-break revealed that this quirky French engineering version had replaced traditional points with a cartridge set of contacts that are impossible to repair.
The internal fibre tongue that bridges the rivets that hold the points had broken. The rotation of the distributor drive cam against the spring was wasted – it simply moved the broken piece of fibre but not the points themselves.
A new cartridge is called for, which of course is not available anywhere that I can find in the entire country.
Hours on the internet reveals – in the entire world – one supplier only, and that is in the UK. I order two cartridges and wait a fortnight until they arrive. In the meantime a spare distributor from a different model of DS is substituted. New leads, cleaned points, fresh fuel – new curses in several languages – and the car eventually starts.
Several weekends of pressure washing, dismantling, degreasing, cleaning up wiring, fixing dodgy terminals, loose fittings… and new life glows through the resurrected machine. It is now stripped of adornments, running sweetly and ready for paint. A make-over from Bill the panel wizard sometime in the next few months and the forlorn faded icon’s sad days hiding in a grotto will be nigh to a distant blur. Another lost soul saved to smooth my passage to eternal paradise. p