ROB BLACKBOURN ON IMPROVING THE BREED
I COAXED THE co-pilot to come for a Sunday morning drive to a Citroen Car Club event in the hills. The local Francophile car-fans had started their run from town quite a bit earlier, driving their various Je-.-André machines to a property nestled among the patchwork of orchards and hobby farms. By the time we arrived the highly polished Citroens were arranged in groups positioned around what resembled a miniature natural amphitheatre at first glance, complete with a family of ducks on its central dam.
Information about many individual cars was displayed on laminated posters or sandwich boards, often including provenance details and restoration-process photographs, and for one, a shot of a barn somewhere in France where the car had languished for years.
Many owners picnicked beside their beloved machines from hampers that reflected the same taste and attention to detail as their cars. While their luncheon fare wasn’t necessarily haute cuisine, its quality appeared to be uniformly high, with nary a battered sav nor chicken nugget in sight. Conversations were enthusiastic with a touch of Gallic animation, an infection owners presumably picked up from their cars.
Here and there elders of the double-chevron tribe answered questions from the uninitiated openly and generously, showing no tendency to either shroud all things Citroen in mystique, or to try to recruit newbies to the movement. It was altogether a pleasant gathering that surely met the expectations of the many first-time visitors to an event of its type.
Well, almost… “They seem to be really taking their time over lunch.
When does the racing actually start?”
It wasn’t a brain-fade moment for the co-pilot. And it wasn’t that she doesn’t get car stuff. It was simply that it hadn’t occurred to her that some enthusiasts happily take part in events that consist basically of showing off their pride-and-joy machines in static displays. And they don’t race...
All of her previous exposure to car and motor bike events was about motor sport. She had spectated at headline motor racing – Formula One, MotoGP, Isle of Man TT – as well as seeing the unique action at Bob Jane’s Thunderdome and the Geelong Speed Trials. And at the humble club level, where we and our mates had handson involvement over time, it also was about racing. Both before and after lunch.
It was completely down to me that she arrived at the Citroen event unprepared for what would take place – I hadn’t wanted to make a song and dance about it for fear of giving away what I was trying to cook up.
The plan was that after a subtle soft-sell on my part as we wandered among the Citroens, she would succumb to the whimsical charms of the little 2CVs on display. I would then reveal, feigning surprise at serendipity’s timely intervention, that there was a chance I might be able to secure us one from an old mate.
My feeble plan sank without trace for two reasons: “Why would you want to take on another project when you’ve made so little progress on my MGB lately?” And what emerged from beneath layers of household cast-offs that had accumulated on the 2CV over the years bore little resemblance to the ‘a set of tyres and a battery will fix it’- car I’d been led to expect.
I’ve had the occasional giggle since though, visualising the kind of competition the club might have staged that day. One version sees a Maseratipowered SM and a Kawasaki 1000 re-powered Dyane locked in wheel-to-wheel combat on an improvised speedway track around the dam, with open exhausts howling and tyres throwing rooster-tails of mud over the gathering, scattering the little duckies, and drawing outraged shouts of ‘Zut alors’ and ‘Sacré bleu’ from Citroen purists.