After the Bedaux expedition in the 1930’s, the next step for Citroën in BC was 23 years later when in 1957, there was a brief mention of Citroën in the February 28, 1957 edition of the Vancouver Sun:
“...Most revolutionary new car on the road is the French Citroën DS 19. One made its Vancouver debut two weeks ago in the rally to Manning Park and return. It has no springs, clutch or brake pedals. Suspension is entirely hydraulic. The car is pumped up about two inches to its riding position when the engine is started. It hisses back down when the engine is turned off. The car’s riding qualities have left critics dreamy-eyed. Cost is just over $3,000...”
The first mention of a DS in the city of Victoria was in April of 1958, in the Victoria Times-Colonist newspaper:
“...No Frog but a Goddess: ‘What car’, said the voice on the telephone, ‘looks like a stretched nut Volkswagen?’ There’s a funny car in town that looks like a frog said a colleague, ‘What is it?’ Well, I was baffled as anybody, until downtown one day I met a car that looked like a cross between a stretched nut VW and a frog, a Citroën. The Citroën is the world’s most advanced car, no doubt about it. The latest visitor isn’t the first Goddess to appear in Victoria (or perhaps its the same one back again!). Anyway it mused a lot of curiosity this time...”
Also in 1958, the Citroën factory advertised in local newspapers, looking for people to become dealers and distributors for the newly developed DS (see advertisement below).
VANCOUVER SUN, 1958
BC had its very first Citroën and Panhard dealer show up in 1958: Regal Motors at 847 Yates Street in Victoria. For readers not familiar with British Columbia, the charming city of Victoria is on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, a Canadian island north of Washington State and west of mainland BC (see map in the Introduction section).
Regal Motors looks like it only lasted as a Citroën/Panhard about a year or so, but remained in operation several years longer, selling other marques and used cars. The Regal Motors car lot at 847 Yates Street is long gone, having been replaced with a multi-story condominium. We were however able to find a period photo of Yates Street with the corner of Regal Motor’s lot showing (see following photo).
CITY OF VICTORIA ARCHIVES
REGAL MOTORS USED CAR LOT AS SEEN IN A 1960 PHOTO
REGAL MOTORS AD FROM 1958
VICTORIA TIMES-COLONIST NEWSPAPER, 1958
The year of 1959 was a busy year for the Citroën marque in BC.
January 13, 1959 saw the city of Vancouver’s first mention of new Citroëns and Panhards, available at LeMans Automotive at 1680 East Hastings Street. Very little is known about LeMans Automotive, but it appears to have only lasted as a Citroën dealer for perhaps a year. Several advertisements and newspaper articles for LeMans Automotive are shown below.
The building at 1680 East Hastings is long gone and it is now a vacant lot. We were unable to find a period photo of the building
Note that Ian Cooper, who set up LeMans Automotive, is seen promoting the 2CV at Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) site in Hastings Park on the east side of Vancouver (see below).
DOUBLE NINE MOTORS
In February of 1959, an already established company in Edmonton, Alberta called Double Nine Motors was looking for Dealers in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba (see ad below, left).
Two months later, in April of 1959, Double Nine Motors (BC) Ltd. was set up as a Citroën-Panhard
dealer in a suburb of Vancouver at 1325 Kingsway, South Burnaby (see ad below).
By May, 1959 the number of Vancouver dealerships ballooned to 3 with the addition of Clarke Simpkins at 1345 West Georgia in Vancouver. This ad (below) was the one and only time we found mention of them being associated with Citroën. (Notice the inconsistent spelling of ‘Citroën.’ This spelling error is very common in period advertisements, making text searches of newspaper archives tricky.)
Clarke Simpkins was located on West Georgia Street, which leads from downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park. This neighborhood was once a famous ‘auto row’ in Vancouver, but one would never realize that now, since the street is currently lined with modern and gleaming high rise condominiums. Automotive dealerships in this neighborhood started popping up in about 1906. Over the years, many marques were sold in this area, including Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, Ferrari, Fiat, Hudson, Humber, Jewett, Lincoln, Mercury, Nash, Oakland, Oldsmobile, Pierce Arrow, Rolls-Royce, Rover, Studebaker, Triumph, Volvo, and probably many others that we have missed.
The website includes the following exchange with Clarke Simpkins’ son, Michael:
“...Michael Simpkin recalls that the dealer stored 300-400 vehicles on vacant property now occupied by one of Vancouver’s best known hotels - the Bayshore Inn. The company became the first Fiat dealer in Canada and soon added Rolls-Royce, Triumph, Rover, and of course Ferrari. “My father signed up for every car franchise that was available..."
Apparently, one of these franchises was (briefly) Citroën.
By the late 1960s, real estate prices were skyrocketing in Vancouver and new skyscrapers were rapidly spreading down Georgia Street, replacing each of the car dealerships. Eventually the pressure reached Clarke Simpkins and he sold-out. He moved his dealership across the bridge to Burrard Street and 8th Avenue, and focused on selling Hondas (becoming the first Honda dealer in Canada). Clarke Simpkins passed away in 1999 at the age of 94.
Two amazing period photos were found that show the Clarke Simpkin dealership on Georgia Street. The 1959 colour photo (below) was taken looking north, toward Grouse Mountain at a time when one might have been able to spot a Citroën. But even if you zoom in, no Citroëns can be seen. The same can be said of the 1960 aerial photo which is looking southeast on West Georgia Street towards downtown Vancouver.
TRUNK BADGE FROM CLARKE SIMPKINS
CITROEN CAR DISTRIBUTORS OF BC
By October, 1959, a more organized approach to selling cars occurs when Citroën Cars Distributors BC, Ltd. at 525 Seymour in Vancouver appears. We believe that Citroën Cars Distributors BC was a private business, not a direct arm of Citroën, France.
Citroën Cars Distributors (BC) chose a handsome building for their administrative headquarters in BC. The building at 525 Seymour does not appear to be protected as a historical landmark, but it should be. It is a magnificent building, completed in 1920.
Originally called the Yorkshire building, it is currently referred to as the Seymour building. SkyRise Vancouver describes it as, “...one of the best Neo-Gothic edifices remaining in Vancouver...”. Fortunately, this building survives today (as a condominium).
1929 PHOTO OF THE YORKSHIRE BUILDING AT 525 SEYMOUR