THE FIRST DS IN CANADA?
After the Bedaux expedition in the 1930’s, the next step for Citroën in BC was 23 years later when in early 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...”
We looked into this a bit further and we think that this car was most likely the FIRST DS to ever be on Canadian soil. It turns out that the car was owned by Seattle's Citroën dealership, French Cars Inc. which opened their doors in late 1956 and had a DS demonstrator on their premises soon after. We further found that one of the co-owners of French Cars Inc., Ralph D. Gage, drove this DS to Vancouver and entered it into the Vancouver to Manning Park rally, not long after the car arrived in Seattle. He came in third out of nearly 200 entrants.
After the rally, we think this car returned to Seattle, was ultimately sold, and the trail of this car ends there. But you can read more about French Cars Inc. HERE. You can read about the first DS's officially imported to Canada HERE.
In 1958, the Citroën factory made their push to introduce DS's to Canada. One of Citroën's export managers, a man named Alain Feraut, was dispatched to Canada from Citroën headquarters in Paris. He travelled across Canada trying to recruit Canadian businesses along the way to become distributors for the Citroëns and Panhards. He started out in Montreal in March of 1958. He then travelled west to Vancouver and Edmonton by May.
We believe that Alain Feraut was behind the recruitment of Auto-France in Montreal first, then Double Nine Motors in Edmonton a few months later in May of 1958. Read on to find more about Double Nine Motors' rise and then their rather spectacular fall.
VANCOUVER SUN, May 1958
DOUBLE NINE MOTORS LTD.
Double Nine Motors had a short but important role in bringing Citroëns to the western provinces of Canada, including British Columbia.
In the summer of 1958, Double Nine, based in Edmonton, became a distributor for Citroëns and Panhards for the four western provinces of Canada; British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Double Nine was owned by a man named Joseph Victor Boscher.
Boscher in turn named Harold Goldsworthy to head up their operations for the province of British Columbia (Boscher handled Alberta himself and it looks like nothing ever materialized for Saskatchewan or Manitoba).
Double-Nine opened a small storefront in Vancouver under their own name, Double Nine Motors (BC) Ltd, in early 1959, headed up by Goldsworthy. Their location was in a suburb of Vancouver, at 1325 Kingsway, South Burnaby (see ad below).
Edmonton Journal, June 1955
VANCOUVER SUN, 1959
VANCOUVER SUN, April 1959
RARE DOUBLE NINE BROCURE (THE ADDRESS IS THE EDMONTON LOCATION)
But the arrangement with Double Nine did not last long. In late 1959, Joseph Boscher, the owner of Double Nine, filed for bankruptcy, thus bringing an end to both of his Edmonton-based companies; Regent Motors and Double Nine Motors.
But things went from bad to worse for Boscher. In 1961 he found himself in Edmonton court being accused of fraud associated with forged papers from car leases in 1959. He was not only found guilty of fraud, but he was also found guilty of perjury during the court proceedings. He was sentenced to two years in prison. But if all that wasn't enough, he was in a bad car accident in 1959 that delayed the court proceedings.
By May of 1960, his stock of unsold 1959 Panhards were "repossessed" (or somehow acquired) by Auto-France, shipped 3500 km east to Montreal, and sold by Auto-France at heavy discounts.
A photo from Montreal's Auto-France exists! Were some of the Panhards in the photo the ones that came from Double Nine? Maybe...
MONTREAL STAR, MAY 1960
PHOTO FROM ABOUT 1960
AUTO-FRANCE DEALERSHIP IN MONTREAL AT 7670 DECAIRE BOULEVARD
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).
BC had its very first Citroën and Panhard dealer show up in November of 1958; Regal Motors at 847 Yates Street in Victoria. This is nearly 2 years after that Seattle-based DS participated in the Vancouver to Manning park rally in early 1957.
REGAL MOTORS AD FROM 1958
VICTORIA TIMES-COLONIST NEWSPAPER, 1958
Regal Motors was likely getting their cars from Double Nine since Double Nine was the BC importer at this time.
Regal Motors looks like it only lasted as a Citroën/Panhard dealer 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 photo).
CITY OF VICTORIA ARCHIVES
REGAL MOTORS USED CAR LOT IN VICTORIA AS SEEN IN A 1960 PHOTO
The year of 1959 was a busy year for the Citroën marque in BC.
Let's transition to the city of Vancouver. January 13, 1959 saw the city of Vancouver’s first mention of a Citroën and Panhard dealer; LeMans Automotive, located at 1680 East Hastings Street. LeMans Automotive were getting their cars from Double Nine Motors, as Double Nine was the distributor at this time.
Several advertisements and newspaper articles for LeMans Automotive are shown below. Other than a few advertisements that only lasted for a few months in early 1959, very little else is known about LeMans Automotive. It didn't last.
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
LEMANS AUTOMOTIVE NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS FROM 1959
Note that a man named 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).
VANCOUVER SUN, 1959
By May of 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.’
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.
VANCOUVER SUN, 1959
The www.pressreader.com 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.
1959 PHOTOGRAPH OF CLARKE SIMPKINS ON WEST GEORGIA STREET
1960 AERIAL PHOTO OF WEST GEORGIA STREET WITH CLARKE SIMPKINS DEALERSHIP IN THE FOREGROUND
TRUNK BADGE FROM CLARKE SIMPKINS
Based on the date that Clarke Simpkins started offering Citroëns, it would appear that they got their cars through Double Nine Motors, at least until Double Nine declared bankruptcy in late 1959.
CITROEN CARS DISTRIBUTORS OF BC
After the chaos with Double Nine's 1959 bankruptcy, there was a new Citroën importer set up in BC to replace Double Nine. By October of 1959, Citroën Cars Distributors BC, Ltd. at 525 Seymour in Vancouver appears. Citroën Cars Distributors BC was a private business, not a direct arm of Citroën, France. Thus, they acted as a third-party distributor, just like Double Nine or Auto-France.
VANCOUVER SUN, 1959
Citroën Cars Distributors (BC) chose a handsome building for their headquarters in BC. 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).
CITY OF VANCOUVER ARCHIVES
1929 PHOTO OF THE YORKSHIRE BUILDING AT 525 SEYMOUR
It seems that Citroën Cars Distributors of BC served a bureaucratic function only, not as a car dealership. They had no customer-facing location to show or park cars. We believe that they acted as a liaison between Citroën of France and the local Vancouver-area dealerships by handling paperwork associated with the importation of cars, administration of warranty issues, legal issues, advertising, etc.
Despite not being a dealership, a brochure bearing the Citroën Cars Distributors of BC stamp surfaced in 2020.
VANCOUVER SUN, 1959
CANADIAN DS (WITH BC PLATES) SHOWED UP IN THE VANCOUVER SUN IN APRIL OF 1959