As a new decade emerges, Vancouver Sun columnist Jack Wasserman announces on March 4, 1960:
“...In an attempt to duplicate the the highly successful Mercedes operation which saw some of the town’s business leaders backing an auto agency, hotel man Frank Bernard, financier Knox Walkem Jr, and insurance exec John Nicolls enter the gentleman car dealer field with the Citroën distributorship. Same group has bought into retail Docksteader Motors which will add the French line to its present stock...”
And voila, at 2030 West Broadway in Vancouver, Docksteaders becomes a Citroën dealer!
Pete Docksteader, founder of Docksteader Motors, was a pioneer in the automobile world of Vancouver. In 1958, Docksteaders became one of the first Canadian Volvo dealers. The Docksteader family was apparently involved with the formation of an off- shore automobile assembly plant in Halifax, Nova Scotia were they produced Volvo cars, called the "Volvo Canadian.” Docksteaders had a 50 year long relationship with Volvo. Their relationship with Citroën wasn’t so successful.
Dockstreaders lasted as a Citroën dealer for a year or so at 2030 West Broadway, but in June of 1961, a different dealership called Broadway Motors is listed at the same address. Docksteaders moved to 1090 West Georgia street, dropped the Citroën line, and focused on Volvo (see photos, below). There will be more about Broadway motors later.
Greg Long spoke with Mr. Don Docksteader (son of Pete Docksteader) back in December of 2001 when he was first interested in how Citroën fared in BC. Following are from Greg's notes:
“...I picked up the phone and sure enough got Don Docksteader on the line; and yes, he remembered his "Citroën fiasco" days! It was 1959 or so when four local Vancouver business people got the rights to Citroën for BC. They needed a dealer and so Docksteaders stepped up. Problem was the cars were not supported directly by the factory so they received French versions (he couldn’t remember why they didn't get USA cars)... all the manuals, parts books were in French, no repair training, etc. He said the cars were great but the support lacked totally. He couldn’t recall how many cars they ended up selling in the 2 or 3 years but it couldn't have been more than a couple dozen...”
We get the sense that even with some (relatively) serious newspaper ad campaigns, it was difficult to sell Citroëns during this time in BC (remember the comment about them looking ‘funny’ and a cross between a VW and a frog?). It looks like the Victoria dealership, Regal Motors Ltd, had ceased as a Citroën dealer by the late 50’s, and there’s a strong chance the ‘almost new’ 1960 DS in the following (increasingly desperate) advertisements demonstrates how business may not have been going too well...
We found an interesting article in the April 1, 1960 Vancouver Sun:
“...Steep pitch of central ‘A’ frame roof is discernible from the entrance driveway to Bob Fortune’s North Shore home. Windows in kitchen-dining wing (foreground) are set at a reciprocal angle to central triangle. 1960 Citroën, above, will later be parked in a yet-to- be built filled area at left.LOFTY, OPEN to brought to balcony overlooking living room with huge “A” frame windward skylight extending along roof ridge - Selwyn Pullan...”
Now who was this Bob Fortune who had such amazing taste? Name rings a bell. It turns out that Bob Fortune was known through the ’50's and ’60's in Vancouver as "The Weatherman" for his nightly appearances on CBC News with his blackboard map and oversized chalk. And looking up the photographer Selwyn Pullan (credited for the photo on the previous page) also provides a nice surprise. The website has the following brief biography:
“...Selwyn LLoyd Pullan, distinguished Canadian photographer, was born in Vancouver in 1922, attended Vancouver Technical School, served in the Canadian Navy aboard H.M.C.S. ... His photographs have documented B.C. mid-century modernism and left the west coast of Canada an archive of outstanding architectural creation....”
Jack Wasserman’s column in the Vancouver Sun once again mentioned Citroëns, this time in April, 1961 when he wrote:
“...During his two week visit, humourist Mort Sahl went through 6 different U-drives. One day he got a yen to drive a Citroën, the swanky French job, so Citroën dealer Bill Docksteader arranged, through Tilden’s to lease a model to Mort. After the car was turned in, it was still on the lot and it was leased to another chap. The fellow might have been a Mort Sahl fan seeking a souvenir. At any rate neither he nor the car have been heard of since. Docksteader isn’t laughing...”
TRANS-CANADIAN CAR RALLY
Another interesting event that happened in Canada in 1961 was the Trans-Canadian car rally. The year 1961 was the first year of this rally, and it involved dozens of interesting cars from around the world. The rally took place between April 30 and May 6th, and was described as:
“...Canada’s first cross-country car rally—the longest, most grueling test of top performers ever held in the Western Hemisphere...”
And it looks like a team of two women from Toronto came in first in the female category in a Citroën DS! The photo (right) shows the driver, Alice Fergusson, with a cigar in her mouth as she applauds!
THE CALGARY HERALD, 1961
The year 1961 looks to be Docksteaders last hurrah with Citroën. As noted above, Docksteaders moved to W. Georgia street and successfully focused on Volvo for several decades. A new Citroën dealer appeared in June, 1961 with the name Broadway Motors, located at Docksteaders old facility at 2030 W. Broadway.
THE VANCOUVER SUN, 1961
THE VANCOUVER SUN, 1961
THE VANCOUVER SUN, 1961
THE VANCOUVER SUN, 1961
Broadway Motors expanded to add the Peugeot line in mid-1961 and there are even a few mentions of Studebaker cars in some of their ads.
During most of 1961, Broadway Motors advertised prolifically. But it wasn’t enough. Broadway motors was finished by late 1961.
Things changed very quickly in the Citroën world in BC in the previous few years. And it is not going to get any easier for the year 1962.
SARGENT SALES & SERVICE
Sargent Sales & Service, located at 1205 Seymour in Vancouver (somehow related to Broadway Motors), appeared in December, 1961. Sargent operated as a Citroën dealer in late 1961 or early 1962 and lasted a few years, perhaps to 1966.
It’s interesting to note that Mr. Sargent, whom I assume is the namesake of Vancouver’s Sargent Sales & Service, was attempting to sell Citroëns while visiting Victoria’s famous Grand Empress Hotel in March, 1962 (see article lower right).
Does the address 2030 W. Broadway sound familiar? In January of 1962, a small ad appears with a business located at the same address as the ex-Citroën dealerships of Docksteaders and Broadway Motors. It is a Citroën repair service, run by a man named Andre Milaire, whom we will catch up with again later...
Remember Regal Motors in the city of Victoria? Regal lasted as a Citroën dealer only a short time in 1958. So after a several year availability gap for Citroëns in Victoria, Caledonia Motors shows up at 1101 Yates in 1962, just down the street from where Regal Motors was located. Caledonia Motors was a dealer for Singer Gazelle, Peugeot and, last but not least, Citroën. Let that sink in: A Singer Gazelle, Peugeot and Citroën dealer in the small city of Victoria.
How long do you think Caledonia Motors lasted? Your guess would be right. Not long. Today, an Audi dealership occupies the building at 1101 Yates.
CITROEN CANADA LTEE
By 1962, the Citroën company wanted to increase their presence and support in Canada. One can assume that the horror stories of a non-existent support network for dealers and owners alike had finally sunk in at headquarters in France. The April 2, 1962 edition of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper included a half-page ad announcing the introduction of Citroën Canada Ltee at 7144 Cote-des-Neiges, in Montreal, Quebec.
Quoting from the newspaper article:
“The new Canadian Company, under the management of resident directors, who have recently come from France, will operate in concert with the French parent organization. These on- the-scene officers will supervise the inauguration and extension of the Company’s sales and service throughout Canada, and make of the operation a closely knit, one-unit, cross-Atlantic undertaking. Citroën here will be as much a Canadian company as it is French, and Citroën owners may in future look to the Company for exactly the same prompt and efficient service that is available in France.”
Citroën Cars Distributors (of BC), the private company dating from 1959 that was located in the majestic Seymour building in downtown Vancouver, quietly disappeared at some point, but it is not clear when. We suspect that they served no function as of 1962 when Citroën announced they were coming into Canada themselves to run things.