The year 1968 was quiet insomuch as dealership turnover in BC was concerned. There were however, a few interesting sports events in Canada involving Citroën.
Jean Béliveau was a Canadian professional ice hockey player with the National Hockey League's (NHL) Montreal Canadiens from 1950 to 1971. Beliveau was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history. The press may be stretching the truth a bit though, as in April, 1968, they make it ‘sound’ like Mr. Beliveau choose a DS (see specially painted DS in the photo below). Actually, it looks like they gave him the car. Would love to hear if the car still exists, but this is unlikely given Quebec winters and their liberal use of salt on the roads. At a minimum, I’d sure love to have that patina’ed door with the logo on it!
Also in 1968, there was talk about Citroën opening a factory in Quebec, like Renault and Peugeot had done. Renault is said to have upped its production from 15 to 41 cars per day during this period. Sadly, it never came to be.
Below are numerous advertisements from Citroen Canada's 1968 marketing blitz. Also, see an interesting ‘marketing angle’ from Citroën BC: Buy a DS and get a Volkswagen for free (see ad below, left).
It looks like April of 1969 was the zenith for Citroën in BC. For a brief period there were four authorized dealers in the province:
Chilliwack (Valley Motors)
Kamloops (Dick’s Automotive)
Vancouver (Citroën Canada Ltd)
Victoria (Horwood Brothers for the first half of 1969, George Argyle for the second half)
We will look at each of these four dealers in more detail below.
Valley Motors was started by a man named Roy Scales in June of 1946 in Chilliwack BC. The original location was 751 Yale Street East and it started out as a repair facility and gas station. By late 1946 Valley was selling new Willy’s Jeeps.
In 1947, the business was sold to the husband/wife team of Marshall and Rose Hryhirchuk. The Hryhirchuks had previously operated a repair shop and a coffee shop in Edmonton, but moved to Chilliwack for ‘health’ reasons. In 1954, the Hryhirchuks took on the Volkswagen line and then in 1955, they took on Rover and Land Rover.
The first mention of Citroëns at Valley Motors was in August 7, 1968 when they showed a DS at the local “agricultural fair” (see ad). In January of 1969, their business moved to 46747 Yale East Street and it was in 1969 that they stepped-up their efforts with two French marques; Citroën and Renault.
In 1973, after 26 years of operating Valley Motors, the Hryiurchuks sold the business to a guy named Tony Carretero. Note that by this time, Citroën had stopped selling the DS model, leaving only the SM. Based on an article in the Chilliwack Progress in January of 1974, Tony Carretero did not believe SM’s were going to be a big seller in Chilliwack. Tony was quoted as saying;
”…The only Citroën now allowed in Canada is a Citroën-Maserati combination. It sells for more than $13,000 and tops 150 mph in speed. For a 150 mph car, its fuel consumption is remarkable but no one is asking about (it), Mr. Carretro says smiling…”
As a result, Tony Carretero did not pursue the Citroën marque. Valley Motors did however remain listed as factory authorized repair facility as late as 1976.
Valley Motors was sold one last time in December, 1977 to a man named Gerry Van Veen and the name of the business changed slightly to G.V. Valley Motors.
G.V. Valley Motors survived into the mid-1980’s, mainly selling Renaults, but working on other marques such as BMW, Volvo, etc.
MARSHALL AND ROSE HRYHIRCHUK
DICK’S AUTOMOTIVE SALES LTD.
Dick’s Automotive Ltd. in Kamloops is another business that surfaced as a Citroën dealer in 1969.
Dick’s Automotive was started in the late 1930’s as a repair shop. In the 1950’s they became an Esso gas station in addition to offering car repairs and parts. In the late 1950’s, they became a dealership for Ramblers (see advertisement, right). Their Rambler days stretched from the late 1950’s into the mid-1960’s. In about 1964, they tried becoming a dealer for English Triumphs (they advertised for the Spitfire and un-loved Herald models). They also became a Land Rover dealership.
Their association with Fiat and Citroën is more difficult to nail down, but they did end up in a 1969 Citroën advertisement as an authorized dealer. They advertised Rambler and Triumph in the 1960’s, but did not seem to advertise at all for Fiat or Citroën (or at least none that we could find).
Their Citroën sales seem to be limited to a very short time, perhaps a couple of years in the 1969-1971 time frame. We did see a few indications that they were repairing Citroëns into the mid-1970’s, including one case where they were advertising in the local newspapers to try to find the owner of a DS that had been abandoned on their premises.
And to prove that DS’s actually roamed the streets of Kamloops, we found a 1960’s photo of Victoria Street in Kamloops with a DS parked on the street (below). Dicks’ survived into the 1980’s as an auto parts store (no longer a new car dealer), but they had a “store closing” sale in December of 1989.
Nothing remains of the building at 225 Seventh Avenue either, although you can get a glimpse of the original building from the small photo above.
1960’S POSTCARD SHOWING VICTORIA STREET IN KAMLOOPS WITH A CITROEN DS PARKED ON THE RIGHT. THE DS APPEARS TO BE A DS19, WHICH WOULD PRE-DATE DICK’S AUTOMOTIVE SALES OF CITROENS, WHICH STARTED IN 1969
One last thing about Dick’s Automotive. In an “it’s a small world” moment, a DS repair manual from Dick’s Automotive surfaced in 2019 at Lionel Hondier’s garage. We will catch up more with Lionel Hondier later.
GEORGE ARGYLE MOTORS
Victoria’s Citroën dealership in 1967 was Horwood Brothers. Well, by June, 1969 it looks like Horwood Brothers was out, and George Argyle Motors was in.
Based on the volume of advertisements, it appears that George Argyle was mainly a Mazda dealership, but they did get on Citroën Canada’s list of authorized dealers in 1969. Their advertising blitz (for both Mazda and Citroën) started and ended in 1969, so this looks to be yet another dealership that only lasted a year or so.
Their building at 2929 Douglas Street is long gone. We were unable to find any photos of the building during the Argyle Motors years, but we did find a photograph of the building that appears to have been taken in the early 1960’s, before Argyle’s occupation.
2929 DOUGLAS STREET IN VICTORIA IN THE EARLY 1960’s
Exciting news from 1970 was the introduction of the SM in Europe. The Montreal Gazette had a short description the cars’ features and the last line of the article said:
“…Citroën Canada Ltee hopes to corner a large part of the luxury, performance car market with the SM…”
Also in 1970, more personnel announcements appeared in the local newspaper, including for a new branch manager and a new technical director for Western Canada. These appointments were in support of:
“…an accelerated development in dealer representation including the Vancouver area…”
You can’t help but feel a bit sorry for all these people involved in the North American Citroën dealership experience. In 1970, they didn’t know it at the time, but the end was only a couple of years away….