1972

BOMBSHELL

 

1972 was the year of the BOMBSHELL ANNOUNCEMENT.   On October 20th, 1972, just as DS sales seemed to be picking up and the SM was bringing new life into the brand in Canada:

“…Citroën of Canada Limited said this week that it will no longer import the “D” series line from France…”

SM AND DS AT PARTHENON MOTORS IN VANCOUVER. STRANGELY, THIS SM IS THE EURO MODEL “DEMONSTRATOR” SM THAT TRAVELLED ACROSS CANADA AND WAS INITIALLY SHOWN IN CITROEN’S BURRARD STREET SHOWROOM IN THE SPRING OF 1971. WHY IS IT NOW IN PARTHENON’S SHOWROOM?

1973

CITROEN AUTOCLUB CANADA

In February, 1973, Club Citroën Canada was started by Rupert Downing, Stuart Young, and my brother John Long in Victoria.  The first issue was typed up in our Hollydene Place home in Victoria.  So I like to say that the grandfather of all the Canadian Citroën clubs began in my bedroom.  By the 9th issue in November of 1974, the club’s name had changed to Citroën Autoclub Canada and it had over 300 members.  The members’ main concern was that Citroën seemed to be giving up on the Canadian and American markets. Much lobbying and letter writing was done. The following letter received from the then Prime Minister of Canada sums it up —  

 

“…Dear Mr. Downing.

 

Thank you for you letter of the 4th telling me about the problems of Canadian Citroën owners. Being something of an automobile buff myself, I appreciate the technological qualities of the Citroën, and sympathise with your feelings. However,, the Ministry of Transport has the responsibility and the obligation to set safety standards for motor vehicles, and neither the Minister nor his officials can ignore the laws passed by Parliament on the matter. Whether the laws and regulations should be improved is always a good question, and in the event that they Honourable Jean Marchand can give me some helpful advise or guidance, I will forward your letter to his office. After I have heard from him, I will write you further. 

 

With best regards, Very sincerely

Pierre Elliott Trudeau…”

Jerry Summers, John Long, Gary Cullen, and Stuart Young (in Stuart’s ’63 DS19), drove from Victoria to Vancouver to Citroën Canada in Vancouver to pitch them on opening a new dealership in Victoria. Remember that the last dealership in Victoria was George Argyle Motors which seems to have faded away in 1970. 

The fact they were 18-20 years old with no money or experience made the meeting rather short, I bet. They also requested financial support for Citroën Autoclub Canada. 

Spoiler Alert: They didn’t get either! But watch an amazing short video of their arrival at Gary Cullen’s house in Tsawwassen by searching “Citroen Autoclub Canada first day” on Youtube.

1974

FALSE HOPE

The year 1974 was the year of false hope from Citroën.  The Calgary Herald’s  ‘In the Driver’s Seat’ column had this to say in 1974: 

“…Citroën, the French manufacturer of those ‘funny looking cars’ which have been among the leaders in automotive innovation for years—expects to return to the North American marketing in the near future after a long silence. Only the expensive SM model was sold here last year—the other 1973 models not able to meet government safety standards. Expect at least four lower-priced models next year with two having transverse wankel rotary engines…”

Similarly, the recent owner of Parthenon Motors (Hank Heilig) was told to hang tight, because Citroën would soon return. Of course it never happened. 

Sadly, the Citroen Canada Ltd. headquarters at 1290 Burrard in downtown Vancouver turned into a Toyota dealership in 1974 (see 2009 photo, below).  Currently, all buildings on the entire block are gone and the area is being re-developed again.  After Citroën shut down this flagship dealership, it looks like they moved their administrative headquarters to an anonymous office building in the suburb of Richmond, BC. 

I found a 1974 article indicating that Citroën Canada continued to shrink, with half of its Montreal warehouse rented to another company. There appeared to be extreme confusion and uncertainty as to the future of the company, but one official was quoted as saying:

“…A new Citroën model will be introduced in Europe in September of this year (1974), whether it will be imported is another question. I would hazard a guess that there is a 95% change that the company will try to bring it in…”

In 1974 NWCOC member Greg Long's brother John Long gave him a ’61 Citroën ID19 for his 15th birthday. It had a stuck engine and was sitting, with windows down, in a field behind a barn in Central Saanich. They towed it home with a thick rope behind a Land Cruiser (how did they do that? Greg remembers a lot of yelling and screaming).  That event started the insanity and just recently Greg dragged a ’66 ID 21 wagon home from a barn where it sat since 1981: some things clearly never change. Here’s a little gratuitous homage to the car that gave John and Greg ‘the Citroën bug’… after spending decades in and out of our parents back deck in Victoria, it still survives and is, amazingly, John’s daily driver in Los Angles, California.  It has been semi-restored for the third time, and is now painted in Citroën-proper Capucine (and yes John does pull his 1935 Bowlus Trailer with it!). 

We heard about the ability to request the number of cars sold in BC over the years from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). They sent me the following with the proviso that records were not necessarily accurate, especially in the early years. We don’t know how interesting this is without it being accurate, but it does seem to show Citroens gaining in popularity over the years and it does seem to make sense that 50+ SM’s were sold in BC. It must have been devastating for the last BC Citroen dealers to pullout just as sales seemed to FINALLY be ramping up.

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