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Photo Sleuths #1

UPDATED
3/2024

Have a vintage photo of a Citroën in the USA or Canada? Send it in and we will see what we can learn about it! 

BEDFORD, VIRGINIA 1967

 

There is just enough cut off the sides of this photo that easy identification is not possible. However, we found that this photo is of a company named Bedford Import Motors in Bedford, Virginia. They had their grand opening in October of 1967. The business was owned by a man named Robert S. Rucker, seen in the middle of the photo. The first address was 219 W. Depot Street (seen in the photo) but in 1969, they moved to 1916 Williamson Road in Roanoke and renamed the business Roanoke Citroën. In 1972, there was one more move to 2411 Williamson Road. Rucker was quoted in a 2005 article saying that he sold about one car a month, enough money to keep the business doors open, but not enough to make a living. 

 

It looks like Bedford Motors lasted from 1967 to 1973. The building is currently being used as a church.

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Google Street View, 2022

NBC TV SET, NEW YORK CITY, 1960

This photo started making the rounds in late 2023. So can we figure out what it is?

Yes we can! It turns out that this is a screen grab from the old American TV game show, The Price is Right. We found that this episode originally aired September 21, 1960. The clue was matching the appearance of the set to old game show episodes, and then watching episodes until the DS appeared.

Even better, the entire episode is available on YouTube, HERE. Fast forward to 15:00 to see the Citroën part. 

Remember that the DS wagon was first introduced to the USA in January of 1960, so this car is a very early one and must be a 1960. 

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Game Show Channel on YouTube

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES, 1976

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Google Street View, 2021

This was an easy one. The photo is showing Dillon's Discotheque, located at 1081 Gayley Avenue in Westwood (Los Angeles). The photo was taken at the premier party which took place after a screening of Barbara Streisand's movie, A Star Is Born in December of 1976. 

 

The DS is a 1970 or 1971 DS21 Pallas, USA model and I think the color is BLEU PLATINE, AC632.

NIMITZ FREEWAY, OAKLAND CALIFORNIA, 1973

 

I had never seen any background on this photo, so I decided to dig in. And the digging produced good results!

The first task was to find the location. The best clue was the distinctive building barely seen in the background in the lower right corner of the photo. It turns out that this building is the Alameda court house in Oakland, California. 

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ALAMEDA COURTHOUSE IN THE BACKGROUND OF THE PHOTO

Once the courthouse was identified, it was easy to find that the freeway in the photo was the old Highway 17, which has subsequently been replaced with the Nimitz highway (I-880). Details are slightly different between the old and new highways, but they are in the same location. Furthermore, the 16th street overpass is in the same location as the older overpass in the vintage photo. 

I found an old postcard that shows the area when the original Highway 17 was still in place (below).

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The DS is a US model wagon between 1968 and 1971 as evidenced by the older exterior door handles and headlights. I think I see headrests on the front seats which would mean it has to be a 1969 1/2 to 1971. The color is one of the three or four whites in this era. The car has unusual after-market front bumper guards installed. 

 

Let's turn our attention to the house on the overpass. A bit of digging revealed that the house was owned by a California artist named Henry Raschen. It is unclear when the Victorian house was originally built, but a 1970's newspaper article estimated the build date to be as old as the 1850's. The house was moved in October of 1973 as part of a redevelopment plan for the area near Foothill Boulevard and 16th Avenue in Oakland (the house's original location).

 

The movement of the house across the overpass was temporarily stalled when the photo was snapped since the house had moved too close to a light post. 

 

The house was relocated to the Embarcadero Cove Marina in Oakland and was turned into professional office space.

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Google Earth, 2022

RUE SHERBROOKE, MONTREAL, 1976

 

If we zoom in on the top of the scaffolding, we see the word CORRIDART. According to Wikipedia, Corridart was an ill-fated art display placed along several kilometers of Rue Sherbrooke in Montreal. It was supposed to be for Montreal’s upcoming summer Olympic games in 1976.

 

But articles about Corridart indicate that the Mayor took offense to some of the art (reportedly for political content of some of the art) and had the displays dismantled and destroyed before the games could begin. The artists lost their work which spawned many lawsuits against the city. The mayor’s actions were viewed as a massive act of censorship which caused a big scandal with the public and in the media - to the extent that the affair overshadowed the Olympic games themselves.

The DS that happens to be parked in front of one of the art displays appears to be a French model DS21 Pallas (no side marker lights, Euro headlights, Euro turn signals). Since it has flat door handles, it is a 1972-1975. The car does however appear to have headrests which is a bit unusual for a Euro model. The location of the photo is on Rue Sherbrooke, between between Rue Beaudry and Visitation Street and the photo was snapped in July of 1976.

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City of Montreal Archives

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Google Street View, 2022

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City of Montreal Archives

LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA, 1975

 

This photo is clearly a screen grab from the old Columbo TV series starring Peter Falk. So the task became figuring out which episode this came from and what gas station was used for the scene. 

A bit of searching on the internet quickly revealed that the scene is from a 1975 episode titled, Identify Crisis. Finding the gas station however proved a challenge, but persistence paid off. The gas station is a Mobil which still exists and is located at 3400 E Anaheim St, in Long Beach. 

I don't know the year of the SM, but the color is Vert Argente (AC 527).

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Google Street View, 2022

Here is what the website getjerry.com says about Columbo’s 1959 Peugeot 403 which is also in the photo: “Sadly, the original Peugeot was allowed to deteriorate to the point where it was deemed unsalvageable after the series ended. CGI Automotive reports that a "friend" left it a mere 100 feet from the high tides at Mission Beach, California. Pranksters filled it with fish so that seagulls could feast from this sad remnant of a once-famous car..."

 

Apparently the TV production company ended up buying one or perhaps two additional similar Peugeots to facilitate production of the TV series. The whereabouts of these other cars is unknown.

NEW YORK CITY, MANHATTAN, EARLY 1960's

Not one, but two very similar photos of DS's on three wheels have been floating around for years. A friend asked me to look into them to see what we could learn.

 

The car appears to be the same in both photos – an early 1960’s USA-specification ID19, based on the exterior lighting, the reflectors in the rear fenders, and the dashboard. If color in the upper photo is at all accurate, the color is probably Bleu Pacifique (AC607) which might narrow down the year of the car to a 1961. The van in the lower photo is a 1961-1963 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier. 

 

Locating the street where the photos were taken is pretty easy by tracking down the businesses in the background. Both were taken in mid-town Manhattan in New York, most likely in the early-to-mid 1960’s.

 

The buildings have changed dramatically since the photos were taken, but both were taken on E. 49th Street. The first photo is located at 12 E. 49th Street and the second is a few business away, at 18 E. 49th Street. 

 

But can we learn more about these photos? Maybe.

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Let's turn our attention to a man named Andre Garnier. Andre operated a Citroën shop in Buffalo, New York in the late 1950's called French Car Service (17 Clyde Avenue, Buffalo). By about 1966 he had moved to Florida and opened a Citroën dealership in Miami called Monaco Motors (7101 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami). He was impressed with the ability of a DS to drive on 3 wheels and so he removed a wheel and entire rear suspension arm to demonstrate the car’s abilities. The photo (below) shows Andre Garnier with a DS on 3 wheels. The car seems to be a 1960 or 1961 USA-specification ID or DS based on the rear tail lights and the reflectors on the rear fenders. It has a Florida license plate so it is likely that this photo was taken after his move to the sunshine state, which means it was probably taken in the late 1960’s. I think I see a 1967-ish Dodge Coronet in the background, backing up the idea that the photo is probably late 1960’s.

Citroenvie published a short article about Andre Garnier that was written by Ken Nelson HERE. Ken discusses Andre Garnier’s obsession with the DS’s ability to drive on 3 wheels. The story indicates that Andre Garnier did the three wheel stunt in his earlier days when he was in New York. 

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So, the question is whether Andre Garnier was the man demonstrating the 3-wheel ID in the two New York photos? I can’t conclusively prove it, but I think it is almost assured that it was indeed Andre Garnier, especially if you take into account Ken Nelson's story! Notice that in both the Florida photo and the New York photos, the entire rear suspension arm was removed, something not everyone wanting to demonstrate the 3-wheel capability would bother with. 

 

Another point of interest. In the second New York photo, you can see a restaurant in the background called Le Chanteclair. This restaurant was owned by a man named Rene Dreyfus, who had been a famous race car driver in Europe in the 1930’s but he fled to the USA when Nazism was taking hold in Europe. Once in the USA, he started in the restaurant business in New York. In his racing days, one of his team mates was a man named Luigi Chinetti who is a bit famous in the early days of Citroën USA as he drove the very first DS in the USA from New York to Chicago for the 1956 auto show in January of 1956. You can read about this drive HERE. Is it a coincidence that the 3-wheeled DS was parked in front of Dreyfus’s restaurant?  Who knows. 

Since we first released this photo sleuth, another photo emerged of Andre Garnier in his three-wheeled DS. This photo shows up in several books, including Richard Bonfond's book, What a Ride, growing up with Citroën in North America. After some sleuthing, we found that this photo was taken in West Palm Beach, Florida in front of an electronics store called Mountain Electronics. The photo was most likely taken in the late 1960's. 

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Google Street View, 2022

What a Ride - Growing up with Citroën in North America - Richard Bonfond

1000 N. Dixie Highway, Palm Beach, Florida in 2022

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Stuart News, Nov 1966

Andre Garner makes the local news with his 3-wheeled ID19

TORONTO, ONTARIO, 1971

 

This photo surfaced in 2023 on a Citroën-related Facebook page and was forwarded to us to see if we could figure it out.

 

After a bit of head-scratching, I discovered that the photo is a screen grab from a 1971 short documentary film by an author / activist named Jane Jacobs about North American cities. The full documentary can be seen HERE.

After a lot more head scratching, I found that the photo was taken at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto, Ontario. The 'current' photo we are showing is from 2014 since the whole area has now been redeveloped and is now unrecognizable. 

The DS appears to be a 4-headlight Canadian Specification Pallas, probably 1968-1969 based on the trim, lighting, and dashboard.

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City Limits Film, 1971

1971

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Google Street View 2014

2014

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (GEORGETOWN NEIGHBORHOOD), 1978

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Museum of History and Industry

1978

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Chris Dubuque

2023

This was an easy one for us Seattleites. The photo was taken at the intersection of S. Nebraska Street and Airport Way S. in Seattle (the view is looking north). The DS wagon in the photo is a 1970 or 1971 US-specification car based on the lighting, headrests, and door handles. The color is probably Blanc Meije (AC088). 

I was aware of a Citroën owner (Jim Michaels) who used to live in this neighborhood and I contacted him about the photo. Sure enough, Jim confirmed that the car was indeed his, but he had never seen the photo before! Some sources indicate that this photo is from 1975, but Jim says that the photo must have been taken a bit later, probably in 1978. The vintage photo appears to have been taken with a telephoto lens since it highly compressed the stuff in the distance, such as the Corson Street overpass which crosses over the top of Airport Way (in reality, the overpass is over 1000 feet away from where the DS is parked).

The restaurant in the foreground (Jules Maes) was first opened in the late 1800's and is one of the oldest businesses still in operation in Seattle. 

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Chris Dubuque

JIM MICHAELS, 2023

VANCOUVER, BC

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michaeldecourcy.com

MID-1970's

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Google Street View, 2022

2022

This photo shows a DS wagon sitting in front of a Chinese restaurant. With a bit of research, we discovered that the Dragon Inn was a Chinese restaurant chain in Vancouver BC. This particular location was 2516 Kingsway. We think that the photo was taken in the early-to-mid 1970's, with one source citing 1972.

The DS wagon has 5-lug wheels (hubcaps are off), no side marker lights, no headrests are visible, and a North American rear license plate holder. Therefore, it is most likely a 1966 to 1971 Canadian specification wagon. The car next to the wagon looks like an early 1970's Plymouth Duster. The Dodge van in the foreground is a mid-1960's model.

Incidentally, even though the Dragon Inn is no longer in business, the neon sign is a beloved part of Vancouver history.

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Vancouverneon.com

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