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Photo Sleuths #2


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! 



We decided to dig into this photo to see what could be learned. 


Here is what we found: James C. Byrnes started in the auto business in the 1920’s and within a few years, he had opened his own dealership. He initially sold Oakland and Pontiac cars but later switched to Studebaker. Over the years, he had several locations in Springfield, Massachusetts, but his last address was 34 Sumner Avenue, the address identified on the sign in the photo.

James C. Byrnes decided to take on the Citroen and Panhard marques in December of 1958, but it didn’t last long. He retired in 1960 and then died two years later at the age of 62. His business evaporated when he retired.


I think that the black car is most likely a 1959 DS19. However one curiosity on this car is that the “B” pillar parking light is visible, something normally absent on USA DS19’s by this time.  The Citroën in the background is probably a 1959 ID19. Oddly, the ID has small hubcaps, something that would be routine for a European ID19, but not normally seen on USA ID's. So both cars have slightly odd characteristics that I would not have expected - this reinforces Richard Bonfond’s famous quote, “…the only thing that was consistent about Citroën in the USA was that nothing was consistent…”


With the mobile home display in the background, we figured that the photo was probably taken at some sort of an auto show. After some more research, we think it is possible that the photo was taken at the 1959 Springfield Auto Show at the Springfield Exhibition Park in the Industrial Arts Building. The auto show occurred in the third week of October, 1959. This building still exists and is now called the Better Living Center. The bricked-in arches in the background of the photo are still visible today. 



This photo has been floating around a while and we finally decided to dig into it. First of all, we noticed that the ID19 is a North American model since it has Lucas front turn signals. But the Eureka moment came when we did a historical search of the phone number on the side of the car (OL3-4745). We got a hit! It turns out that this phone number belonged to Citroën's own dealership at 8423 Wilshire boulevard in Los Angeles. 



Once we found that, it was pretty easy to identify other details. It turns out that Citroën Cars Corporation provided two identical 1958 ID19’s to participate in various southern California racing events. This particular race, called the NASCAR Winston Western 500, was held on June 1, 1958 at the Riverside Raceway in Riverside, California. Citroën #100 was driven by a man named Bill Jones and the other car, #101, was driven by Ralph Roberts. The race was 200 laps around a 2 ½ mile track, for a total of 500 miles. The Citroëns were said to have done well. 

Richard Bonfond's book, What a Ride - Growing up with Citroën in North America, has a few additional details about these cars. We contacted Richard and to our amazement, he indicated that he and his parents were in the stands watching this very race! 



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LA Times, June 1958

The track was retired in 1989 and now is a shopping mall. 



This was an easy one since long-time Citroën enthusiast Michael Cox not only provided the photo, but identified when it was taken and who took it.

Michael indicates that the photo was taken by a Boston Landmarks Commission photographer on January 14, 1973. 


We can see that there was a bank in the building behind the SM; the Suffolk Franklin Savings Bank, which allows us to pinpoint the location: 66 Charles Street, Boston. The bank moved in in early 1957 and remained there until the late 1970’s. The building then went through a succession of different businesses including a 7-11 convenience store and a Peet’s Coffee. It is now a business called the Nuts Factory.


The SM looks a bit tired even though it was almost new! Notice the dent on the front fender at the side marker light. Also, the front bumper looks to be a bit bent down in the middle with the glass covering the license plate apparently broken out.


Michael notes that it was illegally parked in such a way that it was susceptible to even more front end damage!

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Boston Landmarks Commission

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Google Street View, 2023


These photos of a crash between a Buick and an SM have recently been circulating. Can we learn anything about them?


If you look closely, you can see a street sign in the background that eventually allowed us to find where the accident occurred: The intersection of Club Valley Drive NE and Angelo Drive NE in Atlanta, Georgia.

It seems likely that the photos were taken in the mid-1970's based on the cars, the kid's bicycles, and the clothing. The Buick is a 1972 Estate Wagon and the SM is (was?) a 1973 US model. The accident doesn't seem to have been covered in the local media, despite a pretty thorough search, so we weren't able to find any information beyond what can be seen in the photos. 



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Google Street View, 2023

There are a few interesting things we noticed. First, the accident seems to have happened just minutes before the photos were taken since the authorities had not yet arrived. Second, if you look at the first photo, we can see that the Buick was parked against the curb since we can see grass and the curb immediately adjacent to the Buick's front right tire. Third, it seems like the SM was almost fully on the wrong side of the road. Lastly, the length of the SM's skid marks caught our interest.


By scaling off of Google Maps Satellite View, we estimated the car locations and the skid mark lengths. The plan view below is what we came up with. The longest skid mark was at least 50 feet long and was probably even longer since the skid marks extend beyond the edge of the photo.

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Google Maps, 2023

There is an equation that allows one to estimate the speed of a car based on skid mark length. Using this equation and a coefficient of friction for clean, dry pavement, the SM was traveling at least 35 mph, which is above the 25 mph speed limit on this road - and it was probably traveling faster, noting that only a portion of the skid mark is visible.


It is impossible to be sure what happened, but it looks like the SM was traveling too fast and was on the wrong side of the road. Furthermore, it looks like the Buick was either parked against the curb or perhaps the driver pulled over when they saw the SM coming towards them. Do you agree with what we came up with?


Citroën enthusiast Tim Broers recently found this photo in the late Don Runnalls' collection. We did a historical search of Mobil Mileage Rally and discovered a relevant newspaper article in a November, 1959 LA Mirror newspaper. It turns out that this car was provided by Citroën Cars Corporation in Los Angeles and was entered in the 1959 rally. According to the article, the rally was a 345 mile course around southern California to measure fuel economy. The Citroën achieved a good showing having an average of 35.35 miles-per-gallon.


Provided by Tim Broers from the Don Runnalls collection

I contacted Richard Bonfond to see if he knew anything about the car and of course, he knew.  According to Richard, this photo was taken in the back of Citroën's 960 N. La Brea location in Los Angeles. Notice the stock of unsold and dusty Panhard Dyna Zs in the background.

The Citroën is identified as an ID19 in the newspaper article and the large steering wheel seems to confirm this. The year of the car must be a 1958 or 1959 based on the unique rear reflector on the rear fenders, which you can read about HERE. The rear bumper looks to be stainless steel which suggests it is more likely a 1959 (earlier ID’s in the USA would have had an aluminum bumper).

One question still remains.... What is going on with the color of the DS in the background? Do I see a pink roof and C-pillar trim?

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LA Mirror, Nov 1959


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

Richard even has another photo of this same car in his book, What a Ride - Growing up with Citroën in North America.



This photo was sent to us to see if I could figure it out. And I did!


First of all, since there is a tipped over police car on the left, I figured the scene was probably from a movie or TV show. Since the DS is a US model and the rest of the cars were American, I figured it was filmed in the USA. So I searched the Independent Movie Car Data Base (IMCDB) and after an hour of looking through their website, I found it!


It turns out that the photo is a screen grab from a 1982 movie called the Junkman. The movie is available on YouTube, so I scrolled through until I found the scene (a terrible movie, so don't waste your time). A speeding car hits the car carrier truck from behind and shoves the DS off of the front. I was able to catch a brief glimpse of a street sign and the name of the hotel in the background. A bit of Googling and I found that the scene was filmed at the intersection of W. Gardena Boulevard and S. Ainsworth Street in Gardena, California.

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Google Maps, 2023

The DS is a very tired looking 1968 or early 1969 DS21 Pallas (old door handles, no headrests). The color appears to be Rouge Corsaire (AC 403). If so, then the car is a 1968.

After the first release of these photos, a very similar car carrier mishap photo emerged. I don't know anything about this one but it seems to have occurred in Europe based on the cars in the background.

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