The 1960's

The 1960's were really the heyday for Citroëns in the USA and perhaps in France too. Read on to see what was happening in Oregon in the 1960's.

FRENCH MOTOR CAR SALES & SERVICE

For a very brief period in 1960, a business called French Motor Car Sales & Service in Eugene, Oregon sold the usual French marques; Peugeot, Renault, and Citroën.  We found advertisements in the local paper starting in early 1960 and ending in late 1960, so it appears to have been yet another short-lived business.  French Motor Car Sales & Service did manage to last long enough to be included in Citroën's 1960 dealer directory and may have lingered on a bit longer with other marques. 

1960 ADVERTISEMENTS FROM EUGENE NEWSPAPER - NOTICE AN AMI 6 SEDAN IN THE BACKGROUND OF THE PHOTO

Eugene Register-Guard, May 1960

Eugene Register-Guard, May 1960

Google Street View 2018

SAD LOOKING FRENCH MOTORS BUILDING IN 2018 

Eugene Register-Guard, July, 1952

1501 W. 7th IN 1952 SOON AFTER BEING BUILT

ROGER SAGNER’S MOTOR MART

 

With the demise of Economy Car Imports, the next Citroën dealership in Portland was Roger Sagner’s Motor Mart.  Roger Sagner had staying power since the business lasted 20 years.  

 

Roger Max Sagner was the son of Max Paul Sagner, a pioneer in the automobile scene in Portland. The father, Max Sagner, started in the auto business in 1921 as a used car salesman.  In 1929 he opened his own dealership selling Marmon cars.  In 1935 he started selling Chrysler cars under the business name, “Sagner Motor Company.”  Later on, he took on other marques, such as Nash and Rambler.  Clearly the father’s interest in cars was passed onto his son Roger since by the time Roger was in his mid-30’s, he had opened up his own car repair shop and within a few years, he was an authorized Citroën dealer. 

 

From about 1957 on, Roger Sagner had prolific advertising in the local newspapers for car repair and for used cars.  Real change occurred in 1961 when Sagner became a Citroën dealer (see newspaper announcement below).  

Oregonian Newspaper 1961

NEWSPAPER ARTICLE FROM SEPTEMBER 17, 1961 ANNOUNCING ROGER SAGNER TO BE A CITROEN DEALER

1963 NEWSPAPER AD FOR SAGNER'S MOTOR MART

Oregonian Newspaper 1963

1965 NEWSPAPER AD FOR SAGNER'S MOTOR MART

Oregonian Newspaper 1965

APRIL, 1962 ADVERTISEMENT BY SAGNER FOR DS WAGON AMBULANCE MODELS

Oregonian Newspaper 1962

Roger Sagner was acquainted with Paul Jolley, the owner of the Seattle Citroën dealership of the time, and it appears that they collaborated on various issues. 

 

One sign of Sagner's and Jolley's collaboration can be found in issue number 77 of the California Citroën Car Club (CCC) newsletter from May, 1963. In this issue, Roger Sagner offered a congratulatory statement to Paul Jolley and Chuck McConnell for starting up their new Seattle dealership.  An excerpt from Sagner’s letter is repeated as follows (questionable grammar and all):

 

“Add my congratulations to Paul Jolley and Chuck McConnell. I am sure glad that things up north was taken on by enthusiasts instead of just automobile people. I will never forget the look on Paul’s face when I suggested that he set up a Citroën palace in Seattle. I wasn’t kidding and by golly, as it turned out, neither was Paul, who said, “Nothing could please me more.”.”

Another sign of this collaboration might be seen in advertising.  Look at these two 1965 advertisements; one for Sagner's Motor Mart in Portland and one for Jolley's Automobiles Internationales in Seattle. Exact same wording except for a typo in the Automobiles Internationales version! 

Seattle Times 1965

"USED NO...MELLOWED" ADVERTISEMENTS FROM 1965 - AUTOMOBILES INTERNATIONALES AND SAGNER'S MOTOR MART

Oregonian Newspaper 1965

Roger dealt with several marques including Citroën, Peugeot, Saab, and Morgan, although it is our understanding that very few Morgans were actually sold or maintained there. 

 

One person who had several stints working as a parts manager at Roger Sagner’s Motor Mart was Bill Lonseth. There will be more about Bill later.  Another employee of Sanger's was C.J. Felt.  Read the Seattle article for more information on C.J. Felt.  

Oregonian Newspaper 1965

Oregonian Newspaper 1966

Oregonian Newspaper 1968

By the late 1970’s, Sagner’s operation was starting to ramp down.  He stopped advertising in the local newspapers by 1978.  By the mid-1980’s the business was pretty much stagnant and Roger was in semi-retirement.  

 

In 1989, Peter DeBoldt, an NWCOC member from the Seattle, went down to Portland and bought Sagner’s remaining stock of Citroën parts.  Pete recalls:

“…There was no active work being done on the site anymore, or any cars being sold. There were probably 20 cars parked on the lot, many in pretty poor shape. Henry Reed (also from Seattle) got the 1972 D Special that was pretty decent, and there were a few other cars that could have been brought back to life.  Most of the cars as I recall were LHS2 models.  The ’72 that Henry came home with, and a few others, were under cover. Most were out in the open.  We ended up getting quite a few parts, many of which were in an outbuilding with no heat, so many of the metal parts were rusting.  I got a few Citroën tools, not much though, as I they had already been picked through…”

 

Pete goes on to describe Sagner:

 

“…I did get a chance to meet him when Henry (Reed) and I purchased the remains of his inventory.  He seemed to be a decent fellow, not much interested in what he had left. I felt him to be easy to work with….”

Over the years, Roger Sagner operated out of seven different locations and all but the last one were on the east side of the Willamette river, just east of downtown Portland:

 

132 NE Grand Avenue (1957 - 1959)

This address still exists and is still an automotive facility (see photo below). 

Google Street View 2018

132 NE GRAND AVENUE IN 2018

206 NE Grand Avenue (1960 - 1962)

There is no longer a building at this address and instead it is now a parking lot for an automotive business called Powell Motors. 

 

726 SE 6th Avenue (1961-1965)

This charming building is currently a tavern / restaurant called Trifecta (see photo below). 

Google Street View 2018

726 SE 6th AVENUE AS SEEN IN 2018

1010 NE Grand Ave (1964 to the mid-1970’s)

In April of 1964, Sagner opened a lot at 1010 NE Grand Avenue for new and used cars.  A 1973 photo exists of this lot.  Today, the lot is gone and it is currently a vacant lot.  See "then and now" photos below.   It is not clear when Sagner shut down this location.  

VIntagePortland.WorldPress.com

Google Street View 2018

1010 NE GRAND AVENUE IN 1973 AND 2018

1300 SE Grand (1966-1969)

Of all of Sagner’s buildings, this is the silliest.  We have no idea the story behind the giant plywood guy in the front.  The building is still there today but is barely recognizable without Sagner’s eccentric signage.  

Oregonian Newspaper 1965

1300 SE GRAND AVENUE IN 1965 (ABOVE) AND 2018 (BELOW)

Google Street View 2018

233 NE Grand Avenue (approx 1969-1977)

This uninteresting building still exists and is now a tire shop called Gateway Tireworld. The Vintage Portland website recently uncovered the following 1969 photo of the Sagner's car lot at 233 NE Grand (see below). 

Portland Archives, 1969 Photo 

3232 NE Columbia Blvd (approx 1979 to about 1989)

The move to this last address was after the business had more-or-less closed down and Roger Sagner needed a place to store all his remaining parts and cars.  This location was a bit north of all of the other locations which were closer to downtown Portland.  It has been described basically as Roger’s junkyard full of Saab, Citroën, and Peugeot cars and parts.  Sagner kept this location for about 10 years but eventually sold off all of the parts and cars.  It still looks like a junkyard. 

Google Street View 2018

3232 NE COLUMBIA BOULEVARD IN 2018

Google Maps 2019

MAP OF SAGNER'S EASTSIDE LOCATIONS

Roger Sagner died on July 20, 2007 at age 83.  

S.L. MOTORS INC.

 

S.L. Motors was a multi-marque dealership in Springfield, Oregon (Springfield is about 2 hours south of Portland) and handled the Citroën marque for a while. 

 

A name that you will hear several times in this article is Bill Lonseth.  Bill was interested in cars as a kid and managed to land his first automotive job at S.L Motors in the parts department.  Bill remembers that just before he went to work at S.L. Motors in the late 1960’s, there had been a big snowstorm in Springfield that caused the roof of the dealership to collapse.  We looked through newspaper archives, and sure enough, snow started falling in the Springfield area in December, 1968 and by January, 1969, something like 4 feet of snow had piled up, causing havoc and damage throughout the area.  Below is an amazing photo of S.L. Motors in the aftermath of the snowstorm.  If you look closely, you can see a crushed Renault R16. 

registryguard.com

S.L. MOTORS AFTER THE WINTER 68/69 SNOW STORM

S.L. Motors was owned by a Mr. Euvon Sanders of Eugene.  Local news reported that Sander's son Jeff, was in the building on a Tuesday in late January, 1969 when the roof collapsed and had to run for safety.  Five vehicles were crushed. 

Oregonian Newspaper 1965

Bill indicates that in the mid-1960's, S.L. Motors handled Studebaker, Mercedes, Peugeot, Renault, and Citroën. We were only able to find a single Citroën advertisement from S.L. Motors (see 1965 newspaper ad above). 

 

The address was 863 Main Street, in Springfield.  There is a new modern Toyota dealership at this address now. 

1968 DEALER DIRECTORY SHOWING SAGNER AND S.L. MOTORS

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