The 1980’s was the first decade with no authorized Citroën sales or parts outlets in the Seattle area. However, several independent shops performed repairs on the remaining and aging DS’s and SM’s, including the previously mentioned Ralli-Round.
THE CITROEN WAREHOUSE
This author, along with Jens Vik, performed much of the Citroën maintenance in the 1980’s, originally from a very large and very old warehouse on Harbor Island, an industrial area near downtown Seattle. This warehouse was said to have been used to build wooden coffins in the early 20th century and was in a terribly dilapidated state by the 1980’s.
JENS VIK IN 2005
Photo Provided by Chris Dubuque
THE CITROEN WAREHOUSE ~1980
Photos Provided by Chris Dubuque
Part of the warehouse housed a roofing company owned by Seattle-area Citroën owner Bob Norsen. The larger half of the warehouse was empty for several years and evolved into a fabulous DS repair facility, courtesy of the Norsens. The “Citroën” side of the warehouse was so large that one could perform circular test drives inside! The warehouse eventually became well known as the Citroën Warehouse by many of the local Citroën owners. The above photos show the interior of the small side (the roofing side) of the warehouse, apparently at a time when a thorough cleaning was warranted! Notice two DS’s and an SM being worked on. Unfortunately we do not have any photos of the ‘large’ side of the warehouse.
BOB NORSEN AT THE AGE OF 94 IN A 2012 PHOTO
Bob Norsen, the owner of the roofing business in the warehouse, had a fleet of Citroën DS’s in the ’70’s and ’80's. I remember he had about 9 or 10 of them at any one time. Some were used by his family, but others (typically the station wagons) were used in the roofing business. As you can imagine, they saw a very hard life. It was on Bob’s fleet that I learned to work on these cars.
Long time Citroën owner Harry Figg operated the roofing company’s machine shop. Harry was a machinist at Boeing who moonlighted at Bob's roofing company. Harry was quite a character. Harry and his family lived in an old house in Renton, WA, and he spent the better part of the time I knew him trying to invent a perpetual motion machine; yes that is right - a perpetual motion machine. Harry passed away in October, 1999 with his dream of perpetual motion unfulfilled.
Eventually, the large part of Bob Norsen’s warehouse was leased to a pet food company called Pilgrim Pet Supply, and thus the Citroën Warehouse had to move. The dilapidated warehouse was demolished in the 1990’s. Bob Norsen passed away in February of 2020.
A small two-stall workshop in Issaquah, Washington was chosen as the replacement for the warehouse. This small shop in rural Issaquah was quite a contrast to the huge warehouse near downtown Seattle. The location in Issaquah was near the corner of Interstate 90 and Highway 900, in an anonymous- looking industrial complex. Zoning laws for these buildings prohibited certain businesses and therefore, the Citroën work had to be performed ‘discreetly.’ Fortunately, the owners of the complex were happy to look the other way as long as the rent checks cleared.
After the demise of Kolar’s in the late 1970’s, there were no Citroën parts available in the Seattle area, so it became necessary to start stockpiling parts to keep the Seattle-area Citroëns running. These parts were purchased from many sources, including a new business in Santa Cruz, California, called Western Hemispheres and from a Dutchman named Andre Pol who was (and still is) selling parts out of his home in Holland. By the mid 1980’s, the parts stock at Issaquah had grown quite large.
The Issaquah shop remained open until 1989 when marriage and an engineering career at Boeing took their toll on spare time and so the Issaquah shop was closed.
This author still has some DS parts, still has a Citroën, and still dabbles in rebuilding components for local DS's.
MILES POTTER AND JACQUES ABOT FROM WESTERN HEMISPHERES IN THE 1990'S
CHRIS DUBUQUE AND FAMILY IN 2005
BARCLAY STUART AND FOURNET 2CV’s
Another Citroën chapter in the Seattle area in the 1980’s was Barclay Stuart’s sales of Michel Fournet’s remanufactured 2CV’s.
Barclay was an eccentric retired Bellevue school teacher, sporting a big gray perm and flamboyant mannerisms. Barclay lived in a strange hand-built house on a huge inherited waterfront lot on Mercer Island, one of the most expensive suburbs of Seattle. Barclay's grandmother had bought the large waterfront lot during the great depression for a few hundred dollars and willed it to Barclay in the 1970's.
Barclay became interested in 2CV’s in the mid-1980's after seeing this author's 2CV on a street in Seattle. In 1986, Barclay formed a relationship with Michel Fournet of France and began importing new 2CV’s.
But how was it possible to import these cars that clearly did not meet our USA safety and exhaust emission standards? The answer is that Michel Fournet had a clever idea that was made possible by virtue of the unusual construction of a 2CV. Two important points:
In the 1980's, it was legal to import any car that was identified as model year 1967 or earlier. Importing cars that were model year 1968 or later required that they meet applicable safety and emission standards.
The serial number stamped or mounted on a car's frame is (for all practical purposes) what determines the year of a car.
Fournet bought brand new 2CV's off of the showroom floor in France. He then disassembled the cars and removed the original frames - something quite easy to do on a 2CV by virtue of its design, but not practical on other cars. Fournet then installed the entire body, interior, and mechanical parts from the "new" car onto a pre-1967 frame that had been sandblasted and painted to as-new condition.
This allowed the 'new' cars to be identified as pre-1967 cars, thus allowing them to be imported as “old” cars.
This approach would never have worked with a car of standard unibody construction, but was simple on a 2CV. Fournet painted the old restored frames bright garish colors so it would be clear to US Customs officials that the cars were indeed assembled on used frames and were therefore 'old' cars.
Before Barclay tried importing any of Fournet's cars, he traveled to the USA-Canada border and spoke with the US Customs officials there. He explained exactly what he and Fournet were doing and came armed with a meticulously prepared notebook full of photos of each 2CV being assembled on a restored frame along with the required paperwork. After several visits, he convinced them that this method of importing the cars was unconventional, but legal. He eventually gained their trust and they more-or-less waved him through each time he brought in a car.
Barclay's meticulous advance preparation really paid off, since many other ports around the country were refusing to let any 2CV's through at this time, in part due to companies like Target Imports that tried to import the cars in a more controversial way (as a kit car) or others who were just plain cheating. It is important to remember that in the mid-to-late '80's, there was a frenzy of 2CV importation at ports all around the country. Some cars made it through, some did not. But all of Barclay's cars sailed through without a hitch.
The first Fournet 2CV sold by Barclay was a maroon and black Charleston sold to Peter and Linda Deboldt of Kirkland, Washington for US $6900 on December 10, 1986. Barclay’s personal car, a beautiful 1987 Rouge Vallelunga 2CV Club, was sold to Paul and Desnee Joos of Bellevue, Washington, who still own it.
BARCLAY AND CAROLYN STUART AT THE WORLD 2CV MEETING IN PORTUGAL IN 1987
BARCLAY STUART 2CV BROCHURE ~ 1987
But within two short years after Barclay started selling his Fournet 2CV’s, Barclay’s lawyer convinced him that his valuable waterfront property was at risk over liability concerns with the cars he was selling.
"...What would happen if someone gets hurt in one of these cars and you get sued?..."
As soon as these words left the lawyer's mouth, Barclay's meticulously cultivated tan turned pale as snow and he and promptly closed up shop. He spent the next year paying his lawyer handsomely to extricate himself from any possible liability concerns over the cars he had imported. This effort included "selling" the business to a drifter named Tony for some pocket money in hopes of transferring any potential liability.
As it turned out, Citroën ceased production of the 2CV soon after (in 1990) thereby putting Fournet out of business. So in the end, it would not have mattered much had Barclay not got cold feet about the business. Only about a dozen Fournet 2CV’s were ultimately imported by Barclay. But 30+ years later, some of Barclay's cars are still running around Seattle.
NORTHWEST CITROEN OWNERS CLUB
It was in the mid-1980’s when a local Citroën owner named Henry Reed organized the Seattle-area Citroën owners into a formal club, properly registered as a non-profit organization in the State of Washington. This was the beginning of the Northwest Citroën Owners Club (NWCOC).
Not only did Henry create the club on paper, but Henry and his wife Leena were also the social center of the club. They were the heart and soul. In the early days, Henry and Leena held many of the club events at their Lake Forest Park home. We remember a dozen cars wedged at the top of their frighteningly steep driveway for our annual Winter Dinners and other club meetings. We remember huge spreads of food that Leena and others prepared for our club potlucks. Everybody adored Henry and Leena.
HENRY REED PLAYING AT CHRIS MIDDLETON'S WEDDING
Sadly, Henry Reed passed away on November 16, 2018. Henry was the father of the NWCOC. Because of Henry’s initiative, a 35+ year odyssey of events, road-trips, and friendships occurred that made all of our lives richer. Rest in Peace Henry.
FRENCH PARTS SERVICE
During the early 1980’s, most of the 2CV parts in the USA were supplied by either Michel Fournet from his business in Glen Burnie, Maryland, or from Western Hemispheres in Santa Cruz, California. But in 1986, Fournet closed the doors of his parts business and sold it to Moran Antique Citroën in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Moran operation only lasted about a year.
1986 MAILER FROM MORAN
Fortune soon reigned for North American 2CV owners when a Seattleite named Ben Morse started up a 2CV parts business out of his house on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Bainbridge Island is a quick and beautiful ferry ride from downtown Seattle. The business, initially called Island Auto Parts, quickly grew. In 1991, Ben moved the business to Poulsbo, Washington, and changed the name to French Parts Service.
Ben specialized in parts for the 2-cylinder Citroëns, but also sometimes stocked parts for other Citroëns such as the DS and CX. The stock of parts for the 2-cylinder Citroëns at French Parts Service was truly amazing! Not only did French Parts Service do well selling parts to North American 2CV owners, but they also had a loyal clientele in Japan.
Ben set an amazing standard with customer service and ran the business very professionally. But after 10 years, Ben wanted to move on with other chapters of his life and sold his business to Kenji and Marion Yoshino of Seattle in 2001. More about the Yoshinos in the next section.