ALL AROUND THE WORLD – AND BACK
OWNED BY Michael Browing
FROM Melbourne, Australia
FIRST CLASSIC 1949 MG TC
DREAM CLASSIC 1973 Porsche 911 RSR 2.8
BEST TRIP Along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road – illegally fast – in a 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera RS Clubsport
It was a foolhardy idea: buy back the Citroën GS 1220 Club sedan I took delivery of new in Paris 45 years ago and drive it 1500 miles home, ignoring the fact that it had been off the road for two decades and its 145-15 tyres were older still. But ‘André’ (named for Citroën’s founder) and I made it from High Country Victoria to South East Queensland without any drama. I bought it from the same Citroën-loving family I sold it to after a year of European travels in 1972-’1973 – I am both the first and third owner of the first GS 1220 Down Under!
The odometer reads 108,000 miles and I take responsibility for the first 24,000 and the last 2000. The Rouge de Rio paint is now several hues, the doors have the pockmarks of careless parking and the shapely tail bears the scars of a poor repair after an unsuccessful ‘mount’ by a large Ford years ago. But the red fabric interior has been renewed very successfully. It’s in remarkably good condition.
A steam clean, new hydraulic spheres, a top-up with LHM fluid, new plugs, points and oil got it mobile again. I completed the post purchase trip at 4000rpm, which is about 55mph, averaging 35mpg and with negligible oil consumption. So there, Citroën doubters! Our adventures began at the Tourist Delivery Centre near Paris on 1 December ’72. Heading south, with the cavernous boot full of camping gear including a novel igloo tent with inflatable poles, Christmas and New Year were spent in Lisbon before sharing travels and cold, starry nights for the following 10 months. When money ran low, we returned to London to save for our next trip. Ayear later, back in Australia, we went our separate ways for 45 years. I was immediately drawn to the new GS. It was the most aerodynamic and advanced small car you could buy: its self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension set a new level of comfort with industry-leading anti-dive suspension; inboard disc brakes; and a small-but- willing flat-four air-cooled ‘boxer’ with belt-driven overhead cams. I loved the shape and it was affordable, so when the 1220cc was announced I put my money down. We camped mostly, but in May in Stuttgart a snowstorm forced us into a cheap hotel to visit Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. André didn’t mind when we left him for the weekend in favour of a new Porsche 911 RS 2.7, nor when I spent a day with Mercedes-Benz that included some 300kph laps of its Untertürkheim test track in a C111.
Of course, André has had issues. We were driven mad by its dashboard rattles – why a French car company would fit a plastic one-piece dash for a country with so many cobbles is a mystery. The gearbox was noisy (it’s on its third), there was a rear suspension hydraulic leak and a wheel-balance problem from new that was a faulty bearing. But the good points more than compensate. Plus, it is a cheap classic; they have never achieved the collectability of the 2CV or DS. I didn’t hesitate when I got the call: “I’m thinking of selling your old GS – interested?” And for a total investment of about £2000, we’ll probably remain together for the term of our natural lives.
‘“André” didn’t mind when we left him for the weekend in favour of a new Porsche 911 RS and a Benz C111’
Aerodynamic design and large, square boot with plenty of load-lugging capability endeared the GS to Browing and his plan to tour Europe in 1972. On its ’70s European travels with Browing At the bodyshop for minor rust repairs. Main: GS took Browing and companion from Seville to Berlin, Bergen to Istanbul in 12 busy months. Inset: owner with suitably 1970s attire.