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    / #Citroen-DS19 / #Citroen / #Citroen-DS / #1959-Citroen-DS-Prestige / #1959 / #Citroen-DS-Prestige / #1959-Citroen-DS-Prestige-Chapron / #Citroen-DS-Prestige-Chapron / #Chapron / #1959-Citroen-DS19-Prestige-Saloon

    Alerte Générale Bonhams, Paris, France 6 February

    THE MARKET / Auction Previews

    The French military certainly knew how to travel in style. This beautiful 1959 Citroën DS Prestige originally served as an attaché’s official car in Rome. Only 350 Prestige models were built by Chapron, and it’s thought that this is the earliest of around 60 survivors. The Prestige was the most luxurious of all the Ds, and this is the only one known to have been bought by the French Army. We all know the importance of looking good in Italy…

    After its military service it was sold into private hands, and passed between various Citroën collectors in France.
    It’s now owned by a UK-based DS expert and a minor restoration was carried out in 2019. It received a rebuilt gearbox, a new clutch, overhauled brakes and many other bits. Safeguarding this Citroën’s uniqueness was a priority, but the original bonnet – which features its military number painted on the underside – is not fitted. It is included in the sale, however. This DS is difficult to value, but the estimate is €60,000-90,000. bonhams.com
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    For most of my automotive life I have been a rear-wheel- drive guy. I knew that all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive provided better traction but, having grown up in New England where snow lay on the ground for at least four or five months of the year, I reckoned rear-wheel drive was just more fun. Doing donuts in a deserted supermarket car park on a Sunday morning, after a Saturday night snowfall, was way more fun than snowboarding or skiing. It’s why I chose the McLaren P1 over the Porsche 918. Hanging the tail out is one of driving’s greatest pleasures. I was well into adulthood before I got near a front-wheel-drive vehicle.

    / #1972-Citroen-SM / #1972 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen / #Citroen-DS21 / #Citroen-DS / #1971 / #Cord / #Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Oldsmobile / #Citroen-Traction-Avant-15-Six / #Citroen-Traction-Avant

    In America back then, front-wheel drive was more for economy and practicality than anything else. The first post-war American car to feature front drive was the #1966-Oldsmobile-Toronado , and what an impressive debut it was. At a time when Italian manufacturers said you could never put more than 225bhp into the front wheels because of torque steer, the Toronado’s 7-litre V8 had 375bhp. And the fact it was the fastest stock car at the 1966 Pikes Peak Hillclimb helped to seal the deal.

    This radical automobile made me want to learn more. I set out to find myself the last great American front-wheel-drive car: the #Cord-810 and #Cord-812 from 1936 or 1937. It, too, had a V8 engine. In stock form it made 125bhp but you could have it with a supercharger. I found myself a #1937-Cord-812 , naturally aspirated. It was transformed with modern radial tyres, feeling and driving more like a car from the 1960s than the 1930s. The electric pre-selector gearbox is mounted in front of the engine so there’s a flat floor, freeing up more passenger room in the cabin.

    What killed it, besides gearbox problems, was that American cars at this price range were huge. This was the first ‘personal-size’ luxury car, and you seemed to get a lot more car for your money if you went the traditional route.
    My next front-driver was a #1972-Citroen-SM , Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. Rumour says the editor got fired because Citroën didn’t take out huge full-page ads logging its accomplishments like American carmakers did. Every enthusiast should drive an SM before they die. It has sleek aerodynamics, oleopneumatic suspension, quick power steering and the finest five-speed gearbox I have ever used. Driving in the rain was especially pleasurable because when you hit the brakes the rear end would go down rather than the front end, like a speedboat slowing down in the water. And the unique aerodynamics made the windscreen wipers almost superfluous.

    The excellence of this car made me check on Citroën’s earlier offerings. I soon acquired a #1971-Citroen-DS21 , the most comfortable car in the world. And a #1949-Citroen-Traction-Avant-15-Six , its six-cylinder engine better for today’s roads. Another great front-drive French car is the #Panhard-PL17 . It’s way more fun to drive than a Beetle, with only two cylinders but almost twice the power (60bhp for the Tigre model against 36 in a VW) from just 850cc. It weighs 1830lb [830kg], has a Cd of just 0.26 and can do nearly 90mph. It’s always more fun to drive slow cars fast. By far the strangest front-wheel-drive vehicle I have is a 1911 Christie fire engine. At the turn of the last century, fire engines were still horse-drawn because fire departments didn’t like combustion engines, considering them less reliable than horses. Walter Christie’s first pumper, built in 1899, was a horse-drawn unit.

    As engines gained favour, Christie came up with a two-wheel tractor with a 20-litre, four-cylinder engine and a two-speed gearbox to take the place of horses while pulling the same pumpers. It was much cheaper to operate than a team of horses because you didn’t have to feed the engine when it wasn’t running.

    Christie built about 800 of these until the early 1920s, when purpose-built fire engines finally took over. My strangest front-wheel-drive encounter happened recently, when I went skid-plate racing. If you’ve never heard of skid-plate racing – invented by a man named Robert Rice, aka Mayhem – don’t feel bad. Neither had I. You start with any legal front-drive vehicle, remove the rear tyres and weld a skid plate to the rear end. You’re dragging and sliding your rear end around corners, and it’s harder than it looks. Above 40mph it gets extremely tricky because you’re constantly steering and countersteering.

    In the first ten minutes I spun at least six times. When you come to a corner and feel the tail coming round, there’s almost nothing you can do. Unlike losing an early 911 in a corner, which happens so quickly you don’t realise it, this happens so slowly that you’re laughing the whole time as you try to save yourself. Who knew front-wheel drives could be so much fun?
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    Safari close to home

    / #1973-Citroen-DS-Safari / #1973 / #Citroen-DS-Safari / #Citroen-DS / #Citroen

    Also in the sale was a 1973-Citroen-DS-Safari , a LHD car bought from France as a project but never started. Offered with an immense fabric sunroof, the wrong front seats and significant rust, this most capable of classic haulers found a new home for £1800.

    It may be left-hand drive and have the wrong front seats, but it has to be worth saving.

    Citroën DS Safari was bought from France as a project, but the restoration never started.
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    So cool drives the avant-garde Citroën DS & Lancia Flaminia For the modern family Who looked for a large sedan with the latest technology in the 60s, which was found at Citroën and Lancia. Two completely different design ideas were available. Words by Franz-Peter Hudek. Photos Ingolf Pompe Good to know. / #Lancia-Flaminia-Berlina / #Lancia-Flaminia / #Lancia

    Key data: #V6 engine, OHV, 2458cc, 102bhp, 1430kg, 160kph, 1957 to 1970 Price: 34,000 euros (good condition) Character: Representative sedan with complex transaxle drive. Very solid, very comfortable, liked to ride in the Vatican
    Citroën DS 21 Pallas

    Tech data: four-cylinder engine, OHV, 2175cc, 100bhp, 1280kg, 175kph, 1956-1975 Price: 31,000 euros (good condition) Character: The most famous classic from France: unique, detail obsessed, futuristic, comfortable and capricious / #Citroen-DS21-Pallas / #Citroen-DS21 / #Citroen-DS-Pallas / #Citroen-DS / #Citroen

    Is that even a car? Or maybe a spaceship from the Perry Rhodan novels? Who is sitting behind the wheel for the first time in a Citroën DS, that raises this question. Almost nothing is reminiscent of a 1966 automobile, not even the steering wheel, whose only spoke, like the tongue of a reptile, sticks out of an oval mouth. Only a spoke! How should that be?

    And it's extremely light in here. The reason: The high, almost circularly curved windscreen seems to seamlessly pass into the side windows, as if there were no roof posts. This creates a perfect all-round view. That one does not see the front end of the big Citroën is not a handicap. We do not have to follow any bumpy asphalt bands, but float on our comfortable salon chairs simply through the universe. Even the bright, dynamically designed dashboard with a band tachometer embedded in fine corrugated iron and various chrome-plated dials signals the DS novice: This is not a normal car!

    Cool restraint in the Lancia Quite different is the Lancia Flaminia Berlina, whose interior is based on the traditional sporty car towards the end of the 50s: classic two-spoke steering wheel with semicircular Hupring, steering wheel circuit and two large round instruments for speed and engine speed.

    No experiments, just a few little peculiarities such as the indications of oil pressure and oil temperature, tank contents and cooling water temperature, which inform the driver within the round, up to 180kmh speedometer scale. Or a massive handbrake lever installed across the instrument panel, which acts like a handy baton.

    The seating position is similar to the Citroën. However, the Lancia driver overlooks almost a third of his own magnificent automobile: the two fenders pulled far forward and the dominant, only slightly sloping bonnet with the wide air scoop. In general, the aristocratic Italian makes no attempt to hide his impressive 4.85 meters in length. Both the huge forward-curved radiator opening and the tail fins protruding far beyond the trunk lid make the majestic Lancia look even bigger. The Flaminia is undoubtedly a prestigious automobile.

    The goddess from outer space

    The DS, on the other hand, whose name is pronounced in French as "déesse" - "goddess" - also reminds on the outside of a spaceship, which has extended the wheels to land. Its long wheelbase of well over three meters and the compact basic shape with tapered, almost cooler bonnet and sloping mini tail make the large front-wheel drive sedan compact. At 4.84 meters in length, the Citroën is only an inch shorter than the mighty Lancia with its decorative fin jewelry.

    If you were looking for an alternative to a Mercedes-Benz 220S for your family or other prestigious passenger transport in the early sixties, you could choose between these two extreme models. However, the car enthusiastic family man should pursue a lucrative profession, because the two import sedans were not cheap. The 220S with 110bhp gave it for 13,200 Mark, while Citroën for the shown here DS21 Pallas 14,300 and Lancia for the Flaminia Berlina even briskly called 22,500 Mark.

    For this you also got the most modern technology and an exquisite equipment. When introduced in 1957 Lancia a V6 engine made of light metal with initially 2.5-liters displacement and 102bhp, from the end of 1962 with 2.8 liters of displacement and 129bhp. The transmission and differential form a unit with the DeDion rear axle and internal brakes. At the beginning, the luxury equipment also includes rear window wipers and the small side windows which can be opened by the driver using compressed air. The workmanship of the bodywork is impeccable and is at Rolls-Royce level.

    The Citroën DS, which was introduced in 1955, offers even more modern technology: The hydropneumatic system, a complicated high-pressure suspension system, replaces the steel suspension and ensures a constant ground clearance that can be adjusted in three stages. In addition, it levels the rolling and pitching movements in curves and braking.

    The braking system and the optionally available semi-automatic systems also work with a high-pressure system developed for the DS series. Therefore, there is no brake pedal, but only a rubber button, on which one should enter with feeling, in order to avoid full braking.

    Our DS21 Pallas photo model reinforces the spaceship character of the interior with its red fabric upholstery and door panels. Its top features include larger seats inside, rear pocket cups and chrome door handles, exterior auxiliary lights, rubber bumpers, decorative trim, metallic paint and more. The unrestored topex copy with freshly reconditioned technology and new wearing parts was provided to us by the Citroën specialist Dirk Sassen in Düsseldorf. The DS 21 Pallas in Gris Palladium from 1966 is there for sale, contact in the purchase advice.
    DS with removable fenders One of the many peculiarities of the DS is the single-screw rear fenders, which you have to remove to change a wheel. And a four-speed semi-automatic without clutch pedal, the selector lever is mounted above the steering wheel.

    To start the 100bhp four-cylinder we press the selector lever in its neutral position upwards. The first gear engages with a slight body shake, and with little gas we go - no: we take off! In fact, the DS seems to hover almost contactless over the asphalt and can be controlled by the traffic with its fragile-looking steering wheel effortlessly and with little effort. The Lancia, on the other hand, calls for the old-school motorist: the massive, precisely crafted door and the crazy steering wheel gearbox, whose linkage extends to the gearbox on the rear axle, need a little bit of pressure in their handling.

    When driving, however, the heavy car proves to be surprisingly handy. Even without power steering, the Lancia pulls thanks to optimal weight distribution quickly and almost without resistance by fast driven curves. The powerful, quiet and low-vibration VR6 engine also contributes to a superior driving pleasure. Which one should you take? Strict Classicism or courageous avant-garde? Hard to believe: At that time, nearly 1.5 million buyers (all Citroën D models) opted for the avant-garde and only 3943 for the expensive classicism.
    Conclusion

    Does the Flaminia sedan also look familiar? It's clear. Their trapezoidal style shaped the cars of the 60s. The big sedans of Austin, Fiat, Peugeot and others took over this epochal Pininfarina look. By contrast, there are no design items from the DS. There are still many roadworthy classics that amaze us again and again. Franz-Peter Hudek

    Citroen DS
    BODY-CHECK
    ■ Between the tank and the trunk, the box-shaped seats of the rear swingarm bearings sit on the floor of the car. If the Citroën DS rusted through here, then usually the whole car is destroyed. The frameless side windows often get water in the car and ruin seats and panels. If it penetrates the roof, it attacks the C-pillar next to the floor of the car. Because the rear fenders are fixed with only one screw, it is worthwhile to remove them and to check the condition of the C-pillar. Also check: outer box sections of the frame, door bottoms, fenders, trunk floor and the sheet metal under the chrome trim of the Pallas models.
    TECHNOLOGY-CHECK
    ■ With the change to the green LHM hydraulic fluid from 1966, the reliability of the hydropneumatics improved considerably. With well-maintained models it is usually sufficient to change the spring balls about every 100,000 kilometers. Less well maintained DS also leaks in the 34 meter hydraulic system due to corrosion or leaking connections. Steadfast are all engines - even the early Langhuber with only three crankshaft bearings. The DS 23 (especially IE) can get storage problems at almost 200,000 kilometers. The semi-automatic should be adjusted by the specialist.

    PRICES
    At introduction 1965 (Citroën DS 21) ....................................... 13 200 Mark
    Classic Analytics Award 2019 (condition 2/4) .................... 31 000/8500 Euro
    Insurance (Liability / Fully Comprehensive) * ........................... 61.64 / 187.43 Euro
    SPARE PARTS
    ■ Not only because of the more reliable technology, we recommend a late DS, ID or D version. As of 1967, almost every spare part is found - and this is easier than for early versions. These are also characterized by many variants that complicate authentic type-appropriate restorations or repairs.
    CLUBS AND SPECIALISTS
    DS-Club Germany e. V., Wermertshäuser Strasse 9, 35085 Ebsdorfergrund, Tel. 064 07/902 30, info@dsclub.de, www.ds-club.de DS Sassen GmbH & Co. KG (Import, Parts, Repairs), Benrodestraße 61, 40597 Dusseldorf, Tel. 02 11/711 87 02, www.ds-sassen.de Autohaus Schneider, Rosenfelder Strasse 5, 72351 Geislingen, Tel. 074 33/85 08, www.fahrzeuge-schneider.de
    WEAK POINTS

    1 pictures of swingarm bearings
    2 rear crossbeam
    3 leaking roof and windows
    4 A and C columns
    5 door bottoms and sills
    6 frame boom
    7 spent feather balls
    8 leaking hydraulic lines
    9 bearing damage motor (DS 23)
    10 BorgWarner fully automatic

    Practicality •••••
    Spare parts layer •••••
    Easy to repair •••••
    Maintenance costs •••••
    Availability •••••
    Demand •••••

    Lancia Flaminia Berlina

    Under the representative body is modern drive technology, which requires a specialist. Good copies are therefore rare.

    BODY-CHECK
    ■ Anti-rust was a stranger to both Italy and France at that time - often with devastating consequences for the large Lancia Flaminia sedan. Responsible for this are numerous box profiles whose closed cavities are difficult to examine and contain no preservatives. The bare sheet received only a layer of underbody protection from below. Often also dampened insulation material in the rear area developed into annoying rust nests. Other problem areas of the Lancia Flaminia are: lamp pots, fenders in the area of the A-pillar, sills, side panels and the entire rear area with luggage compartment floor and end tips.

    TECHNOLOGY-CHECK
    ■ Properly maintained, the V6 engine hardly causes any problems. However, there are a few peculiarities. So a defective Novotex wheel of the tachometer drive can block the camshaft. Corrosion residues from the silumin (aluminum-silicon die-cast alloy) engine case may clog the water channels, resulting in blown cylinder head gaskets. The transaxle transmission unit with DeDion rear axle requires a lot of service due to the internal brakes and drive shafts. The manual transmission has its own oil pump, whose failure causes damage.

    PRICES
    At introduction 1957 (Lancia Flaminia Berlina) ...................... 22 500 Mark
    Classic Analytics Award 2019 (condition 2/4) .................. 34 000/10 000 Euro
    Insurance (Liability / Fully Comprehensive) * ........................... 51,64 / 192,33 Euro

    SPARE PARTS
    ■ Due to the relatively large number of Flaminia coupes from Pininfarina, Touring (including convertibles) and Zagato - a total of 8700 units - technical and wearing parts are available. It is more difficult in body and especially interior components of the rare Berlina, which often served as a partial donor for the sports models.

    CLUBS AND SPECIALISTS
    Lancia Club Germany e. V., Secretariat: Sanddornweg 5, 53757 Sankt Augustin, www.lanciaclubdeutschland.de Lancia Club Vincenzo, Im Nußbaumboden 7, 79379 Müllheim, Tel. 076 31/79 98 21, www.lancia-club-vincenzo.com B & F Touring Garage, Hauptstraße 183, 53842 Troisdorf-Spich, Tel. 022 41/84 49 10

    WEAK POINTS

    1 mudguard with lamp housing
    2 A-pillar
    3 sills
    4 longitudinal beams underbody
    5 side parts
    6 trunk floor, end tips
    7 head gaskets
    8 drive shafts
    9 Rear brake assembly
    10 gears (bearings, leaking)
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    / #1973-Citroen-DS23-Pallas-IE / #Citroen-DS23-Pallas-IE / #1973 / #Citroen-DS / #Citroen / #Citroen-DS23 / / #1973-Citroen-DS23ie-Pallas / 1973 / #Citroen-DS23ie-Pallas / #Citroen-DS23-EFI-Pallas / #Citroen-DS23-EFI

    £28,000

    This fuel-injected 2.3-litre range-topper has desirable optional extras including factory air conditioning, explains Mike Renaut.

    Shiny dark blue paint suits this 1973 DS #Injection-Electronique and covers straight, corrosion-free panels with generally excellent gaps. All the Pallas trim is in place and appears in nice condition despite some surface tarnish, especially on the rear window surrounds. All glass including the headlamp covers is free from damage, the inner set of lights turning with the steering. Originally sold in Prato, Italy, the left-hand drive DS came to the UK in 2014 and the headlights still appear to be set up for driving on the right. Bumpers are equally blemish-free, as are the Pallas wheelcovers. If we had to nit-pick, there is slight surface rust on the wiper arms and the lower door trims are not affixed perfectly straight, but otherwise this car is hard to fault.

    The factory-fitted – and operational – air conditioning is an unusual option. The blue and white cloth and leather-cloth interior is in especially nice condition with no obvious damage and the big seats with headrests prove both comfortable and supportive. The dashboard is free of cracks, but there are a few small areas of scuffed paint and the surround for one set of pushbuttons needs securing in place.

    A rear window blind is included and the light grey fabric headlining is droop-free and in perfect condition. Door cards appear unmarked, as does the dark blue carpet. Turn the ignition key and the engine fires up immediately, soon settling to a smooth idle at an indicated 1200rpm. It quickly warms up and nothing on the numerous warning gauges offers cause for concern. The suspension operates just as it should, with the car soon finding its natural ride height. Again, no leaks or untoward noises were spotted during our inspection.

    On the road the Citroën is quiet and well-mannered with very light steering that still feels precise. Finding your way through the five-speed gearbox using the column-mounted gearlever soon becomes second nature, with each gear dropping into place positively. Stopping power is impressive, the sharp brake pedal virtually halting the car dead in its own length at low speeds. Winter and summer tyres are supplied with the DS, the set fitted during our test being Petlas with excellent tread. The jack and an unused ‘multiseason’ spare tyre are present under the bonnet. A generally tidy engine bay has a little worn and scuffed paint on some components, but no obvious leaks or areas of concern were noted. Recent #MoT certificates mention a weep from a power steering hose joint, but our inspection failed to detect it.

    The odometer reads just over 98,400km (60,000 miles). The previous owner added a new swivelling centre headlight assembly, alternator, high-pressure pump and fuel pump. New injectors and fuel pipes were fitted, and the fuel tank cleaned and lined in 2014. The air conditioning system was repaired and re-gassed in 2015. This very attractive example of a #Pallas has an excellent specification. The car drives beautifully and a little tidying under the bonnet would finish it nicely.

    Good colour, Pallas trim is all there and the panel gaps are generally good Interior looks and feels almost brand new Engine runs well, but its bay would benefit from tidy-up.

    1973 Citroën DS Pallas IE
    Price £28,000
    Contact European Classic Cars, Avebury, Wiltshire (07813 394167, europeanclassiccars.co.uk)
    Engine 2347cc 4-cyl OHV
    Power 141bh p@ 5500rpm
    Torque 135lb ft @ 3500rpm
    Performance
    0-60mph 11.7sec.
    Top Speed 116mph
    Fuel Consumption 29mpg
    Length 4874mm
    Width 1803mm


    CHOOSE YOUR CITROËN DS

    1 Unveiled in 1955, with hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, power steering and disc brakes. A more basic ID version was available.

    2 September 1962 restyle saw a new nose, pointed front bumper and better ventilation.

    3 Pallas model with 41 improvements including a more luxurious interior debuted for 1965. The original hydropneumatic system used vegetable oil ( #LHV ), then switched to synthetic ( #LHS ). For the 1967 model year, Citroën introduced mineral oil-based oil ( #LHM ).

    4 1968 model year cars got four glass-covered headlights, inner set swivelled with steering.

    5 #Bosch fuel injection was introduced for 1970 and a 2.3-litre engine in 1972. Production ended in 1975 after 1,455,746 DSs were built.
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    / #1968-Citroën-DS21-Decapotable / #Citroen-DS21-Decapotable / #Citroen-DS21 / #Citroen / #Citroen-DS / #1968

    CHASING CARS Russ Smith’s tempting buys

    For sale at #Bonhams , London, December 1, bonhams.com/cars Why buy it? Any #DS drop-top is a rare thing of beauty, and Bonhams’ goddess compounds the attraction by being one of – it is believed – only six examples built in right-hand drive. Straight, smart and with just the right level of patina, it has covered just 700 miles in the last three years. Price estimate £150,000-£180,000
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    Martin
    HEADING SARTHE FOR THE SUMMER

    The Le Mans Classic is a favourite on the DRIVE-MY calendar, and that is mainly down to the road-trip aspect of the journey there. The Reader Run has become a team-bonding exercise in getting our old nails to La Sarthe and back, hopefully without having to throw in the towel and hitch a ride on a recovery truck. The process of preparing our respective classics always begins nice and early – literally days before the off – and in typical fashion it included Port carrying out an emergency water-pump overhaul, MacLeman install a cooling fan, reinstating the overdrive wiring and fixing the wiper motor, while Clements checked the oil and set his engine tinware to ‘summer’.

    Making it to the docks at Portsmouth is always the first success and, with the UK still basking in a heatwave, it was a relief to get on board the Brittany Ferries boat for St Malo – particularly for Port, who had a last-minute reprieve from a £140 surcharge because his #Land-Rover-SII was deemed too tall. After entrecôte avec frites all round and a few cooling beers, we were suitably refreshed for the overnight sailing – a chance for our extended group to get to know each other.

    The DRIVE-MY crew – Clements, Port and MacLeman – was joined by BMW Z4-driving former #DRIVE-MY designer Paul Breckenridge and Le Mans virgin Sam Read (both on hand to help Clements celebrate a significant birthday), while MacLeman’s travelling buddy was fellow professional beard-grower and millennial Paul Bond. After years of pestering, Port gave in and brought eldest son Alfie – the end of GCSE exams finally giving no reason to refuse. After a fitful sleep and the usual rude awakening by tortuous lute music, our quartet rolled off the ferry early on Friday morning. For a while it was business as usual, following a familiar route from previous excursions including a stop for breakfast at Combourg. But here we met up with fellow DRIVE-MY cohorts Mick Walsh and Julian Balme, who had burbled down enthusiastically in Balme’s Lincoln Cosmopolitan, ‘Wooly Bully’, adding to an already eclectic mix of classics parked up in the surrounding roads. This included Reader Run regular Scott Fisher’s stunning #Porsche-912 – previous winner of the DRIVE-MY car park concours at the Hotel de France. Echoing 2010, Port set the 55mph pace up front in his #1959-Landie while the #Suzuki-Cervo , #Triumph-2500 and #BMW-Z4 shadowed his every move – owners doing well at concealing their frustrations at his cruising speed.

    As temperatures soared we ploughed on, avoiding autoroutes, and were rewarded with some fantastic countryside – freshly harvested fields and abandoned stone farmhouses beckoning a new life away from the constant onslaught of Brexit negotiations and a government in turmoil. Hitting the roads around Le Mans meant two priorities: a visit to the supermarché to stock up on food and drink, then heading to pitch tents at the Porsche Curves. Naturally, our shopping was made up of the three Le Mans staples: meat, snacks and booze – the latter mainly consisting of French lager, but also the finest vin rouge that three Euros could buy. (We’d tried the one-Euro alternative two years earlier, and decided to push the boat out on medical advice, and also because it was Clements’ birthday.) Rolling into the Travel Destinations campsite reminded us just what a great location it is – despite being a road-train ride away from the paddock. As the GT40s roared past the banking within stumbling distance, tents were pitched and thoughts turned to chilling beers and burning meat. Crucially, we had all made it without significant mechanical issues – albeit with Balme reporting brake troubles – just a little hot and bothered thanks to the Europe-wide heat-wave.

    There then ensued three days of the usual mix of breathtaking cars, spectacular on-track action and paddocks to die for – a combination that never fails to result in a magical atmosphere. With temperatures hitting 35º-plus during the day, it was important to maintain fluid intake – but fortunately the local cider proved very useful in ensuring that stamina was maintained, as well as a finely honed sense of humour at all times…

    The ‘good old days’ of sitting on a busy banking at Maison Blanche are now a distant memory, but the Porsche Curves campsite offers a relatively quiet experience (at least in terms of numbers).With most of us now being past 40 (Clements only just, a milestone marked by late-night cake), the short roll down the hill to the toilets and showers is pleasingly convenient and doesn’t interrupt viewing of the right- and left-handers for long. The relative peace also provided the perfect opportunity to raise a glass to absent friends. Although he was never keen on camping, the Le Mans Classic was one of our late chief sub editor David Evans’ favourite events, so in his honour we each drained a dram and saved him a space on the banking, before some made the pilgrimage to his favourite spot at Arnage corner the following morning.

    Wooly Bully left on Sunday and, with heavy hearts (plus a few heavy heads), the rest of the team packed up to head home on Monday. But not before Port had dived under MacLeman’s Triumph in a bid to reduce the vibration of exhaust on propshaft and gearbox crossmember – Greg using a convenient grass bank as a makeshift ramp.

    The convoy headed north without any other problems. Driving into Le Buisson, however, Clements suddenly stopped up front – almost giving the Triumph behind a new Suzuki-shaped bonnet ornament. We’d all seen it: an open yard packed full of French classics in varying stages of decay. Seconds later we were rummaging through the Négoce Matériel collection at the invitation of owner André Papillon, who was working under a Renault 8 – swaying gently on the outstretched arms of a forklift. The noticeboard in his office revealed that he knew what he was doing, however, with an impressive display of past rebuilds.

    Back on the road, we headed cross-country and opted to pause for lunch in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne. Steak tartare, galettes and omelettes filled the table, but we soon found ourselves tight on time if we were to complete our supposedly relaxed trek back to Ouistreham.

    “I’ll lead,” announced Port, who then promptly ground to a halt. The cause was clear straight away – muck in the idle circuit of the carburettor – but cleaning the jet and aperture didn’t improve matters. There was little else for it but to raise the idle to prevent stalling and carry on, with as much speed as he could muster. Although the Landie was running fairly unpleasantly, the quartet pulled into the port with minutes to spare – the Series II then doing a decent job of fumigating fellow passengers as it waited in line.

    Murphy’s law meant that the rush was followed by a delay, thanks to a computer failure – a blessing in disguise because, after 45 minutes of queuing and a hand over the carb to create a vacuum, the blockage in the Land-Rover cleared itself and the Series II rumbled onto the ferry with no more than a bit of smoke from the rich running.

    Yet more steak and chips were consumed with a sigh of relief that we’d made it, tinged with sadness that it was all over for another two years, and a few hours later we were welcomed into Portsmouth by a stunning sunset and the sight of the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

    Pulling into our respective driveways at around midnight, we each reflected by text on the mileage covered (just over 400) and fuel consumption. ‘I’ve used about £48-worth,’ boasted Clements, before expressing his disbelief at the Land-Rover’s £147 bill.

    Yet the Le Mans Classic is worth all of that and much more. It’s an event where friendships are cultivated, belly-laughs are enjoyed and memories made, all in the company of some of the world’s finest classic cars. (And ours.) Martin Port
    THANKS TO Travel Destinations: 08448 730203; traveldestinations.co.uk

    ‘Steak and chips were consumed with a sigh of relief, tinged with sadness that it was over for another two years’

    A gathering of old scrap… poses alongside André Papillon’s collection of classics waiting to be rebuilt or raided for parts.

    Clockwise from top left: first goal achieved, having arrived at Portsmouth ferry terminal; breakfast stop at Combourg; magical sunset bathes La Sarthe; happy campers toast their arrival at superb Travel Destinations campsite with welcome cold beers.

    Clockwise, from above: selection of Djets fronts amazing Matra display on Bugatti Circuit; Balme’s ‘Wooly Bully’ pauses while passengers enjoy a break on eventful run to Le Mans; Whizz at speed (well, at 55mph); Peugeot 504 and period caravan equipe.

    ‘Port set the 55mph pace while Suzuki, Triumph and #BMW shadowed, owners trying to conceal their frustrations’
    Clockwise, from right: Port tries to solve Triumph’s ‘prop on exhaust’ issues; troubles of his own with SII; Renault-8 – no health-and- safety concerns here; team #DRIVE-MY seeks new fleet additions; patinated Impala, just one gem to be found outside the paddock. From far left: Citroën IDs and #Citroen-DS s have seen better days, but still provide parts; Sam Read prepares to pilot the Suzuki for the final leg home; stunning sunset over Portsmouth.
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  • Post is under moderation
    Certain facts in the automotive world are irrefutable. Number one, the #1971-Citroen-DS-Pallas / #Citroen-DS / #Citroen / #1971-Citroen-DS / #Citroen / #1971 / , especially the #Pallas / #Citroen-DS-Pallas model, is the most comfortable car in the world. You may not be crazy about the four-cylinder engine, while the transmission’s not the smoothest, but the seats combined with the padded floor truly make it the most comfortable car on the planet. People sit in my DS after I’ve told them this, and they all say the same thing: why can’t all cars be like this? And why can’t they? When you get behind the wheel of a DS you literally fall into a big easy chair that wraps itself around you. Some manufacturers try very hard; two of my favourite Mercedes-Benz models are my 1972 600, which has hydraulically operated seats, and my ’1971 280 SE Coupé, with its big, overstuffed leather chairs. These are the last of the truly handmade #Mercedes-Benz cars. Yet even with the finest leather, they’re still not as comfortable as the DS.

    The only car that comes close is my #1931-Bentley-8-Litre fourdoor Mulliner sedan. Even though its suspension is primitive, the big, down-filled leather chairs are something you’d be proud to put in your library or sitting room.

    When I was in England recently, a friend collected me in a beautiful Rolls-Royce Phantom. It is an amazing car – quiet and smooth, with an unparallelled sound system – but still I felt like I was sitting on the seat rather than in it. Shouldn’t a Rolls be at least as comfortable as a DS? And why does the leather in today’s high-end motors have the texture of vinyl? My 1968-Mercedes-Benz-6.3 has 327,000 miles on it, but the constant application of hide food has given the leather a patina and suppleness that just can’t be found in modern cars.

    And can we stop with the Recaro racing seats? One of my favourite cars to drive would be the Aston Martin Vantage with a manual gearbox. It’s fast and sexy, but it has the most uncomfortable racing seat I’ve ever sat in. I love everything about the car except the seats. They’re slaves to fashion trying to look cool. Astons are for driving long distances across continents, which should be done in the most comfortable way possible.

    With these Recaro buckets, after an hour I had to pull over to get out of the car and stretch. It felt like it was cutting off the circulation. Even in my #McLaren-P1 I replaced the standard seat for a slightly wider one. It’s a little bit better – but not much. I have a Shelby Mustang GT350R. The first thing I did when I ordered the car was to ask for the stock Mustang seats to be put in, instead of the standard racing buckets. If the goal was to crack walnuts with my buttocks, I’d have kept the Recaros. It’s hard to drive if you’re not comfortable. Where’s the fun?

    When I was restoring my DS, I took great pains to deconstruct the seats and examine what made them so comfortable. The secret? Foam, and lots of it. Of course, Citroën never took the DS to the Nürburgring. That has a lot to do with it. The Nürburgring has probably done more than anything else to make luxury cars uncomfortable. Any suspension perfected there is designed to handle loads and speeds the average driver would never see in a luxury car. Along with low-profile tyres, which are so popular and have absolutely no give, the combination means cars simply aren’t as comfortable as they should be. My Tesla had 21in tyres. In 1000 miles I hit two potholes and blew out two tyres. There’s not enough sidewall to take the compression, so you split the sidewall. There’s nothing else you can do.

    Why do people buy 21in wheels? They don’t really know the difference between sidewall compression rates, they just think it looks cooler. They are willing to give up comfort for that.

    How many people would prefer to look good or feel good? Style reigns, unfortunately. BMW has just come out with the R Nine T, which is a twin-cylinder Boxer motorcycle available in three styles. The coolest is the Café bike. I drove the standard version with standard handlebars, and it was so comfortable, but I ordered the Café because it looked the coolest with the little half fairing and the lowered bar. After 20 minutes of riding, I realised I should have ordered the other one.

    The idea of selling comfort now seems to have gone out the window. It seems to be about looking cool or sporty, or Nürburgring times. Stuff like that. In the old days they used to sell comfort. American cars used to sell what they called the Boulevard Ride: the car floats down the road. Ford made a fortune selling LTDs, saying it was quieter than a Rolls. Whether it was or not, nobody really knew. It’s like you’re the captain of a ship, driving a big boat. So much of that seems to have fallen by the wayside. If someone offers you a seat in their DS, take it. It’s the most comfortable motoring experience you can have.

    The Collector Jay Leno

    ‘WHEN YOU GET BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A DS YOU LITERALLY FALL INTO A BIG EASY CHAIR THAT WRAPS ITSELF AROUND YOU’
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