How a Mediterranean island rescued a Citroën
As millions of people were popping open the bubbly and singing Auld Lang Syne while the New Year was being ushered in, this most Gallic of French cars was preparing to make a trip.
Not from France, or even from somewhere in Britain, as you might expect for a right-hand drive model – this particular DS was about to set out from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where it had completed a long and detailed restoration.
It was delivered new to a Cypriot buyer in 1973, where it remained until early this year.
The car’s youth was spent pottering around Nicosia, the capital city, and its first owner, a wealthy businessman, kept it for 38 years. During those years, it fell into disrepair and in 2011 second owner George Geogiades took the reins of the Déesse. This is where the bulk of the restoration story begins.
‘George was just a guy who fell in love with the car and restored it to keep for himself,’ explains George Andreou, owner of KEG Cars in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, and the DS’s current custodian. Andreou is from Cyprus and is a committed classic car lover, having owned streams of Italian machines. He adds: ‘Unfortunately the economic climate in Cyprus meant he was forced to sell it. It was an incredibly cherished car.’
From 2011 to 2014, George Giogiades – with the help of VPK Restoration Centre in Nicosia – restored it to possibly better than original condition. About £9000 was ploughed into the restoration – and although the work is top notch, every single replacement part has it owns story.
Taking on a DS restoration project in Cyprus was chock-full of stumbling blocks – among them the lack of Citroën specialists on the island – but George and his team of mechanics worked around the inherent problems of there being few parts, spares or even DS cars to source replacements from.
Rifling through the accompanying documents you’ll find smatterings of receipts from all over Europe. Thousands were spent at Barnet-based DS Workshop and many other parts were sourced from German outfit Der Franzose – there’s a recent products leaflet from that firm in the boot.
The restoration was thorough and very well documented. In fact, it would be easier to write about what’s not been replaced.
First, all the panels were removed, leaving the skeleton bare and the bones of the car visible. The DS was well preserved thanks to the local climate and lack of salt on the roads. Pumps, pressure accumulator spheres, and all the hydraulics have been replaced. As a result, the rise and fall of the suspension is just how you’d expect.
Since coming to the UK, the carburettors have been re-worked, electronic ignition has been installed and the heads have been re-skimmed so that the car can run on unleaded. The DS may have been way ahead of its time when it was launched but subtle changes can make it even easier to live with in 2016.
Inside it’s more of the same excellent story. A complete replacement interior has been fitted – so the dark tan seats are unblemished and look as stylish and as comfortable as they would have fresh from the factory. New carpet, armrest and head lining complete the immaculate picture.
All mechanical aspects of the car were similarly treated and the engine benefits from having been stripped and checked before being rebuilt with new gaskets and valves. The all-important hydropneumatic system was also rebuilt. The original panel gaps remain, but the quality thud of the doors when this DS closes is eerily German sounding, such is the quality of the work.
It’s a fine car. So are there any more like this in Cyprus? George reckons the days of the smart money going on Cypriot classics might be numbered.
‘If the UK exits Europe there will be more taxes to pay on importing cars (unless an individual trade deal is struck) and interesting and well-maintained cars coming from warmer EU countries like Cyprus could be a thing of the past,’ he says. ‘Imported freshly restored gems like this DS might not make quite so much economic sense after a Brexit.’ Up on the ramps in 2013, it’s taking shape. New radiator, battery and suspension parts have been installed.