OUT OF THE PAST

1960/85 Citroen Charleston re­minder of Casablanca days

The Washington Times Daily - - Auto -

When Citroen built the av­er­age car for the av­er­age French­man more than half a cen­tury ago, Adil Dri­ouech was not their tar­get au­di­ence. In­deed, he had not yet been born when the 2CV model was in­tro­duced.

The pop­u­lar — in France — car never achieved great suc­cess as an ex­port com­mod­ity ex­cept in cer­tain French en­claves such as Morocco. The last Deux Che­vaux, No. 5,114,466, was man­u­fac­tured in 1990 and by that time the streets of Casablanca were full of the small, un­der­pow­ered but prac­ti­cal cars. In his youth, Mr. Dri­ouech en­coun­tered count­less 2CV Citroens and thought noth­ing of them un­til he im­mi­grated to the United States in Au­gust 1994.

Be­cause of safety stan­dards, the Deux Che­vaux was not wel­come in the U.S. About a year af­ter he ar­rived in the United States, Mr. Dri­ouech was sur­prised to see a women driv­ing one of the lit­tle Citroens on the street. He at­tempted to catch her but the traf­fic was too much. But the Deux Che­vaux fire had been kin­dled.

Mr. Dri­ouech learned that lat­ter-day Citroens could be as­sem­bled on old frames and be im­ported into the United States as an­tique au­to­mo­biles. With that knowl­edge, he be­gan search­ing for the Deux Che­vaux of his dreams, a

flashy Charleston, the fan­ci­est model.

‘I looked for 10 years to find the car I wanted,’ he says. ‘I’ve al­ways wanted one of these.’

Fi­nally, in March of 2000, he saw an ad of­fer­ing a 1985 Deux Che­vaux Charleston built on a 1960 chas­sis. The car was on Long Is­land, N.Y.

With his me­chan­i­cally in­clined fa­ther-in-law, John Roberts, by his side as an ad­vi­sor, the two drove 41/2 hours to New York to see what they could see. As they ap­proached the ad­dress, they spot­ted the yel­low-and-black Citroen.

They learned that the car had been re­stored in The Nether­lands and the man sell­ing the 12.6-foot-long car had owned it about two years.

The French me­chan­i­cals baf­fled Mr. Roberts who said, ‘It looks OK to me.’

Ne­go­ti­a­tions didn’t con­sume much time and much to Mr. Dri­ouech’s sur­prise, the owner gave him some spare parts, a new ex­haust sys­tem, two new tires and a va­ri­ety of light bulbs.

‘I was think­ing,’ Mr. Dri­ouech says, ‘Buy this car and get ready for rust prob­lems.’

The lit­tle Citroens have al­ways been prone to rust.

Still, he had to have the car. ‘It’s nice, unique and sim­ple,’ he ex­plains. He was im­me­di­ately at home with the quirky gear-shift lever pro­trud­ing from the dash­board that op­er­ates the four-speed trans­mis­sion.

As Mr. Dri­ouech drove off in his new old car, the odome­ter had recorded 77,000 kilo­me­ters but he ques­tions the ac­cu­racy of that in­stru­ment. The trip home to Springfield took seven hours. ‘We got home at 11 p.m.,’ Mr. Dri­ouech says, ‘It was a long day.’

Travers­ing the length of the New Jer­sey Turn­pike, he laments, ‘I didn’t pass one car, not even a bi­cy­cle.’ His fa­ther-in-law pa­tiently fol­lowed the Citroen, putting along at the min­i­mum speed on the toll road. ‘I didn’t want to harm it,’ Mr. Dri­ouech says.

Now that he’s more fa­mil­iar with his car, he says he some­times will drive at 60 mph, ‘but no more than 60,’ he says. He never ven­tures out in his 1,235-pound car on windy days. ‘I don’t take a chance on the high­way.’

A vent the width of the car, 4 feet, 10.25 inches, can be opened be­low the wind­shield for fresh air. A screen over the open­ing fil­ters out most in­sects.

‘The en­gine won’t let you down,’ Mr. Dri­ouech says. The diminu­tive car rolls along on 235R15 tires and is halted by disc brakes. The flat twin-cy­cling, over­head-valve en­gine is air cooled and de­vel­ops 29 horse­power. Fac­tory spec­i­fi­ca­tions in­di­cate a top speed of 71 mph and a zero-to-60 mph time of 32 sec­onds. The prac­ti­cal lit­tle car, how­ever, does de­liver 40 miles per gal­lon.

The up­hol­stery in­side the car is a gray cloth and a pack­age shelf is un­der the dash­board. Mr. Dri­ouech points out that his car is equipped with seat belts and has a Solex car­bu­re­tor. The en­gine takes 10W40 oil, he re­ports, which is read­ily avail­able. The spe­cial brake fluid is dif­fi­cult to find, he says, ex­cept in France.

Rack and pin­ion steer­ing gives the Citroen an in­cred­i­ble nim­ble­ness that Mr. Dri­ouech has ap­pre­ci­ated in the al­most 2,000 kilo­me­ters he has driven the car this year.

‘It’s a happy car,’ he says. It brings a lot of smiles to other mo­torists as well as to pedes­tri­ans.

A re­cur­ring ques­tion posed by ad­mir­ers that al­ways amuses Mr. Dri­ouech is, ‘Did you make it your­self?’

The hood and front fenders are eas­ily re­moved with the turn of a few bolts. Open­ing the hood is an­other story as the owner demon­strates.

The air-cooled, 602 cc, OHV en­gine de­vel­ops 29 horse­power.

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