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Hooniverse Goes to the Citroen Conservatoire

Jim Yu May 15, 2015 Hooniverse Goes To... 11 Comments

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Lady and gentlemen, the Citroen Conservatoire is one of those places where you say to yourself, after the visit– If I die now, I have no regrets and I’ve lived a full life. The collection is that extraordinary. And here’s the secret– It’s not a private collection that is next to impossible to see. Just send a courteous email to the staff, and they’ll happily fit you in.

There are hundreds of cars in the collection, so I have split this tour into four posts. Make the jump to see Nirvana-on-Earth.

First, the logistics. The cars are parked in a huge warehouse on the grounds of Citroen’s Aulnay-sous-Bois factory, just a couple of train stops away from Charles De Gaulle Airport. Get off at the Villepinte RER stop, walk through a rabbit-filled park, and you’re there. But you can’t just show up unannounced. Contact Martine by email, and set up a date and time for the visit. Emailing the staff in French is appreciated, but absolutely not necessary. For the general public, the primary way to gain access is through car club group tours, so the Citroen Heritage staff will just slot you and other solos in with those groups.

Before the tour begins, you wait in a holding area that contains a few tchotchkes for sale. Then, the French-speaking docent gathers everyone at the collection’s entrance, and opens the doors. The smell of oil and gasoline smacks you hard, and then your face is filled with glee and fascination when you see what is before you, just like this guy’s.

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Row upon row upon row of Citroens. Prototypes, racers, one-offs. All those rare Citroens you’ve seen online since you got on the internet in 1997, all of them, parked right in front of you.

My bias is towards post-war cars, so my mind kind of wandered in the beginning of the chronological tour. Here is a recreation of Mr. Citroen’s office.

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I feel guilty for saying this, but to me, these pre-war cars all look the same.

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This 2010 art piece called Evo-Mobil, which represents 400 years of mobility, was the curator’s idea of a non sequitur.

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Three 2CV prototypes were on display.

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Here is the twin engined, four-wheel drive, 2CV Sahara. A Sardinian and I were the only non-Frenchmen there. I excitedly mimed to the Sardinian that this has four-wheel drive. He excitedly mimed to be that this has two motors. The scene was adorable.

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Every 2CV variation was on display. This is a James Bond For Your Eyes Only-edition 2CV, complete with bullet hole stickers.

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Subsequent posts will cover SM variations, like rally cars and stretched presidential cabriolets. Here we have just a regular ol’ stock SM. *Yawn*

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Here is a naked Mehari.

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This ugly duckling of a prototype is a 1960 C60. It was supposed to fit in the market between the compact Ami and the stately DS. Note the raked rear window, a la the Ami, and the sloping hood, a la the DS.

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We’ve all seen this psychedelic GS online, but you get to see it in the flesh at the Conservatoire!

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Rotary-engined M35.

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This 1971 Projet L prototype was meant to replace the DS.

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Naked CX.

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A rare road-legal BX 4TC. This was Citroen’s answer to Group B rallying.

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This stretched XM shuttled many a VIP around, including Arafat. Just think how provincial and cute the PLO was, compared to contemporary terrorist organizations.

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In the far corner are a few miscellanea, including a helicopter and a tractor.

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Stay tuned for more posts, as I cover Citroen rally cars, presidential rides, and vans at the Conservatoire.

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Images source: Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Jim Yu

  • dukeisduke

    Wow, wow, wow! I was a huge fan of Citroen’s WRC efforts (Go Seb!), and I have some WRC team swag, which I bought after exchanging numerous international emails and phone calls ($$$). I trust there are some WRC cars in the museum?

    • Tamerlane’s Thoughts

      They definitely had a lot of WRC shirts for sale. I’m not that into rallying so I focused on the older cars. I think there are a few WRC cars in the distance.

      • Tamerlane’s Thoughts

        Another view.

  • Maymar

    “We’ve all seen this psychedelic GS online, but you get to see it in the flesh at the Conservatoire!”

    I love that this is a realistic expectation around here, even if I haven’t actually seen it before myself.

    • Tamerlane’s Thoughts

      Here it is.

  • mve

    That Sahara is tres cool.

  • Alff

    I’m surprised you don’t enter through a hatch in the roof, walk on pneumatically inflated floors, stand in one place while the cars drive by you or some other oddball thing that reminds you this isn’t just any car museum but one devoted to Citroen.

    • Tamerlane’s Thoughts

      This crushed XM was in the lobby.

  • spotarama

    this strikes a timely chord with this spotty,
    .
    my 06 Holden Rodeo had a bad week and needed a few days in therapy so i’ve been driving Mrs Spottys C4 Citroen to work while the fakewheeldrive had expensive things done to it.
    .
    the Citroen is tiny and i’m not, i have to squeeze 6’5″ 260lbs of me into the poor little thing and people have been openly mocking my efforts
    .
    luckily this morning i went and got the (rodeo) clown mobile back and its a much happier thing, new front brakes, 2 new coil packs, filters, service, fluids etc and also had new platinum plugs fitted. unfortunately due to the design of the engine and attendant bits, half of the intake has to be taken apart to fit the plugs/coils….that bit alone cost $260. i gotta get rid of this thing and buy a nice sensible 70s/80s straight six ford with as few frills as possible
    .
    what i really want is a hearse – not fussy about what sort – but apparently i’m not allowed to have one. it seems Mrs Spotty can have any car she wants (62 Valiant and the C4 citrus) and i also can have any car she wants……….

  • BlackIce_GTS

    I wouldn’t normally wonder if the propeller is just sitting there, or if the tractor has a pusher prop, but this is Citroen.

    • Batshitbox

      I believe that’s the proverbial Tractor Avant