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V.I.S.I.T: 1973 Citroen DS21

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Every time I truck down to my local supermarket I tend to forget my phone, which means I never seem to have a picture-recording instrument to hand when interesting conveyances show up in the car park. And they invariably do, such as the rotten ’85 Range Rover, Dutch-registered Volvo 262C and Chevy C1500 with Z71 package that I missed out on recently.

This time was no exception. I parked up, saw the Citroen and realised that, again, I had no camera. Then I checked my jacket pocket; another fold of fabric that I often forget about, and my phone was there all along! I had cheated the system! There’s no way this Citroen would be there if it knew I had a camera with me.

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One of the great things about living in this neck of the woods is the comparatively broad variety of cars you see on the road. To make up for the reduction in  local USAF activity over what there once was – we used to see plenty of Country Squires, ‘Vettes and Firebirds which had been freighted across by airmen during the ’80s – the proximity of Harwich and its popular cross-channel ferry link means we get plenty of European traffic through our village.

Seeing Dutch, French and German registered cars parked up by the river is no rare thing, but and at first that was what I thought I had come across when I glimpsed this Citroen at the Co-op. But, no. It’s a UK registered car, and one with a quite tremendous – and impossible to simulate – natural patina.

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As a ’73 it was built towards the end of the long production life of the DS, coming just a few years before the equally other-worldly CX was phased in – a car which would now be equally suited to featuring thinly-disguised in a Back to the Future sequel.

It was parked next to, not in, the trolley bay and, looking closely, appeared to be in a perfectly sound structural condition. And though I don’t like to see cars wilfully neglected, the decay we see here is of the natural kind and redolent of a car which has put in extremely hard work over a very busy, and long, career. Our wonderful public-domain registration checker tells me that the MOT is valid until August next year, which would exactly mark the 44th anniversary of its build and could mean that it has been tested at the same time every year since new. This could even point to it being a one-owner car.

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We could spend ages discussing the relative merits of allowing a car to wear its experience and misadventure on its sleeve, or be kept immaculate in a doting and fastidious manner, and it’s a common argument that breaks out on forums around the globe. Perhaps this isn’t the time or the place.

I for one am happy to sit on the fence. It looks like this car is in the hands of somebody determined to keep it on the road. The brown splodges all over the place are rust-stopper and primer, and at least the car hasn’t had a low-cost blow over to make it look cosmetically pretty but potentially conceal fatal nasties. Some cars fall into the hands of those privileged enough to be able to shower them with money. Others are taken on by willing enthusiasts who do what’s needed, when it’s needed, based on priority and endless dedication.

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I get the feeling that this particular Citroen is owned by somebody of the latter demographic, and will probably live forever.

(All images copyright 2016 Chris Haining / Hooniverse)

  • Rover 1

    Definitely much the better idea to treat the rust like that rather than a cheap respray which actually ruins the value.

    Treating it this way sems more honest. The only disadvantage, (specially in hyper status-aware UK), is putting up with everyone elses’s opinion of it. From the same sort of people that ‘pop around’ to see why you haven’t trimmed your hedge.

    • Exactly what I want to do with the galvanised-won’t-rust rust patches: stop decay, and use the money from the spared respray for a gardening service.
      Luckily, I can start my plans soon, the project car started with bubbling paint in a few spots. ..

  • kogashiwa

    Wonderful. Looks like it has a few good stories it could tell you.

  • fede

    awesome car and a great article

  • Alff

    Damn near perfect. Would daily daily.

  • outback_ute

    None of those panels matter, they all unbolt. But I wonder what the structure underneath is like… There is a special name for this type of construction (can’t remember it!), the Rover P6 is the done same way.

    • Trabant, too. It’s called hidden rust outbreak in nested an layered steel.

    • SlowJoeCrow

      It’s called base unit construction, bolt on panels over a driveable more or less unit body. In addition to the DS and the P6 GM did a lot of base unit designs. The Pontiac Fiero, the “dustbuster” minivans, and the plasitc Saturns including the S series, the Ion, the Vue and the L series. The original Range Rove and the Landrover Discovery also use a similar arrangement of bolt on panels over a base unit for their body structure.

      • Rover 1

        And the BMW Z1

      • hubba

        AFAIK, the Saturn L series was a conventional steel unit body shell. The doors and hood had plastic skins.

      • Range Rover? That’s straight body-on-frame isn’t it? Discovery too, shirley?

        • SlowJoeCrow

          They are body on frame, but the body structure is a base unit with bolt on exterior panels like a P6 sitting on a chassis.

      • David Buckley

        ‘Plasitc” ? Read as plat-sic FIFY :-))
        Edit:
        Oh, Plastich … now i get it :-))

      • outback_ute

        Cheers SlowJoe!