My Light 15 was awarded 2nd prize in the pre-1956 Citroen category at the 2015 French Car Day. I hadn’t planned to enter the car, but did since there were only a couple of Tractions there. 1st prize went to a nice Big 15. Without a lot of effort I should be able to do better as I was obviously marked down for things like my missing front carpet. Concours is not really my thing, so while I want to make improvements to the car for my own enjoyment, I will not be wrapping it in cotton wool.
As usual it was a good day, despite the cold and I was able to see a ~1908 Delage that drove under its own power from Bankstown, as well as the some of the usual nice French cars that turned up. The electric DS also was in attendance and usually had a crowd of people gathered around to see how it worked. Due to the cold weather, attendance was down a little from 2014.
I also got to speak to a gentleman who is pretty sure he owned my car in the late 70s and was the one who installed the radio antenna. He is going to send me a photo of the car from around 1977. It is great to be able to put a piece of the puzzle of the car’s history together.
The 280CE was back today to get a radio installed. When I purchased the car, the previous owner had removed their radio, so there was a great big hole in the dash. Luckily, my brother who purchased the car from me already had a radio he had removed from his previous 280CE.
This car still had the factory fader switch installed. That means that there is only a front and rear channel for the radio and all the speaker wires go through the fader switch that controls the front/rear fade. After a while these switches stop working well, and can be bypassed when using a modern radio – if you’re happy to cut the factory wiring.
While it looks complicated, to remove the fader switch, what is needed is to cut the wires that come out from near the fader switch itself – near the switch the smaller set of wires are for the rear speakers, and the larger set go back into the dash for the front speakers and radio connection. Therefore, so long as the speaker wires are cut before they hit that section of wiring that joins them up, they can simply be wired into the new radio. A 9v battery is a good way of verifying which speaker is which to ensure the radio is correctly installed.
If the wires are carefully cut, there is enough slack to re-install the radio without having to re-wire the speakers.
The DS is back together and sporting pretty much a whole new interior. The new sill trim is complete and the seats have been refitted and carpets re-installed. I’m really happy with the results and glad I didn’t try and make a part-pallas. In part 4, I glued down the drivers side trim, so what was left was to re-install the stainless steel outer sill covers, and then re-install the interior.
While I was there, I also had the rubber pedal cover for the parking brake. This is simple to fit when there is no interior.
Pallas cars have a chrome surround, but the regular DS leverages this rubber cover.
It is also easier to put the carpets in first, before the seats, with the rear seat in before the two drivers seats.
With the seats back in, all that is left is to slide the armrest back in. This pretty much completes the interior rejuvenation for me. All that is left is a few more adjustments on the retrosound radio.
The project to replace the sill trim progresses well. The glue had done a good job with the passengers side trim in part 3, so I proceeded to glue down the drivers side as well.
While this set, I was able to re-attach the seatbelt and then start working on re-attaching the lower stainless steel trim. The stainless steel trim is quite fiddly, as it needs to be attached to the car in one long piece.
I found it easier to rest the front of it on a small cardboard box and then start attaching the rear. The trim screws in at the top, holding down the silver covering that is mostly glued down, and clips over the ridge in the floor pan of the car. The front is much harder with the mud flap, I started with a few screws to hold in the rear piece, and a couple middle of the front section to locate the trim, then to start from the back making sure the trim is clipped into the bottom before tightening the top. The rear is on nicely now, although I was not able to finish the front as the jack stand is in the way.
The installation of the new sill trim in the DS progresses. Today I was able to glue down the passengers side of the car after doing some final trimming to size (mostly done in part 2). I ended up using an entire can of spray adhesive, as the underside of the trim absorbs a lot of the glue. Unfortunately, I did not have clamps big enough, or old phone books, so I had to use water and oil containers to weight down the glue so it sticks properly.
The key was stretching it enough so it did not appear baggy, but making sure it stayed in the channel on the outside of the car. So far it seems to be working quite well – I’ll see in a day or so how well it has stuck down.
If this works well, I will repeat for the drivers side. There was an unknown black wire that went under the trim – not sure what it is for – hopefully I never have to get to it!
While I waited for the glue to dry, I also trimmed around the height corrector and accelerator pedal for the drivers side, so I should be ready to go next time.
The DS has large box sections that run down both sides. On the DS comfort, there are various bits of vinyl trim that cover these sections. In part 1, I had replaced the outer trim and door sealing strips. Next was the inner trim. The inner trim comes mostly pre-cut to size, but it needs to be trimmed and also adapted for a right hand drive DS, especially around the height selector rod. This trim is quite thick, so I found tin snips the easiest way to trim it.
The trim is inserted into the metal strips that also hold the inner door seals. It is then glued down to the box section.
I found most of the trimming for the drivers side needed to take place around the base of the B pillar and the raised section where the seats are bolted. The hardest part is for the height selector, which I have not done yet. There is also a cut needed around the rear seat too.
On the passengers side, there are two cut outs for the heater hose for rear passengers (both the entry and exit of the box section), the height selector rod, wiring harness at the rear and on my car the seatbelt mount. Minor adjustments are also needed for the base of the B pillar and near the seats as in the drivers side. As can be seen from the picture above, the original piece under the seats has faded quite a lot in 45 years, but the pattern is the same.
What is next is to trim around the height selector and glue down the trim.
The Citroen club held its monthly meeting at the Tesla showroom, where club members got to test drive the model S. As well as seeing the Model S, one of the members of the club brought along his electric DS to compare with the Tesla. I have to say I was very impressed with what he had done with the car. Not only is it 100% electric, but he has managed to preserve the character of the DS including the hydraulic system.
From the outside the car looks like a stock DS, albeit with some additional buttons on the dash and an LCD screen. Once you open the bonnet though, you see the array of battery packs that give the car about 110km range (with more tweaks to come). There are some very clever solutions in this car, that were well displayed at the blog maintained by owner Aldo Grech. There are also additional batteries under the back seat where the fuel tank used to be.
There is a separate electric motor that runs the hydraulic pump, so given the car has no engine, when you get in the car, the motor and pump spring to life to provide hydraulic pressure to raise the car. Because the excellent disc brakes on the DS are inboard and part of the assembly that includes the transmission and differential, this car retains the gearbox, but not the clutch. This means that gears can be used to change the dynamic between acceleration and economical cruising. The car normally stays in 2nd gear while cruising and 3rd when being used on the open road.
I was fortunate enough to go for a ride in the car, and it rides along like any other DS, the main difference being the lack of engine noise, and the lack of engine heat coming through the firewall.
It was interesting to compare this car to the Tesla. In some ways, they are very similar. Both were hugely ground breaking on release, both are aerodynamic sedans that pack in all the latest technology and trying to attract a buyer with something a bit different.
There is even a nice comparison between the original DS and the Tesla on youtube:
I would encourage anyone with a spare 30 minutes to read through Aldo’s blog and see some of the interesting solutions he has come up with to create a usable electric car out of a classic DS.
The drivers door on the 450SLC had become harder and harder to close properly over the past year or so. It normally took a couple of tries before it would latch correctly. I therefore decided to try replacing the door striker, which do wear out over time. The part number of the new striker was 115 720 06 04.
The striker is held on by four screws and there is a backing plate that can be re-used. I found it easier to screw it on loosely and then close the door a couple of times to locate it properly.
So far it seems to close properly first time, and opening the door there is a bit more resistance in the door handle too.
The Citroen Car club had its monthly meeting at the Tesla showroom this month, and Tesla were offering short test drives to club members as part of the meeting. The Tesla is one of the few modern cars that interest me, so I jumped at the opportunity. In my view, the Tesla is the first ‘green’ car that is a great car as well as being green. Nobody bought a Prius because it was a great car, they bought it because it was supposed to be green. The Tesla is a great car despite it being electric and I think the first electric car that can compete with the internal combustion engine on equal terms. In Australia, it actually isn’t particularly green because of our dependence on coal, particularly the brown variety and our Prime Minister that eats it for breakfast, but that will change over time, and the Tesla shows a glimpse of the future.
Styling – 8/10
I like it. I think the low ‘fastback’ sedan works very well, and Tesla have done much better than similar (and more expensive) models such as the Mercedes CLS that looks squashed, or the hideous Porsche Panamera. They have managed to make what is quite a large car look sleek and stylish. It also looks better than the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes E-Class which are similar from a price and size point of view. For such an aerodynamic car it also avoids looking like an egg, which is commendable.
Interior – 6.5/10
There is a lot to like about the Tesla’s interior. In particular the large LCD display (like an over-sized iPad) that gives you easy access to all the functions of the vehicle including sat nav, entertainment, options of the car such as steering and suspension settings and so on. In the rear, there is no central drive shaft tunnel, so the middle passenger does not have to be an amputee. However, there are a few things that let the car down. There are a few areas where the fit and finish let it down such as around the rear hatch where the welds are visible, the seats are a little firm, the steering wheel too thick and the visibility (both front and rear) is poor. The low roof and A-pillars restrict forward visibility and the rear window is tiny. The poor rear visibility is made up for by an excellent reversing camera. Given how much cargo space there is, I would have mounted the rear set slightly further back to provide more rear legroom. I also think it is disappointing that Tesla are not going to comply the jump seats you can get in the USA for Australia. Overall I was comfortable driving it, but I have driven cars with a better driving position.
Practicality – 7/10
This is the first practical electric car. You get a car that has 400-500km of range, and Tesla are installing plenty of fast charging points in the major cities of Australia, plus frequent stopping points between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. The cargo space is immense and despite the low roofline, you can fit 5 large adults in this car, although I would not want to go on a long trip with 5 people. There are some great touches like the satellite navigation that is linked to the current range of the car so it can tell you if a journey is too far and redirect you to a charge point, modes where you can schedule the recharge for off peak hours and so on. Some people will like the electric opening rear tailgate, but I found it slow and would prefer to do it manually.
Performance – 10/10
For a family saloon that weighs in a 2.2 Tonnes, this car is a rocket ship. The torque off the line is immense and there is no lag at all from when you put your foot down to when the car launches itself forward.
Driving and Handling – 7.5/10
For a big heavy car, the handling is impressive. You feel the weight of the car, but it is surprising nimble for its size and heft. The suspension is on the firm side, in keeping with the cars performance, but body roll and squat/dive are minimal and the car feels sure footed at all times. The brakes were good, but I was expecting them to be better – the pedal was very sensitive, but they were not sports car like. The dashboard display was a bit busy, but it is probably possible to change that. Because of the electric motor, you have unlimited torque and no need for gear changes. Unlike for example a contemporary Mercedes that is constantly changing into one of its seven gears.
Value for Money – 8/10
I think this car is much better value for money than a 5 series, especially when you add the running costs into the equation. Tesla also have a buy back scheme, so depreciation should also be better than average too.
Overall – 47/60
This is a great car, and a car I would be happy to drive every day. It is stylish, practical and offers incredible performance. They are going to sell a lot of them.
Sidebar: Tesla also mentioned two new models that are on the way. A smaller car that aims to compete with the BMW 3 series, which is supposed to be around half the price of the model S, and an SUV that is based on the S underpinnings. I’m looking forward to seeing the small car, it sounds like it could be great value for the money. The SUV sounds like a yuppie mobile gone mad. Lets see, take the Model S, raise it and put big wheels on, so you spoil the aerodynamics and ride, and offer basically the same space. Then again, the BMW X6 is equally stupid and they seem to sell alright.
The traction avant is the easiest car I own to do a basic service. There is no oil filter, so the oil is simply drained and topped up. The transmission is right up front, and not obscured by the ducting of the DS, so it can be done while sitting in front of the car. The downside of course is that since there is no oil filter, you need to do it more often, and there are a lot of grease points to consider.
I wasn’t sure when the last service had been performed on the traction, so I wanted to do it and at least have a baseline. I’m glad I did, as the transmission oil level was quite low, and the engine oil rather dark. I also greased the front suspension (except for one point I could not get my grease gun to – I will need to get one with a flexible hose).