When SCMer Greg Long listed a 1975 DS23 Pallas on Bring a Trailer, it caught my attention. In addition to being a very-late model with a 2.3-liter engine, it had a Citromatic 4-speed automatic that you shifted manually.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Citroëns.

Whenever I see one, my collector car heart starts to race just a little bit.

I owned a 1959 ID19 when I lived in San Francisco during the ‘70s.

I chased a Mehari for 25 years before finding one.

Citroëns are quirky and interesting.

There’s nothing else quite like them.

And they are French.

Greg is a good friend and a Citroën fanatic. You can find his public group on Facebook under Citroëns of Cascadia.

Two years ago, he was a part of SCM’s Caravan to Concorso. He drove his DS21 convertible. He treats his Citroëns like I treat my Alfas. He wants them right, he wants them to run, he wants them reliable and he wants to drive them.

His BaT moniker is “chapron67.”

While it is not a concours-correct car, the DS23 Greg was selling had a lot of eyeball. According to the description, it was fully sorted.

I am the first to admit that this classic-cars-with-automatics thing of mine has become a near fetish. “I could afford one of those!” “Or one of those!” “Or both.”

The SCM garage now has a 1965 Volvo 122S automatic, a 1971 Jaguar S3 V12 auto and a 2004 Mercedes SL 55 automatic. In exchange, we have lost the 1967 Alfa Romeo GTV, the 1967 Alfa Romeo Super, the 1958 Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce, the 1961 Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale and the 1960 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite.

My current challenges keep me from driving manual-shift cars, so the transformation of the collection isn’t a concern.

Greg’s DS23 ticked all the boxes. Desirable model, interesting automatic, reputable seller, in driving condition and ready to go. Better yet, it was located in Seattle, so no transport costs. I could have someone drive me up, and I could bring it home.

I decided my upper limit was $30,000, all-in. At that price, the car was still a fun buy even if slightly irrational – as all classic car acquisitions are.

In the last six minutes of the auction, the price jumped from $31,000 to $36,000.

With a 5% buyer’s premium, that became $37,800. Which, in collector car math, really became $40,000 by the time the dust settled. And there is always dust.

As the price pushed past $30,000, the challenges of owning a 1975 DS23 loomed larger.

I don’t know anyone in Portland who is fluent in Citroëns — and can repair them. Trucking a car to Seattle to have the little things attended to — they always crop up — didn’t appeal to me.

Also, at that point the Volvo was still refusing to be reliable (I now have $20,000 invested in this car that I paid $10,000 for because it needed nothing,). I had not driven the $45,000 Jag enough to trust it (“It’s only 49 years old, what could go wrong?”) – and the SL 55 had just arrived and I was starting the fettling process (I figure $28,000 by the time it’s to my spec).

So I had enough on my automatic-collector-car plate.

By passing on Greg’s car, I was accepting that I might never own a DS21 or 23. Good ones are rare, and there aren’t that many Greg-Long-style gurus.

But, in an unusual bout of thoughtfulness, I let the car go. It was too much money, and I already had enough going on in the garage. I guess I just can’t own them all.

However, I’m sure that won’t be the last collector car I will be interested in. Like a Chinook salmon drawn to a lure, something else shiny will come along soon, at the right time and the right price.

Here is a link to the completed DS23 auction.

5 comments

  1. Keith,
    Some French cars are very reliable, such as my
    1955 Peugeot 203, which I keep in Paris; I have entered
    It in the October “Targa Florio”, which I will co-drive with
    Fellow Portlander , Fred. This is a great event , worth your
    Article in SCM.

  2. Keith, Porsche 928’s are still a relative bargain and great driving cars with auto trans. Just be sure all the “watch out for” items have been taken care of prior to purchase. I prefer the early sharky looking models over the later round models.

  3. Lately I’ve been interested in Citroens. I registered to drive one at the Rally for the Lane Motor Museum. I’m hoping I can do that, have my Citroen experience, and live happily ever after without one. 🙂

  4. I have a D Super Cinq, which is exactly the DS I wanted. NOT a Citromatic. There is a local guy in Annapolis, MD who speaks Citroen. Evidently they ARE reliable when sorted, but we’re still sorting. Also they are reputed to thrive on use- what car does not? It’s too bad you missed out on the Ds23e- as some of the last of the line, they are alleged to be really wonderful cars. But I would not want a Citromatique; I’d want the five speed. When you’re up to it, that’s worth pursuing.

  5. Keith, I think you are on to something with Citroens. I’m 78 years old, still turn my own wrenches and I love my euro-spec, very late Citroen SM automatic. My car is is very fast on the free-way, extremely comfortable, and turns heads everywhere I go. My car ranks right up there with the 300SL’s, XKE, Ferrari 250, and Rolls-Royces of various models. Good luck with turning your collection.

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