It was 2 p.m. on Sunday. Bradley and I had taken the SCM Citroën DS21 Pallas out for a quick 100-mile spin so I could continue to familiarize myself with the car’s peculiar approach to motoring.
The morning was spectacular. Bradley had never seen the DS raise itself as it woke up, nor had he been in it before. We both had a great time.
In an instant, everything went from gold to dross. Returning home on the very busy Interstate 84 through the Columbia Gorge, without any warning we lost all power. Nothing.
Sadly, I’ve had this happen enough that I instantly and instinctively began to coast to the widest shoulder available.
We were able to pull about three feet off the freeway and came to a halt. I cranked and cranked the starter. Nothing. Not even a hint of spark.
I wondered if the gas gauge was defective, but checking the records I keep on my phone, I found I had filled the car up just 100 miles ago.
Not only was Bradley with me, but also his Scottie, Bella.
My current mobility challenges, coupled with my lack of familiarity with the Citroën engine, plus being parked on the side of the expressway with semi-trucks going by at 70 mph, made opening the hood and poking around a poor choice.
My greatest fear was that someone would have their eyes off the road while texting and plow into the car.
Soon enough, I had connected with AAA and an auto wrecker was on the way.
I was counting my blessings. It was sunny, we were off the freeway, and I had cell service. Those of you who have had similar old car adventures know that had this happened on a dark, rainy night with no freeway shoulder or cell service, it would not have been the same experience.
The wrecker arrived, and soon enough the car was loaded up. Bella remained in the Citroën, enjoying the queen’s seat in the back. (It is against AAA policy for a dog to go in the cab.) The personable driver, Jason Shaner, of his family-owned Rivers Edge Towing company, had an interesting time figuring out the best way to tie down the rear of the Citroën, as he couldn’t get straps around its enclosed tires.
As we traveled the 40 miles to Portland, I was fairly sure we had achieved the highly coveted “one-of-one” status. Surely we had the only Citroën DS21, on a flatbed, with a Scottie in the rear seat. Certainly in Oregon and perhaps the world.
The car was unloaded at Pro-Tek Automotive, and the owner, Mike Christopherson, said he would speak with Citroën guru Greg Long in the morning.
As this is an analog car, my guess it is something as simple as a loose coil wire. But again, parked by the side of the freeway was no place to start exploring the wiring.
This “failure to proceed” is an inevitable part of the shakedown process with any fresh restoration. No restorer has the time to take a car out for a few days and check out every last nut and bolt or connection.
But I admit to being a little tired of all of this. The joy of the morning was more than offset by my very real fears in the afternoon. I asked Bradley if we would have been better off taking our 2022 Hyundai Elantra, the golden retriever of cars that will never leave you stranded?
“What kind of adventure would that have been?” he answered.