The Noblest Car Fans Love Citron, And Other Citron Rendezvous Dispatches

It is almost twenty years ago that France officially refused to take part in George W. Bush’s Iraq war. While his refusal to sign up for the epic American misadventure based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction deserved in the first instance the great French objection on these shores – Freedom Fries, anyone? – today the attitude is more one of the “France, who?” variation. To now fly the French flag in America is more an act of curiosity than one of sedition.

lemon rendezvous

lemon rendezvous

When it comes to French cars in the US, this has always been the case, although things have gotten worse. Despite the important roles of French brands such as Peugeot and Citron in the fortune of Stellantis – the name given to the 2020 merger of the Italo-American FCA and the French PSA that formed the fourth largest car manufacturer in the world – has chosen the new company not to pardon our Yanks. with its French brands coming out of these shores in 1992 (Peugeot) and 1974 (Citroën.) instead, the combination has chosen instead to reinforce our unfortunate impression of European industry with Italy’s sick Fiat and always wrestle Alfa Romeo, while familiar on U.S. markets Jeep, RAM, Dodge and Chrysler (and usually the first two) for most of its profits. Likewise, the French giant Renault, twice previously burned in the US and last seen in the sale of new cars here in 1987, has chosen to focus its energy in the Land of the Free on the supply of its not always dear businessman, Nissan.

Despite all this, Gallic machines remain a small and persistent loyal adherent in America. For proof and a quick dip in the French soup that we find that we miss more and more as new cars become more and more anodyne and free of national origin, there was no better recipe last weekend than to take the cure with a trip to Ballston, New York, not far from ‘ the venerable spa town of Saratoga Springs, for the annual Citron Rendezvous. An event for owners and fans in the Northeast, whose meeting in 2022 told us what was the biggest French car-shindig on these coasts, ever, with more than 200 cars present, was in every measure a rolling success.

A quick dip in the impressive field on an uncomfortably cold Saturday reminded fans of French style and quirky but clever technique, not only how much has been lost, but also how much has been preserved.

lemon rendezvous

To begin with, the oldest cars present were the Traction Avants, introduced in 1934 by company founder André Citron. Although the massive investment in the new model soon lost control of the company he founded in 1919, the Traction sold well in the 1950s, in Lower (Light) or larger Normal configurations, and sailed for decades. the universal miracle that greeted their release, not only for its revolutionary front-wheel drive, but also for its strong and space-efficient unit body construction – a party trick rolled out by the Budd Company of Philadelphia but first employed by the French. Indeed, the formula established by André Lefèbvre, the project’s engineer – with long travel suspension by torsion bar, hydraulic brakes and many other modern conveniences, all dressed in a simple yet elegant package, thanks to designer Flamino Bertoni, (no relation to the Italian design house that would later do a lot of work for Citron) – a path that the company followed for the next half century or more.

lemon rendezvous

The Traction was followed chronologically and spiritually by Citron’s greatest hits, the modest but scrappy 2CV, aka Deux Chevaux (or two horses), and the DS, also styled by Bertoni and arguably the greatest design icon in auto history. Both were well represented on the field, with 2CVs running many, if not all, of his incredible 42-year production (1948-1990) and enough DSs to occupy the mind for days after our visit. about the evolution of a car whose beautiful shape, many varieties, monocoque construction with lightweight, non-stressed panels bolted on, all-wheel inboard disc brakes and self-leveling, hydro-pneumatic suspension continues to fascinate, generation after generation.

lemon rendezvous

lemon rendezvous

lemon rendezvous

lemon rendezvous

With wine and cheese, the DS, produced from 1955-1975, is something that the French are proud of, like all current owners. A field lined with sedans, safari cars and a lone convertible, one can not imagine, If it’s wrong to covet your neighbor’s cars, I do not want to be right.

lemon rendezvous

lemon rendezvous

Less well represented, yet deeply desirable, were two Citron H-Vans, now in great demand around the world for duty like food trucks, espresso bars and other mobile (or, better yet, stationary) companies that want to telegraph stylishly retro-hipness. Bring your help checkbook if you want to buy one, but don’t expect to make a quick getaway – 50 mph is just about everything an H-Van can strive for.

lemon rendezvous

lemon rendezvous

lemon rendezvous

Which brings us to some faster figures in the Citron quiver, especially the glorious SM coupe that began conceptually in the early 1960s as a DS sport variant, only to come forward more than a decade later as a completely new model. It sought to capitalize on the company’s brief dalliance with Maserati, which it bought in 1968 and sold in 1975. Maserati’s V6 engine, though not the fastest, gave the futuristic dream liner the poke Citrons had long lacked. It also got modified hydro-pneumatic suspension and brake systems that contributed to the spec of the CX model that would replace the DS. Many SMs still exist, all breathtaking, beautiful and terribly expensive to restore. Indeed, a handbook that made the rounds at the show claimed a green five-speed, non-runner free offer to anyone willing to go to Long Island’s Tony East End to pick it up. Even for free, many double chevron veterans opinion on how it could only be a money losing proposition, even with the best examples selling for $ 75,000 and more.

lemon rendezvous

Although CXs were never sold by the factory in the States, the car was a suitable futuristic replacement for the DS and many made their way to America, several of which for the Rendezvous, along with a handful of GS models, proved a smaller take . on the CX form and spec but with a robust air-cooled boxer engine up front. Among the more interesting GS present, the only remaining GS break (wagon) decorated by the factory for use in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, discovered in Venice and currently offered by Morton Street Partners. A lone XM, the CX replacement, was present. Although superficial enough to be a suitable sequel, many at the time of its introduction in the 1990s felt that it had been diluted by Peugeot, which took over Citron in the mid-1970s and by worked the years to integrate its offering with its own stodgier and declining French feel offering, a depressing trend that resulted in a 21stcentury with a few Citrons or Peugeots of real distinction.

Although he arrived with his very handsome 1975 Peugeot 504 convertible, which he imported from France 22 years ago, Mark Diamond, an aviation consultant from Arlington, MA, said he considers himself “more of a Citroniste than Peugeotiste, precisely because of the innovation and rare factor. ” First caught by the Citron bug when the friends of his parents came home in his childhood in a DS of the 60s, he does not have a Citron, but is happy to come to the annual rendezvous, along with a dozens of other Peugeot owners and a handful of Renaults, plus one Volvo 544 and some other non-French cars, signed by his enthusiasm for the said brand and the accepting spirit of the Rendezvous. Several attendees are members of the Arlington Classic Car Club, a group to which Diamond belongs, with members not only from the suburbs of Boston to which it is named, but also from across the country and some across the sea. The club embraces the accepting, non-sniffy attitude of the Citron meeting. “I think people here appreciate the fun factor as opposed to any kind of competitiveness at its event.” This worldview informs the ACCC, he thinks. “We do have a unique esprit de corps and the theme is that we have no rules, no structure and no hierarchy. And that is a conscious strategy, we decided to keep it as loose and fun as possible. And so we stay away from any planning and keep everything ad hoc. “

“There’s an old saying that dogs and their owners look alike and I think the same probably applies to cars. Lemons and French cars in general are kind of offbeat and a little weird and kind of weird and innovative and very, very interesting.I think you can say the same about their owners.They are a bit offbeat, you know, some are a little weird and I would put myself in that category.But interesting and fun people to be with. ”

Exactlywe say.

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