1977 CITROËN 2CV
THE STORY OF MY CITROEN 2CV.
By Carl Mouton
I became intrigued and interested in the 2CV when I first became aware of them in the early 1950’s. Somehow there just was never the money or opportunity to acquire one. The nearest I came to owning one was after my retirement in 1990 when I went on an extended trip of Europe and the UK with Marilyn my wife and our daughter Janine.
In Belgium I mentioned my interest to a friend during our visit to Ieper and he promptly put me in touch with a right hand Burgundy and black Charleston that was for sale for R2500. I was about so settle the sale when on impulse I checked what the shipping was going to cost and guess what, that was R10,000! Needless to say that was not a deal.
In late 2010 as a member of the VCC in Durban I rode down to display my 1978 450 SL Merc with other old cars at a Car Show at Botha House on the South Coast. Also on display there was Reg Taylors 2CV which I, as usual, eyed with much envy. After the show I decided to follow Reg back to Durban as he was driving alone, just in case he picked up trouble.
That trip back to Durban was a learning curve of note! On the flat he was travelling between 110 and 120 and up hill his speed only dropped to 100 kph. I just could not believe that. Equally as surprised was Tony Day the famous Car Journalist who was following us.
I could not get over the surprise of that experience and shared this with Reg as well as my long standing interest spread over years. Then for the second time in my life a car miracle happened. Reg phoned me to tell me that he had found a 2CV and had persuaded the owner Steve le Roux to sell it to me! I had not asked for one but Reg decided that I now needed one so that was it.
The first time that a similar thing happened to me was when on a business trip to Johannesburg in 1971, a staff member of the firm I was to visit, Ockie Lategan, collected me in his 1936 Ford V8 5 Window Coupe. I expressed surprise and interest and guess what a few weeks later I had a call from Ockie to tell me that he had found a rare 3 Window model in good condition and “I sommer bought it for you!” Ockie had made the decision for me.
Early on the 9th September 2010, Reg loaded me into his BMW and we set off to Steve in Walkersville near Vereeniging to view the car. The car was almost completely stripped and in the process of being restored. The chassis had been replaced, the engine overhauled as well as the gearbox and minor repairs had been done to the body. After a discussion ‘we’ decided to buy the car and the deal was struck. We got back to Durban that afternoon late.
It turned out that the car was still registered in the name of Action Travant Motors but that it obviously needed to have COR done as it had been taken off the road. The car had been brought in to the RSA in 1983 as a second hand car. The owner then sold it to the Oppenheimer family who used it at one of their bush Lodges as a Safari Car. It was obvious that the car had seen some hard work. Steve had bought it from them with a few more 2CV’s but this was the last of the group.
Just over a month later Reg and I did the trip again but this time with Andrew’s Kombi and a trailer that I had borrowed from Alistair McDonald. Armed with a list of items that Reg had drawn up for us to check that Steve had gathered up all that we needed to complete the car. Steve had already collected it all and had added a few more items. An hour or so later we had loaded the car and were on our way heading back to Durban, all on the same day.
Work could now start in earnest. Andrew Stewart offered to do the re-spraying for me but indicated that the initial hard graft had to be done by me under his very firm supervision. That is another story but in the end it was good that he kept a firm hand on me.
There was much panel beating, brazing and straightening out to be done to get it ready for Andrew to start the re-spraying. The car was a faded red colour. What was interesting was that on the driver’s side of the fire wall there were 4 large letters stencilled. Something told me to protect them which I fortunately did and later I was to find out on the Citroen Web page that by entering those 4 letters, Citroen would confirm the actual date of assembly of the car. It turned out to be January 1977. What a surprise!
After all the basic preparation was complete, the car in a totally dissembled state was taken to Andrews home in Gillitts, adjoining Hillcrest, for him to start on the spraying. I later found out that he improved further on my work without letting me know and then set too to do the spray painting.
There was a major interruption in the progress due to the fact that Andrew had to have a triple bye-pass operation and then subsequently had to endure a further 2 operations. After those shocks to his system, understandably it took quite a time for him to recuperate and obviously as keen as I was to complete the restoration I had to be very, very patient. Slowly but surely with all his determination, which I have witnessed over the past more than 40 years, Andrew got better and bit by bit he completed the spraying.
I had decided to restore it to the same Burgundy and Black Charleston that I originally wanted to buy in Belgium. The upholstery I did myself and settled for the light Charcoal Grey Suede that I had seen. I found ‘backed’ upholstery material and then set too to cut out all the parts needed for the seats but soon found that the Elna machine I had could not do the parallel stripes. For these I had to turn to a friend of mine who did it for me on his Industrial machine in a matter of a few hours. The rest of the sewing I managed to do on my own.
As Andrew finished the various parts of the body I assembled them and slowly but surely the car started to take shape. Reg was able to provide me with patterns for the door panels as well as additional door fittings. Instead of using cardboard for the panels I used 3 mm MDF Reg also seemed to come to my aid when it became clear that there were many other parts that I needed. Without Reg I would have been lost!
One of the major talking points and arguments amongst the Citroen owners was the colour of the bumpers. I hunted through as many books as I could land my hands on and in the end Andrew and I came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly that the wheels should be Burgundy and so too the bumpers. Well little were we to know what a war of words that would start. Half of the Citroen owners suggested that it should be the same as the wheels and the other half that they should be silver grey. We still don’t know who is right!
I was lucky to find suitable rubbers to replace the rubber springs that are used on the sears from a rubber manufacturer in Durban who could provide almost the identical shapes in synthetic rubber that will obviously last a lot longer that natural Rubber. Piece by piece I reconstructed the seats.
A major worry was how I would be able to change the white roof that came with the car to black. Notwithstanding speaking to paint manufacturers and Industrial Chemists, it just never seemed like a proposition to try and change the colour. In the end I got a new black one from Steve.
Another major worry that I had was how I was going to restore the wiring loom that had been altered considerably. I did not feel comfortable to tackle that and then a spot of luck. I found out that Laurie Henning’s twin sons, Royden and Arthur, were very knowledgeable on 2CV’s and so they sorted that out for me as well as several other aspects, not least of all the brakes. I was amazed at their knowledge. Here too there was a frustrating delay because they only came when it suited them but never the less I was most grateful for their help.
Another bit of luck I had, thanks to Reg, was that a person living not far from me had a new set of Michelin tyres, still wrapped in their original tape, which he was willing to sell to me. The price was a miraculous R 900 for the set!
The silver stripes that are part of the Charleston trim were provided in part by Andrew who has collected a lot over the years. The main ones I cut from material provided by Sharpline in Durban. For the trim that is fixed to the body under the doors I found an aluminium shaped bar that is virtually the same shape as the original trim. In the end after much searching for enough of the aluminium trim Reg came to light with a spare set of the real thing.
The aluminium bead that continues towards the back from the back door between the body and the back mudguards I was not able to find so as an interim I used some black vinyl beading. The rubber trim that goes on to the back bumper I found from a firm in Durban. It was perfect. For the narrower rubber trim to the front bumper I cut down the rubber I used for the back bumper and shaped it to the correct profile.
The car was finally finished early in April and I was happy to take it to Bonnets up at the VCC. On the instigation of Reg I had a stainless steel luggage rack fitted on the boot and with leather straps I made, fixed a large ‘old time’ suitcase onto the rack. The car drew a lot of attention at “Bonnets Up” but also at “Cars in the Park” in Pietermaritzburg on the 14th of May.
Because Reg not only found the car but had also gone to all the trouble to secure and transport the car & then in addition provide me with so much help, parts and advice, I almost feel inclined to christen the car “REG”!
Carl Mouton, May 2011
© Citroën Car Club of South Africa
Walkerville, South Africa