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.
Oh, my! What an upper turned into a downer of a day. Glad you made it home safely. Never would have happened in the Jag, right? Lol!
Isn’t CITROËN the French word for LEMON ?????
I had originally thought this might be a fuel pump problem, but as you describe it, it sounds electrical. The good news on that is that if it’s still moribund, it will be easier to diagnose. Electrical intermittents are far worse to figure out than things which break and stay broken until you fix them.
Once sorted,. they are wonderful cars. Don’t give up. It will probably turn out to be something simple and you’ll be back on the road tout suite.
So what was the problem?
The true joy of driving old cars is the knowledge that you might not get there!
…. plus, all mechanical issue are electrical!
Keith, I hope you will let us know what the problem was. With electronic ignition upgrade such problems should be very rare. But, as you said could be just a wire come loose. Fuel pump is mechanical. But an inline filter could clog, if an inline was installed as an upgrade.
I’d be figuring out a set of rear tie down straps to keep in the trunk? Bonnet? for furture use…
Check the crankshaft sensor. If that sensor becomes faulty the ecu shuts down the f/i system .
A dead give away is that the rev counter does not move at all when attempting to start the vehicle
This is a Citroen DS, so it might not have some of those bits in it….
I remember a night of driving my 69 corvette from getting some paint work home in LA. I was on the 405 going through W LA when it just stopped as I tried to coast to the outside lines could not get there. Not knowing if the lights were out I was on pins and needles. A CHIP came up just moments into this and told me that I had two choices either let him push the car to an exit with his cruiser or sit in the back in cuffs as he pushed the vette. Needless to say I helped him and two things thank goodness for steel bumpers and second his skill not even a smudged on the bumpers. There was a problem with my alt and I replaced my distro, wires and coil at the same time since they were on borrowed time.
So, what was the issue and so glad to see that adventure is still on the menu!
You were lucky with your experience with River’s Edge towing. I live in the Gorge and have had to call River’s Edge (the only AAA contractor in the vicinity) when my 1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 has needed towing. The last time was last summer when vapor lock left me stranded in a parking lot in White Salmon, WA. about 5 miles from my house. I was told a tow truck from River’s Edge would get there, but it might take up to 3 hours! After an hour wait I decided to try starting the Ferrari again, and got it started! Just then I got a call from River’s Edge, and they informed me that they would not be coming at all. No explanation, but I think I know the reason; the Ferrari is over their insurance limit, which tops out around $125,000. This is an issue I am sure other collectors must have experienced.
….we, old car lovers, must be seen as slightly masochistic, finding thrill in never knowing whether we will make to our destination or not.
Bought a 1955 Nash Rambler Super, sight o seen, from EBay, in Maine. Talked my wife into flying to Boston and visit for a couple days, hop on Amtrack to Portland, Me and drive the car back to Chicago, our home then. BIG MISTAKE!….lost all brake power approaching a busy intersection in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “Emergency” brake was of no use. Luckily, or miraculously rather, I managed to coast into the nearby gas station, not hitting anyone or anything.
I still love my Nash, along with my Citroën 2CV….gotta be nuts!
Keith, you triggered a nearly 40 y/o memory / nightmare when i was working for a Citroen Dealer in Santa Monica California as young apprentice. The shop owner asked me to run Lorne Greene (star of Bonanza) home after he had brought his 1972 Pallas Convertible in for service. Sadly, on what should have been the 15 minute return trip to the shop, the Pallas did exactly what your Citroen did…..it just shut down,….no warning. I was mortified. There of course were no cell phones in 1977. No Road Side assistance. I walked the 10 miles back to the shop. Upon my return, the manager, who incidentally was not at all surprised about the break down, said to call Mr. Greene on the phone and tell him he was correct, it is the fuel pump.
To this day, I treasure every ride i’ve ever taken in a Citroen, even the extended ones.
Reminds me of the term you used on What’s My Car Worth for cars that have gone through restoration but needing time to be “Fetteled” with to sort out the gremlins and issues that arise post resto Keith. Just learning of your health challenges and wishing you all the best for a positive recovery going forward.
Regardless of the roadside dramas associated with older cars, there is always a sense of adventure. I’ve owned and driven a DS21, A Dyanne Truckette, two DS Safari Wagons, a GS (in England) and currently a ’55 Traction Avant. I drove the TA from near Toronto to Miami Beach a few years ago and finished the last of the return trip on a flatbed. The TA got a huge reception when I joined in the Saturday evening ‘cruise’ along Ocean Blvd. It provided bold relief to the endless parade of Lambos, Ferraris, Vettes and ‘Stangs…