Greg's involvement with the CitroŽn D series
Greg's diary
Greg's photos
Greg's home page
Greg's links
When I was younger, I was a keen car enthusiast and a CitroŽn fan. That wasn't a coincidence: in 1958 my father, then in the newly independent Federation of Malaya, bought what he thought was a worn-out car which he would run into the ground and then replace with something else. It was a CitroŽn 11CL8, known in France as Traction (avant), i.e. front wheel drive (the only car of that kind at the time). In England, it was known as the Big Fifteen. The car, registration AA 8860, had previously been used to tow gliders at Ipoh Airport.

By 1963, two things had become clear:

By this time were planning a trip to Europe, and the taxation laws were such that it made a lot of sense to buy a car in Europe, use it to drive round Europe for a couple of months, and then import it to (now) Malaysia as a used car. Accordingly my father ordered a CitroŽn ID 19P from Henry Ang Agency in Singapore, to be collected in Paris in August 1963. He did this (no mean feat, since French factories are closed for all of the month of August. He then drove it to Hamburg, where my mother was waiting with my sister and me. We drove it round Europe, and four years later drove it from Singapore to London. In each case we subsequently shipped the car back to Malaysia.

In February 2007, I was contacted by Pierre Jammes, who maintains a web site DS in Asia. He asked me some questions about the trip and the cars. Since they're of more general interest, I have decided to put the answers online:

why the trip ? I understand from your diary that you wanted to study in Europe; but would't it have been possible to fly ? Was driving accross Asia a purpose in itself ?

At the time I was about to start my university studies in Hamburg (coincidentally the same town where I first sat in a D series car). My father and I had thought it would be fun to drive there. So yes, driving was a purpose in itself.

why the DS ? Was it the family car then ? Did you have other options ?

Well, firstly it was an ID 19, not a DS. And yes, it was the family car. But there was more to it than that. My father's work (original architect of the FLDA) required him to drive all over the Malay Peninsula, along some very bad roads, and the ID was ideal for that. We thought—correctly, as we found out—that it would also be the ideal vehicle for the Asia trip.

Was your father a fan of this car, of driving ?

My father enjoyed driving, and he certainly liked the CitroŽns, but I think he was less of a fan than I was.

What was the family doing in Malaysia (or was it Singapore ?) ? How long did you stay in Malaysia ?

My father was an architect, and he spent most of his working life in Malaya and Malaysia. We went there in 1954, and he finally left Malaysia in 2000. He worked for the Government until the mid-1960s, and was in private practice from them until about 1974. A related story is the Beach of Passionate Love.

do you have details about the car: type (ID19 ?), build (UK ?), colour. When did you purchase it and where ?

As mentioned above, it was an ID 19P made in Paris. I think that by this time they were no longer assembling D series cars in England (Slough). It was white.

How and when was it brought to Malaysia ?

Shipped from England to Port Swettenham (now Port Kelang).

Were there many of them in that country then ?

Quite a few. I knew of at least 8 in the Kuala Lumpur area, including a DS Prestige belonging to the French ambassador.

What happened to the car after you reached Europe ? You write your father drove it over a cliff in South Malaysia in 1972. Does it mean you or someone else drove it all the way back ?

Again, it was shipped from England to Port Swettenham, for a second time.

What are your personal memories and impression about the car ?

There's too much to say about that here. At the time, it seemed to be the ideal car.

It seems that you know a lot about cars (cf the hydraulics failure which you could solve, in your diary).

Yes, I have quite a good understanding of the CitroŽn hydropneumatic system. In subsequent years it has helped me persuade ignorant mechanics of the problems my car experienced.

Did you or your parents own another DS ?

My father, then living in Singapore, bought a DS 21 Pallas (manual transmission) in about 1973. He later took it to Australia, where I drove it around the South and East of the country in December 1977/January 1978:

Click on the picture to see a medium-size version in the index

I had a DS 21 Pallas from December 1975 to February 1977 and a DS 23 Palla from February 1977 to October 1981. Both were carburettor models with hydraulic gear change.

Did you cross any DS during your trip ?

No. It's interesting to note what cars we did meet: almost only Land Rovers and Volkswagen buses. The Volkswagens made it through, much slower than we did. The Land Rovers were no faster, but they all failed with damage to the differential. It has put me off the idea of heavy “four wheel drive” vehicles for life, not because I think that modern vehicles have the same problems, but because it's indicative of the triumph of appearance over technology.

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