Four years ago you published two letters from me entitled “The New Citroëns—Where They Fail.” You may like to hear how they have progressed in Africa since then.
A car may win the Monte (though not the Safari) and still have glaring faults in general use when weather, time and third-rate agents have time enough to wreck it.
A staunch believer in Citroëns—and a glutton for punishment—I had a tough old French-made Light 15 which was replaced by one of the earliest DS19s in Africa. The faults I listed then still exist except for the dangerously excessive up and down movement which has gone.
After four years the DS went in part-exchange for a French Safari which has now done 20,000 miles—the world’s best station-wagon backed by the world’s worst spares and service organisation. What a car—spacious, brilliantly designed, safe, more commodious than any other including the gargantuan Yanks with their pitiful headroom—and what a let-down when trouble starts.
Just out of guarantee the battery failed due to faulty manufacture. A new one was fitted—I paid. Faulty assembly of the rear suspension units needed rectifying early in the life of the car. At 10,000 miles the high-pressure pump oil seals went. Spare pump? Spare seals? Not in Southern or Central Africa. Citroën, Slough, made the greatest servicing offer of 1962—you take off your pump and send it to us by sea—we will recondition it and return it, also by sea. THEY REFUSED TO SEND A PUMP OR SEALS WITHOUT RECEIVING MINE FIRST and they had obviously never heard of air freight. Result: car unserviceable for two months until Citroën, Paris, supplied a few pump kits.
13,000 miles: clutch thrust bearing went (a weak point in these cars due to impoverished lubrication). Any available? Not on your life. Luckily a crashed car was in the garage and they gave me the bearing out of that.
15,000 miles: fuel line blockage from disintegration of the lining paint of the tank (a Citroën fault for years and years, which also happened on the DS) so out comes the tank and in goes an extra fuel filter.
18,000 miles: petrol pump packed up—defective diaphragm. Miraculously a spare was available, which took me only another 1,000 miles before one of the non-return springs integral with the pump and supposed to last the life of the pump, broke. Could get a new pump? No, not in the whole of Rhodesia and South Africa. Result—off the road again.
So here I am with my third Citroën—a World-beating station-wagon backed by no spares, no factory support and negligible agencies.
This cannot go on. Much though I love my Citroëns, it is the end of the road for them. With great regret I shall part-exchange my white elephant for something sturdy and well supplied with spares, which here means Peugeot, Mercedes, VW Microbus or a dreadful wallowing thirsty Yank which will at least have an engine capable of 100,000 trouble-free miles and spares when I need them.