My first French car was a 1979 GS 1220 Pallas in 1985. I wanted an air cooled car as I'd had enough of the smell of antifreeze. Beetles were most expensive and rotten whereas Citroens were cheap and rotten. Fantastic car. Really quick. Radio where the handbrake should be - so handbrake where the radio should be. Huge boot - I loved the way the bumper lifted with the boot lid. I had the spheres recharged. Then the accumulator sphere let go in a big cloud of green mist. Since then I have always just replaced them. I did 50 miles each way commutes in that - 6 months from Epsom to Finchley and back, then 6 months from Epsom to Gillingham. A window fell out and a headlamp glass fell off. Not much else went wrong. I got to love non-cancelling indicators.
Next up was a seriously scruffy 1980 CX 2500D Super. Moon and back mileage - probably ex-taxi by the holes in the dash. That car had to do Sittingbourne to Southend and back every day which was about 60 miles each way, including the Dartford Tunnel. The handbrake and radio were back where they normally are, but this car had the rotating drums and the knights helmet ash tray. It had been Ziebarted from new - which had not saved it from having rust all over it. A white, unwashed, rusty diesel was the best way to make headway in the Dartford tunnel toll madness. For some reason people would just let me through. A hydraulic pipe let go in the tunnel once and the big red STOP light came on - can't miss it in the gloom of the tunnel but I carried on until I reached daylight.
I went to the breakers for something once and came back with a gold 1978 CX 2400 Familiale C-Matic with a brown vinyl roof. It had a big smash in the NSF corner and was missing the steering box. I was going to break it for spares but it was far more solid than the diesel (even without the benefit of Ziebart) so I went back to the breakers for a headlight, bumper and a bonnet. I used the diesel to pull the front corner back where it was supposed to be and then took the steering box out of the diesel and put it in the Familiale. That showed me that there was something wrong with the Diesel's steering - it did not weight up with speed. The governor cable was missing. So I got another steering box and a cable from the breakers and put them into the Diesel. Then I discovered how good Diravi steering is. These were the days when there were loads of CXs in breakers. All rusty or crashed.
I did loads of miles in the Diesel. It began to lose oil. The glow plugs gradually failed and it more and more cranking to start it. So the starter motor failed. I had to leave the engine running on a visit to my parents because i didn't think it would start. An hour or so running left quite a big puddle of engine oil on my parents' drive. Remember it was a need to get away from leaky cooling systems that got me into Citroens? I was reminded about this when, somewhere in France, the debubbler exploded. With no garages or breakdown service working at the weekend I had to replumb the cooling system, blocking off a pipe with the extension from my socket set, leaving us with no heater. Turns out it gets cold in Andorra even in the Summer.
C-Matic was fun. Although after a while the drive would disengage on right turns and roundabouts. The engine was on the move. Before I got around to shifting it back to where it was supposed to be the driveshaft tri-lobe popped out and all drive was lost. I scrapped it and swapped the front doors and bonnet onto the diesel which I then painted with Japlac and sold - in the dark.
This was replaced with a brand new red and white 2CV Dolly. Somebody had to buy these brand new and that somebody was me. This was good fun but I was disappointed to read the "Made in Portugal" sticker. I had to take it back to the dealer to have rust sorted out under warranty. I had to replace the silencer when it was only 18 months old. The dealer was rubbish. So I sold the car within 2 years and thought that was it for me and Citroens.
But it wasn't. A few years later, in about 1992, I bought a 1984 CX GTi Turbo. This was a Series 1 car with painted metal bumpers. It didn't have the drum speedo, but everything else was perfect Series 1. An excellent car. Slightly less excellent after I rammed a Calibra with it. I kept it until I got a company car. The CX was great to drive. A front tyre let go at about 80 and, even though the tyre tread parted from both sidewalls, I could easily keep control. The electrics weren't great - I regularly had to thump some relays when it would not start. But it was fantastic to drive.
Around this time my wife needed to get rid of her 127 which she replaced with a GSA. The previous owner's dog had eaten the rear seats so we got a replacement set from somewhere. Despite having a bigger engine, 5 speed box and hatchback - or maybe because of all that - it was not as good as the GS. It was slower and the boot was not as useful. Kids came along so it was replaced with a nearly new 1.9 NA ZX. That was a great car. But boring. I wrote a column on the ZX for the Citroen Car Club magazine for four years - no idea how... Nothing ever interesting happened to it or any other ZX ever.
And that's when the Traction Avant turned up. Which I still have. Several years later we got a Renault Scenic and an Alfa 156. The Scenic was a Y-reg facelift Mk1 2000cc auto top of the range thing with 2 sunroofs and picnic tables. The whole car was made of kit-kat wrappers. It wan an ex-mobility car which had had a hand throttle. This had been put back to standard before we bought it but they hadn't remapped the throttle pot so the car became progressively more difficult to drive. This took the garage several goes to properly diagnose. After that was fixed it was a great thing to drive. We took that everywhere - very quick and comfy. Gradually things broke or stopped working. The hazard warning lights would start to flash on their own volition. I'm sure that was an earth problem but couldn't find it. The car was really quick. Until the auto box crapped out after about 90k miles. Then we scrapped it and got a Golf.
Soon after the Scenic died, so did my Alfa (OMGHGF), which I replaced with a 1972 DSuper. That shares daily driving duties with the Traction. The D demonstrates that the only thing worse than French electrics are old French electrics. The Traction gets away with it because there's so little wiring and none of it uses bullet connectors. The D has loads of them, all getting a bit crusty, and the wiring diagram and colouring are just dreadful. Both the D and the Traction will need a bit of welding soon - neither of them have had any yet.
So, that's my French car history. Apologies for rambling on.