Sunday, June 13, 2010

Super French (Citroen Renault) car collection (Part 3 of 3)/French car collector interview

Click here for Part 1.
Click here for Part 2.

You've seen the cars.  Now, here is my interview with the man behind those cars-- Ron.

Disclaimer: This is based on a conversation we had so the answers are not verbatim.

1. Why do you love cars?
Very simple.  I like different cultures and a car embodies the culture of wherever it came from.  For example, with the French, the attitude is "We don't care what others think; we're going to solve problems our own way."  With Americans, it's about volume, and selling cars cheap.  With the Japanese, it's miniaturization.  The Germans are mechanical and inventive, but not good at electronics.  The Italians are sexy.

2. Why French cars?
I'm fascinated by the way the French tackle problems.  For example, there are bad roads in France.  The Citroen 2CV tackles the problem with an extremely simple design.  On the other end of the spectrum, the Citroen DS tackles the same problem with a very complex design.  The DS is over-the-top.  Whatever the French do, they do it their own way.

3. You are downsizing your collection from a height of 32 cars.  Why are you culling the herd, so to speak?
Life is like an arc.  In the beginning, it's all about acquisitions.  Then, you reach the top.  As you get older, you deal with loss and giving up things.  It's about dealing with the loss, whether it be family members or friends, or material things, gracefully.  You come to realize that material things are not as important and it just makes life complicated.

4. What would you say to the potential Citroen/Renault owner who is hesitant about taking the plunge?
You only live once.  You'll never have any other experience like it.  If you're not afraid of what other people think, you'll truly enjoy it.

5. Where and how do you find these low mileage cars?  
I know a Frenchman in England named Olivier at French Classics, Ltd.  He knows what I like and will alert me to cars.  He will go to France, pick up the car, drive it to England, and ship it to me.

6. What advice would you give prospective buyers?
First, familiarize yourself with the history and purpose of the car.  If you don't know why a car was made, you may be disappointed.  For example, was it designed to be a luxury car, a farmer's car, or a family car?  Second, make sure you have a mechanic who is capable of working on your car already lined up.  Third, join a car club.  In the States, the members are very helpful and want to keep the brand alive here so they will do anything and everything to support you and your car.

7. Where do you get your parts?
Western Hemispheres in Watsonville.  Ebay.  Specialist stores and websites based in English speaking countries-- U.K., New Zealand, and Australia.

8. When you drive one of these classics, what is one tool you always bring with you?
Everyone says fan belt, but I've never needed one.  I would say a cell phone (no joke).

9. (From Alan) What do you think of "modern" French cars?  Ever tempted to import a Citroen C6 or Peugeot 607?
I am a New Zealand resident and own a C6 there.  (Ed.: *Jaw drops*)

9.1. They are not in the same category, but how would you compare your Audi A8L W12 with your diesel C6?
The C6's ride is soft, like the DS's.  But with the aid of computers, it does not roll as much as a DS.  The C6 rides better than the A8 and it has just as much room.  The C6 does not handle or accelerate as well as the A8, but it does get better fuel economy.

10. (From Alan) Can the average Joe with average mechanical skills and a modest budget realistically afford to keep something like a DS or a CX in running condition?
Absolutely.  My advice would be to buy a DS immediately because it is surging in value.  Ever since the DS's 50th anniversary in 2005, people have become more aware of it.  Younger buyers are fascinated by its unusual qualities and are realizing the car's importance.  The CX will never be as appreciated as much, but it is easier and cheaper to maintain.

11. What will your collection look like in two years?  In twenty years?
In two years, I will have gotten rid of a lot of the quirky cars like the Simca and the R16s.  I will be keeping the cars that are appreciating in value, i.e. the DSs.  In twenty years?  I don't know, I'll just let things happen.  Under one scenario, I may have no cars, because my mechanic Lon Price will have retired by then.  Under the second scenario, I may have a collection of really unusual cars, like the four-door Citroen SM (the Opera) or some DS Chaprons.

Again, thanks Ron!


Alan said...

"How do you feel about the C6?" "I own one" - lol/zomg

Thanks so much for including my questions, and for the other very interesting ones as well. Did he elaborate on the DS maintenance answer at all?

This was by far the coolest car feature I've read on a blog in all of 2010.

Maxichamp said...

Thanks for the compliment. I posted this in the #offtopic section of Jalopnik yesterday and got some really cool feedback. It was a true pleasure to see the cars of my dreams and to share them with like minded people.

Ron did not go in depth into DS maintenance that much. I read It's written by a Kiwi living in Belgium. I suspect the author is like us (30-40 years old with a fondness for cars) and bought a DS with more problems than he bargained for. It's interesting to see his thought process as he deals with the issues.

Alan said...

What's your Jalop identity? I'm bugattatra.

30, married, obsessed. I'll check that blog out, thanks again.

Maxichamp said...

I'm Maxichamp:

Metropolis3303 said...

Hi Alan,
The DS maintenance is not hard at all as long as you keep up on the LHS fluid flushes and you have a mechanic that's familiar with the Citroen Suspension. The steering rack sometimes leak, the Citromatic makes it a little more complicated, but really, if you don't have one and you want one, take the plunge. Call Lon at 831 476 8395. He's a great guy. He's always VERY busy but is generous with someone who wants to get a good DS.
Take Care,

Alan said...

Thanks for the hookup Ron. When I'm ready. hopefully not too long in the future, I'll give Lon a ring.

Andrew said...

Wonderful. NZ resident? Which part of NZ? I see a few C6's there. I'm from Masterton. I'll be very tempted to buy a C6 when I move back to Australia as they depreciate like a rock falling off a cliff so secondhand ones are very affordable.

Metropolis3303 said...

Hi Alan,
I have an apartment in Auckland in the CBD. The C6 is a 2007, Storm Grey with Alezen Vitelli interior. (A fancy way to say "Baseball Glove" color)
Oh, I know it depreciates and if I were you I would buy a used one with low miles. I've had no trouble with mine. I think they really took their time with the C6.

Alan said...

Wow, thank you Ron.

Someday when I'm old and gray and they're legal for import I'd love to own one. In the meantime I'll keep trying to get my hands on a DS. A real cherry slipped through my fingers recently, but has only reignited my determination.

Maxichamp said...

@Alan: There's a real dog of a DS for sale in Pacifica (Bay Area) for $3,500. It's on Craigslist.

joshua schwarz said...

great series and ron has the right attitude. just a fantastic collection. i see a few 2cv's here in manhattan and an occassional ds. i imagine they are great with potholes. i was thinking that someday i'd like to own something simple that i could wrench myself, perhaps a dyane. ah, to dream...

Unknown said...

And what Ron said about XM? I know it's not a old timer yet but it`s wery specyfic and beautiful car.

Ben Was Here Or There said...

I saw a yellow Mehari in Manhattan once, immaculate, parked on a side street! But nonetheless, bravo on the content of this (and other) post.

Maxichamp said...

@Ben: Thanks! Stick around for a while, why don't you?