There were more Citroëns than drivers on a Saturday morning. The task at hand was a good one. Settle into the plush appointments behind the steering wheel of a 1969 and-one-half Citroën iD21F Safari Wagon and drive. The mission was to get all cars on the move to the Pasadena Art Center College of Design for a gathering of Citroëns, and subsequent tour of the Art Center automotive design facilities. After a few tries at a recalcitrant starter button and a couple minutes of warming up for the DS21 hemi-head engine, the wagon was up on its haunches and ready to swallow the road ahead. The wagon we were driving belongs to one Andy Takakjian, who would be piloting his other DS – a 1969 and-one-half iD 19 Series B Sedan in green that would lead the way on the first leg of the safari. Destination? Pasadena.
The wagon was loaded up with gas, oil and painted wooden baguettes for maximum effect. Out on the road the four-speed on the column was easy enough to row through. The veteran four-banger under the hood was no powerhouse, but offered up smooth and locomotive-like forward motion. Push button braking was unfamiliar, but not a problem once acclimated to a hydropneumatic sensibility. The turn signal lever was right where a left hand would expect it to be. Below it is a shorter lever that activates the commanding note of the horn. The dual-tone announcement sealed the idea that this wagon is exactly what Captain Haddock would drive off the docks upon return from a sea voyage chasing villains from the orient smuggling crab tins stuffed with opium. For now we were driving, and ready to bellow Ectoplasm! or Visigoth! at any unfortunate hipster blocking the Safari’s path through Eagle Rock.
The next leg of the tour brought us closer to the Art Center and in line with yet another DS21 – this one a beauty in red from 1972, owned and operated by SoCal Citroën Club VP Paul Secord. After some coffee and conversation pertaining to the ongoing maintenance of old French automobiles, the 1972 led the way up the hill to the site of the event. It was over a few bumps and through the many off camber corners meandering up from the Rose Bowl that the hydropnematic suspension shone above that of a ordinary automobile. Speed bumps and potholes are no cause for concern. The three full-size French automobiles negotiated the curves up to the Art Center with a precision usually reserved for harshly sprung sports cars, but with a ride reminiscent of the most cushy of seventies American luxo-barges. The lush float of a 1973 Plymouth Fury and the crisp handling of a 1981 Honda Prelude forged together into a car that Captain Haddock would drive. Incroyable!
Once on the grounds passerby and students alike marveled at the modern luxury that is the DS. A couple of 2CV variants joined their more modern contemporaries, and then the entire gathering ventured into the building for a tour led up by Art Center College of Design Chair Stewart Reed. The deluxe nature of a Citroën DS Pallas came together with the design and art work of the students with a few sentences from Transportation Design department staffer and Audi VW Group Chief Designer Jae Min, who eloquently suggested that in modern automotive design, “Form does not follow function. Form is function”. This would go far to explain the near-amidships reverse mounted Maserati engine and nitrogen charged spheres under the hood of club member Fred’s beyond merely stylish Citroën SM. The picnic lunch was pretty tasty too.