Citroen DS Tail light

The rear bumper bar has been ready for fitting since February.  I had not yet mounted it was one of my tail light housings was not working and I figured its easier to replace this with the bar off the car.   A friend in the Citroen Club gave me a used one, which was better than what I had, but also not working.   My next option was to purchase a reproduction part.   The quality of reproduction parts for the DS can be quite spotty, so I was interested to see what the reproduction DS tail light assembly would be like.

On the whole, it looks like an exact copy, but I am a bit disappointed in it.    For starters, the bullet connectors were of a different size and type than the ones used in the DS, so I had to replace them.   The quality of the plastic didn’t seem that great either.

Reproduction Part

We will see how it goes.   The lens is not nearly as faded as the original unit, so I may swap my original lens with the one that came with this reproduction assembly.   The good news is that it mounted properly and works (once I replaced the bullet connectors).   The repro units do not come with bulbs, but all my bulbs were working from before the crash.

Rear Lights

I tried to mount the bumper next, but after putting a small scratch on one of my rear wings.  They will need to be removed to prevent further damage.

I had also ordered a reproduction light assembly for the rear drivers side indicator.    At the same time I also ordered the proper rubber part to isolate the ‘trumpet’ from the rest of the car.   The previous owner had just cut a piece of round rubber and glued it.   The right rubber piece is more of a V shape.   The lens is also held in through a metal strip with a specific bend.   Mine were rather out of shape, so I added a couple of them into my order and this made it much easier to mount the lights.


The first photo shows the improvised rubber part and the second shows the correct one.  I needed to use a razor blade to remove all the old glue from the trumpet.

rear trumpet

The main challenge I have now is the electrics.   At first the indicators were working great.    There is something screwy still going on with the wiring in the car.    When the headlights are turned on, the left hand indicator in the dashboard lights up.  In addition, that side does not work from the stalk.   The front works on the right side, but only the front.   More troubleshooting here is needed.

Citroen DS front end wiring – part 3

Before I can get the DS back on the road, I need to sort out the front end wiring.    This controls the headlights, indicators, horns etc.   There is obviously something wrong here as I had been seeing strange behaviour in the lights.   I spent some time on this late last year, and made only minimal progress.   I had some suggestions to check the grounds.   At the time I cleaned them and while they did look dirty it did not seem to make much difference.

To test properly, I bought a proper test light.   This did allow me to more easily identify some of the wires and get basic stuff like the indicators hooked up.   I also got the side lights working correctly.    Headlights and main beams appear to be hooked up properly but one side is still not nearly as bright as the other.    This is especially apparent on high beam.

Citroen DS dipped beam

Citroen DS Main Beam

The first photo is the dipped beam and the second is the main beam.   The driver side is great, the passengers side still needs some work.   I was also not able to get the driving lights working yet.   I need to check, but it does not look they are using relays like the main and dipped beam.    It may be worth adding relays for these lights as well.    The Citroen DS headlights are very good for a car of its age (when they are working properly).

At least the lights are not staying on after the switch is turned off, and the light switch actuating the horn, so some progress has been made!

W107 windscreen washer pump

The windscreen washer has not been working on my 450SLC for a couple of months.    The wipers started up, but no water squirted on the windscreen.   On quick inspection, I assumed it was the pump as it was rather rusty.   The W107 windscreen washer pump is a poor design in my view.   It appears that the motor is below where the water is sucked in, so any minor leakage gets into the mechanism and it rusts out.

W107 windscreen washer pump

Since I purchased the car in 2003, I am now on my 3rd pump.   They are not expensive, at around $60, but Mercedes OEM parts normally last better than that.   The upside of this is that the pump can be changed in 10 minutes.   It mounts to the left of the radiator and is removed with an 8mm socket.

A quick test and I now have a working windscreen washer.  The washer has never worked on my DS, so once I get that car back on the road I will investigate.

Citroen DS boot struts

When I completed the boot lid last week, I forgot an important part.   The boot lid struts!  I was going through my parts box last night to mount the window cranks and noticed them.   The boot struts keep the boot lid open.  They are quite simple, consisting of a spring inside a tube.   This means the Citroen DS boot struts do not wear out like gas struts used in modern cars.

They are quite easy to fit, just two bolts per side.  These are the same bolts that hold the boot lid to the hinge.   The spring tension keeps the struts mounted to the car.  I started out needing to fit three crates of parts to the car, now there are only a few pieces at the bottom of one.

Citroen DS boot struts

The Citroen DS has quite a clever design.   When the boot is open, it is still possible to see past it and reverse the car.  The shape of the boot lid allows for a clear view behind.   The boot on a DS21 is supposed to be lined.   The lining kits are available from the usual suspects.   However, I’ve never fitted the trim as DS are not particularly watertight and I am worried that it would just trap moisture and promote rust.

My next task was to install the window cranks.   I found I was missing some parts so had to abandon those plans.   My car is a 1970 DS Comfort, but it had the handles for a 1962-1964 DS.   I purchased the correct handles, but they did not come with the plastic mounting cups or locking pins.   I have now ordered those parts.   In the same order, I have also splurged on a reproduction tool kit for the car as well.

The car stylists behind my Garage

Today, I was reading an excellent article on Curbside Classic about the legendary Paul Bracq.   Bracq had a long career with Mercedes Benz, BMW, Peugeot.  He also worked at an independent styling house.   Part one covers his time at Mercedes-Benz and part two the rest of his career.   I highly recommend this article.

Bracq was responsible for one of Mercedes-Benz most elegant designs of the post war period, the W111 Coupe/Cabriolet.  He was also integral to the W108/W109, W114/W115 and the W113 Pagoda.     Later in his career he also styled the E24 6 Series, another favourite of mine.

This article got me thinking about the car stylists behind the cars in my garage.   The visual appeal of all the cars I have ever owned are the work of the six individuals below.   It is particularly impressive to think that during the 60s, Mercedes Benz had Geiger, Bracq and Sacco all working in their styling department.

From what I have read, Malcolm Sayer never considered himself a stylist.  He always considered himself an Aerodynamicist.  This is rather ironic as the Jaguar E-type is not especially aerodynamic.  It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cars ever made.

StylistDesignCurrent CarsPrevious CarsOther Notable Designs
David Bache
Rover P5/P5B-1965 Rover P5 MKII CoupeRover P6, Range Rover, Rover SD1
Flamino Bertoni
Citroen DS
Traction Avant
1954 Citroen Traction Avant Light 15
1970 Citroen DS21
-Citroen H Van
Paul Bracq
(1933- )
Mercedes-Benz W111 Coupe/Cabriolet1965 Mercedes-Benz 250SE Cabriolet1967 250SE CoupeMercedes W108, W114/115, BMW E21, BMW Turbo
Frederich Geiger
Mercedes-Benz R/C1071977 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC1982 280CE*, 1985 230E* (* with Sacco)Mercedes 500/540K Roadster, 300SL Gullwing, 600, W110/111 Sedans
Malcolm Sayer
Jaguar E-Type1965 Jaguar E-Type S1-Jaguar XJS, Jaguar C & D Types
Bruno Sacco
(1933- )
Mercedes-Benz W1261986 Mercedes-Benz 300SE1988 & 1989 Mercedes 560SEC, 1982 280CE*, 1985 230E* (* with Geiger)Mercedes W124, W201, C111 Concept

All these men belong on a broader list of the great stylists of the 20th Century.   This is not that list.   There are many others that would need to be considered.   It does highlight how prolific some of these stylists were.  It also shows how so many cars I like were the work of a few individuals.

DS Door trim after paint

Today’s job was to work on the DS door trim.  Most importantly, re-mounting the door cards.   The door cards were new in 2014 and still in great shape.   The grey velour goes very well with the darker shade of red.    Before I mounted them, I took the opportunity to spray the inside of the doors with some fish oil and lubricate the window mechanism.

I also decided to fit new moisture barriers.   The previous ones were not in good shape and new set was not expensive.   Unlike in other cars, the moisture barrier is one one big sheet, but small pieces the cover the inspection holes.

Moisture barriers

There are three per door.   I checked the window alignment again and made some minor updates to the front passengers door before I did the barriers.   The drivers door alignment could use a minor adjustment, but this looks like it is done at the hinge.   The door cards just pop one and what a difference they make.

Door card

The last door trim of the day was fitting some of the rubber covers for the window adjustment mechanism.   The reproduction rubber seemed quite thin, so we will see how well they hold up.   DS reproduction rubber does not have a good reputation.

The window winders go on next.  I didn’t fit them yet as I wanted to review some of my DS books and see which direction they are supposed to face when the window is wound up.   I bought some used window winders at the same time I got the other parts as mine were the wrong type.  This will be the next job.   I have also ordered the parts I need to finalize the rear lights.


Mounting the DS boot lid

The DS is finally looking more like a car, now I have mounted the boot lid.   A couple of weeks ago I prepared the boot lid for mounting.   This involved adding the seal, locking hardware etc.   Today, I added the top seal and then fitted it to the car.  The top seal has metal clips to hold it in place.  Its much easier to add the seal with the metal clips attached rather than trying to remove them.

The first task was to attach the hinges to the boot lid.   There are four bolts and some rubber gaskets between the hinges.   I had already polished up the hinges as best as I could.   The DS hinges are polished aluminum on the non-Pallas models like mine.   While mine are pitted and in average shape, I wasn’t able to find any better ones.  The Pallas ones are chromed, but the metal underneath is fairly poor quality and the chrome flakes off.   Many owners of DS Pallas models try and source the non-Pallas hinges!

The hinge attaches to the car with one bolt each side.   I did a test fitting and it all seemed to fit quite well.  With a few adjustments on each side I was able to get it to latch properly.   The top seal is not a great fit on the drivers side, same as before I disassembled the car.

Test fitting the boot hinges

When I removed the boot lid from the car originally, I first removed the C-pillar trim and then the boot hinges.   Trying to use the same method to-reassemble proved impossible and I lost a few hours.  it was much easier to remove the boot lid again and fit the trims to the hinges.   I purchased a brand new one for the drivers side, and for some reason they don’t come pre-drilled for the indicator ground.   I had to drill a hole in the top for this before fitting it.

New Trim

Once the trims were fitted to the hinge, the the whole assembly could be offered up to the car.   It was a bit fiddly to get it all lined up, but much faster than trying to add the trims after the boot hinges are in place.   Once the assembly is sitting properly, the trims are screwed into the car, and the vertical chrome strip attached.   Both use small screws straight into the body work.   I’m really liking how these new trims look on the car.   Much better than the wavy old ones with bad overspray.

C pillar trim

The indicator trumpets go on next.   These mostly just slide on, there is one screw that is used to hold in the indicator light.   First the main trumpet slides onto the car, then the embellisher is screwed in as part of the indicator light bracket.   Unfortunately, one of the ground wires came out of my indicator light when I was fitting it.  clearly it had already been welded once before, so it is probably better to buy a new one.

indicator trumpet

The final step is installing the actual indicator light and lens.   Since one of them is broken, it will have to wait for another day.   I did refit the rear wings as they only need to be removed to bolt the hinges to the car.    I feel like I made a lot of progress today, with the boot lid mounted, new c-pillar trims etc.   Next step is mounting the door cards to complete the interior.   I would like to get the car back on the road before the end of May if possible.   The DS is not much fun to drive in the heat of summer, but the rest of the year it is great!

Wings attached

Halogen Headlight Upgrade

About 18 months ago, I had my E-Type upgraded from sealed beams to Halogen headlights.  Last night, I took the car on the first extended night drive since the upgrade.    What a difference!

The Halogen upgrade also included relays and wiring directly from the battery to the lights.     Before this upgrade I never felt particularly comfortable driving the car at night.   With this upgrade both the dipped and main beams really illuminate the road.

I took the car on a drive through Galston Gorge and then up the Old Northern road, almost to Wisemans Ferry.   Hawkins lookout is a nice place to stretch your legs and turn around.   This is a nice drive and there was little traffic.   Too bad so many drivers do not dip their beams when there is oncoming traffic.

For anyone who has a classic car with the standard round sealed beams, I highly recommend this upgrade.   I generally like to keep cars stock, but this upgrade increases the drivability (and safety) of the car.  Relays are also a worthy addition to stop all that current going through the headlight switch.   Relays can be added to cars that already have halogen headlights.    The previous owner added relays to my DS and it also has excellent lighting.

2018 Shannons Sydney Autumn Classic Preview

I stopped by the upcoming 2018 Shannons Sydney Autumn Classic auction today to check out the cars on offer.    A big part of this auction is numeric plates.   These have proven to be a good investment for many of the last few years.  Personally I regard them a bit like Bitcoin, the latest fad without fundamentals.  It’s not like you can enjoy driving your #37 number plate even if it loses value.  Lots of people have made money though!   Looking at the cars, some of the more interesting lots were:

Lot 62:  1962 Jaguar E-Type 3.8 OTS

This is a nice looking 3.8 E-Type, with a guiding price of $185,000-$210,000.   It is a nice example and they will probably get it.   E-Types have shot up incredibly in the last few years.  While higher values mean they get saved, it also means many are now in the hands of speculators rather than enthusiasts.

Lot 59:  1975 Mercedes-Benz 450SL

At first some may run away scared with around 450,000 on the clock.   However, with all the work done this car may be good buying.   It is a really period colour (Silver Green) which is not to everyone’s taste, but is in great condition.   The asking price of $28,000-$35,000 is not unreasonable, but the odometer may put some off.

Lot 50: 1998 BMW 840Ci Coupe

The 8 series doesn’t have the same fan base of the earlier 6er, but to me is the most striking BMW to come out of the 90s.   Potentially the E39 M5 may be a better car to live with, but the 8 series has the looks and the V8 is reportedly less problematic than the V12.   The car is estimated at $25,000-$30,000

Lot 52: 1960 Jaguar XK150 FHC

The XK’s used to be similar money to the E-Type, but not anymore.    This nice 3.8 had a guiding range of $85,000-$95,000.   Personally, I prefer the XK140, but the 150 has the advantage of the 3.8 engine and is probably a more usable car.   British Racing Green is probably the best colour for these.   Lighter colours can make them look like a jellybean.

Lot 67:  1933 Rolls Royce Phantom II

The guiding range of $35,000-$50,000 may attract some to what is an extremely desirable pre-war Rolls Royce.   Having sat there since at least the 80s, I suspect the cost to just mechanically recommission this car would be astronomical.   After that you’re still stuck with a fairly dowdy re-body from the 60s.  Apparently there is a photo in the Phantom II book of the original and more attractive body.


S211 Rear Suspension

I don’t feature the E350 Wagon on this site much.     It is the main family car, mostly driven by my wife.   The S211 is (in my view) a much better option than the plethora of SUV’s on the road.   The lower ride height makes loading babies and prams easy and it drives and handles like a proper car.

Just after Christmas, the rear of the car would drop down on one side after the car was not used for a couple of days.   It quickly escalated to dropping down after only a few minutes.  At that time I didn’t understand the S211 rear suspension system so took the time to research it a little.  I didn’t think I had Airmatic on the car, so was quite surprised by this behaviour.

S211 rear suspension sag

I don’t normally do much work on this car, but my mechanic was away for the first few weeks of January.   Turns out that this is a common problem on the S211.   Unlike the S123, S124 and S210, the S211 uses air springs instead of a hydropneumatic system for self levelling.   It is a cut down version of airmatic, just like the older cars used a cut down version of the full hydropenumatic system.     Instead of steel springs, there are two air springs that are fed from an air compressor at the front of the car.   These air springs fail and no longer hold air pressure.   Over time, they also burn out the air compressor as it must run all the time to maintain ride height.

The Mercedes springs are very expensive, but Arnott make an aftermarket spring that apparently has a tougher bladder.   I read good things on the forums about other owners who had used these springs so ordered a pair.

Arnott provide a video explaining how to fit the springs.

The video makes it seem simple, and in some ways it is.   I did spend about 6 hours doing the first spring as there were a few things that were not obvious.   The first was that disconnecting the air line does not remove enough air pressure to remove the spring.   It needs to be manually deflated like a tyre.   I found a dental pick in the air intake was the easiest way to achieve this.   The video also suggests you undo the sway bar linkage and remove it.   I found that wasn’t necessary.   Removing the air line took a while at first, but a 10mm spanner proved easiest.

The new Arnott springs (below on the right) seemed more robust than the springs on the car.  I could not see any Mercedes part numbers, so I assume they have been changed before.

Arnott Air Springs

The job would be simple with an assistant, one person to pull down on the suspension arm and the other to remove/fit the air spring.    I didn’t have one, so found that some plastic tube allowed me to use my weight to pull down on the suspension in a gradual way to perform the job.

S211 rear suspension

The picture above shows this in action.   This was the first side I did, as I removed the sway bar linkage here.    I also found that if you try and test the system with only one side done, you get a malfunction message on the dash.     After all the trial error on the first side, the other side was done in 1/3 the time.    The job is also easier with access to a 16mm and 18mm spanner.  I had those sizes in sockets, but not spanners.

Once I was finished, at first I thought I had stuffed up the job.   When I drove the car home it drove great, but then sank down once I had parked it.  Turns out one of the air lines had come out and everything was back to normal after it was reconnected.   I used a zip tie to attach the air line to the wiring connection as it was before which should hopefully prevent that from happening again.