Thursday, August 19, 2010

Before Judith Reiter returned to the U.S. in 1989 she lived in France for 20 years. While there, she became infatuated with the little Citroen camionettes that were seemingly on every street in every community. She says the British descriptively call the 12-foot-long French vehicles truckettes. The five-foot-wide Citroens conveniently fit the French streets.

Once in the United States she purchased a passenger car version of the Citroen 2CV and soon learned that Citroen aficionados gathered annually, with their vehicles, at the “Saratoga Rendezvous” in New York.

In the summer of 2003, while attending the Rendezvous, she saw a beige 1972 Citroen. Every minute detail on the vehicle intrigued her. She thought mounting the headlights on a single bar that could be rotated to adjust the light beams was a clever idea. Of course the mud flaps behind the front wheels was a nice touch as was the side-to-side air vent below the one piece windshield. The push-pull, twist and push and pull some more gear shift lever protruding from the dashboard was the clincher.

She decided she had to have it and before the event concluded the Citroen was hers.

A large truck was to deliver the Citroen to her Silver Spring home but the closest the driver could get his huge truck was the Wheaton Plaza parking lot.

Close enough.

Ms. Reiter drove it home from there with the .6-liter, two cylinder engine churning out 29 horsepower.

The five-foot-wide truck body fits snugly behind the front bucket seats while the entire vehicle is supported by 15-inch wheels, each one attached to the hub by three lug nuts. The diminutive truck rides on a 94-inch wheelbase.

The spare tire is hidden from view behind a panel between the driver’s door and the left rear tire.

Ms. Reiter discovered that the truck had entered the United States and was first sent to an undisclosed midwest location. That was followed by a move to New England and then to New York where she bought it and it now resides in Maryland.

She reports gas mileage around town of about 40 mpg.

“It can go 60 with my foot to the floor,” the owner says, adding that the ride is “scary.”

She says 55 mph is fine, but even that speed is scary.

She is a member of a community garden group in Rock Creek Park and finds her truck just the right size to tote her gardening tools and haul the fruits of her labor home after the harvest.

When backing her truck Ms. Reiter must be cautious because the rear bumper is basically a round pipe that appears to be mounted to the sheet metal below the rear door.

The front bumper, below the trademark three-bar grille, is painted the same beige color as the body. The bumper guards have protective rubber inserts.

From the command seat behind the two-spoke steering wheel, Ms. Reiter says, “Visibility is an issue.” The side windows in the cargo area of the truck are positioned not to be of any assistance to the driver.

In cool weather Ms. Reiter says she gets plenty of heat from the engine and some fumes as well.

Antique vehicle events in Pennsylvania at Carlisle and at Hershey are attractions that Ms. Reiter likes to attend.

When she drives her truck there she gets an early start, brings her Citroen to life by pushing the starter butter, releases the hand brake and points her truck north.

On some of the hills, she says, “I get a running start.”

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