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A Customers Tale

A Customers' Tale - a short, true, story.    

Not long married, and in the early 80's whilst battling our way home from work in the Birmingham rush hour,  sitting comfortably in my Renault 30 2.7v6 and following one of those funny French "upside down pram" jobbies - the ones with the bicycle wheels - my life was about to be shattered!  A voice beside me blurts out...... "we could sell this car, pocket the cash, buy a new 2CV, borrow the money, and with what we would save on fuel and insurance still be better off each month.  WHAT!, I cant remember what she wanted to spend "the cash" on, but surely nothing was worth that sacrifice.

Somehow, and I cant remember how, we both ended up in a Citroen dealership. I found myself pawing all over a 2CV Charleston, and within minutes ridicule was turning into sheer fascination. This little car was about to turn everything I new about cars....... upside down! Now I was seeing the "pram" the "right way up", it all started making a lot of sense - and more like the work of true artist than a product from Mothercare.

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So, it was ordered, a two tone grey Charleston, B60 AON - better known as Charlie, (I hadn't quite got the hang of being original at that point), arrived on 1st August 1984 and the love affair started in earnest. I will never forget "the first time", but unlike most new experiences it never became boring just because it became routine. So many memories, so many laughs. This was something else altogether, and I was loving every moment of it.

Most, but NOT all good things come to an end, so I traded the wife in for a newer model in 1987 - A Bamboo, "Hugo", E678 UGO. Yes, Charlie had become my wife after the Homo Sapien version had decided a guy at work had more to offer than I did - still don't know what it was, but I had my new mistress (the name was just to confuse people - I'm about as gay as I am black, not that I object to either, you understand) - and didn't care!

Hugo and I had some great times together, but less than 12 months later I did the dirty on her - and dumped her for "Ava" - E940 AVO, a maroon and black Charleston. Ava featured the "hatchback" option enabling her to better look after our new arrival Ben. Ben was a St. Bernard puppy, and Ava's back seat lived in the garage!

I didn't feel too bad about Hugo though, I sold her at less than 12 months old, but shortly afterwards saw her driving around in a nice shiny black paint job. I reckoned that anyone who resprayed a nearly new car was probably going to have done a good job and intending looking after her!  

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The three of us, Ava, Ben and I, were all getting on great, but I was in my late 20's by now and things were progressing at work. this was a double edged sword, because I was rewarded with............ a brand new Volvo Estate in August 1989 (G110 CUY - don't think it had a name, cant think why). Four times the price of a new 2CV, but it still felt like losing your best friend. Never mind, things move on - the divorce had left me tight for cash and I couldn't justify running Ava as a second car and pay the dreaded taxes on the company car.

Not to worry I think, in a couple of years time I can take on a mistress again. Instead I found a Wife, Lynn, and Citroen stopped producing the 2CV. Lynn was neither French nor particularly keen on taking Ben out in the countryside, but we got married in '92 and found a new passion - travel. The States, the Caribbean, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Hong Kong, China, Peru, Bolivia, Vietnam the list goes on - not to mention the honeymoon in ICELAND!

Ever felt you were being followed?  Well I think that in all but two of these countries we saw at least one 2CV, and every sighting brought back the heartache.

In the last throws of 90's Lynn and I gave up our jobs and set up our own business - a big step after just moving house and taking on a large mortgage, but things have been reasonably kind to us and we have both changed our cars regularly. We now have three "new" cars between us, a BMW 730d, a Nissan 350z Roadster and a 4x4 with a big engine that does about 17mpg and I shouldn't really admit to (but it only done 2000 miles a year guv, honest). None, but none of these cars has ever come close to replacing my 2CV's. By now (2005) I was starting to look at Ebay now and again, hoping I might see a decent 2CV - and knowing that if I did, Lynn would not be too keen on the idea - but then, I had converted her to Bob Dylan, real Cider and a few other things I should keep secret, so may be, just may be, I had a chance.

In November 2005 we took over a business in Lancaster, and I was due to visit the following day from our base in Worcestershire. I stole just a few minutes that evening on Ebay, searched for 2CV's, and took a casual look down the listings and what do I see?................

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Ava! Ava!! Ava!!! - E940 AVO........ no it cant be it is! it is!! it is!!! ...... And in PRESTON - not far from Lancaster!

Photos looked good but the auction was very close to the end and I know NOTHING about the costs and practicalities of bring her back to her former glory.  Never mind, I WAS going to see her - and Lynn was coming with me!  As we approached the address the butterflies started,  all quite surreal, how can a car do this?  But then, all who have owned 2CV's know that they are real - yes they live, love, and cry when you leave them. Would she forgive me. Time heals after all, doesn't it - and it is 16 years. It was like going back to see an old lover, with the wife in tow and keen to know what could hold such a tie on my affections.

Ava was great,   well, OK, not quite so great. What do I do, no time to find out if I can give her the love and attention she needs.  In the end I didn't do anything - and spent months regretting it. Not only could I have had a 2CV, but I could have had my Ava back.

What a missed chance, and I really was kicking myself - I should have bought her and if the practicalities of a rebuild were out of the question, I could always have sold her again, and evens chance of getting same sort of money back. Why hadn't I though of that instead of simply "all or nothing", fool, fool!!.

I gave up looking on Ebay for a 2CV. For months it was just ink cartridges and other boring essentials. Then one evening in May 2006, again before a scheduled trip up to Lancaster, and with nothing better to do I decide to try again. It wouldn't be like getting my Ava back - but I couldn't live without a 2CV any longer!

I dare not hope to find Charlie or Hugo, or Ava up for sale again - but why let that stop me re-living the dream.

Top of the list was a Red Special - with a registration number just a handful away form Hugo's - not E678 UGO but E6?? UGO - cant remember the exact number but just a SMALL difference in the number. I read the listing time and time again - it looked a decent motor, and it was the nearest I would get to my Hugo - a car supplied by same dealer, on the same day, with registration numbers just a handful apart.  Unbelievable!

I was tempted to bid, but think, there is plenty of time, lets see what else there is and watch the bids - and return to the main listings.  There were several other 2CV's newly listed, and a nice shiny black one located in Stoke looked interesting, so I read the full listing.

Interesting! - under statement of the century - Hugo! Hugo!! Hugo!!!  Life cant get this good - can it?  Two of my old 2CV's on Ebay within months of each other, both the better part of 20 years and and 16 years after parting!

Do you think I was going to make the same mistake again, no chance!!  OK. OK, OK, what do I do. Plenty of time left on the auction - so first things first, go and see her.  Left Lancaster a little earlier than usual next day and called in to see her.  looked pretty good - some untidy welding and a bit tatty round the edges, but looking better than Ava - probably because of the extra coats of paint!.  Replacement galvanised chassis and an new MOT.

Now, got to get this right - where are the specialists, who can I talk to?  A quick Google search found The 2CV Shop in Somerset.  This is getting exciting now, I have the bit between my teeth and I am going to pull those two horses back to where they belong!.  Got chatting to Darren at The 2CV Shop and went straight down to see him  Darren told me how much he though that the car was worth, but was well aware that there was an element of "value added" to me!  This is all getting very real...... I have to have her!  I HAVE to have her!

Darren gave me the low down on prices for a complete rebuild, and I was going to accept nothing less. I knew where I stood - except there were no guarantees of winning the auction without bidding silly money, it's sure going to be a nail biting finish to the auction!

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How do I play this? bid silly money now and risk others pushing me up more than necessary because they are tempted to bid again when outbid - or leave it to the last few seconds and then bid a little more than I expect it to go for and hope! Second option seems better, I reckon I can play this one right - as long as my broadband connection holds up!

Darren had suggested top price is £1200, the bidding was at £900 with seconds to go but I had to assume someone else was doing the same as me - so with less than 10 seconds to go I bid £1471, thinking (HOPING!) no one else is going to put in a figure almost £500 above the current price with seconds to go! the gamble pays off - I win at just over the £1200 mark, and Hugo is coming home for some well deserved pampering! I am not going to go on and on about the work that Frome have done, just look at her picture! She is more beautiful than she ever was, and you know, she is with me for life. 

I cant say that I had no niggling worries whilst the rebuild was underway, had I forgotten the bad bits and were all my great memories artificially inflated. What was it really going to be like to drive a 2CV again? Of course, the first few hundred yards put these worries well and truly to bed.

Hugo now has a friend, well more of a much loved Granny really, in the name Flusie - FSL 952, a 1960 425cc Ripple Bonnet. Not many men go out with a girl and her granny, but I don't think any one objects, and you know what, I don't care if they do!

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