In 2003, I had the rare opportunity to display my car at the Ottawa-Gatineau International Auto Show.  Here is the story of how it happened – Bob McLeod

During a long winter, Canadians like to fantasize about summer.  That was the idea that Shannon Mannion had when she organized a display of vintage convertibles as part of the 2003 Ottawa-Gatineau International Car Show, March 19-23.   She put out a call for applications in January, expecting to round up a bunch of American convertible from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

On a lark, I sent her an e-mail, and jokingly asked if she considered a Citroen 2CV to be a convertible.  Shannon has had a soft spot for Citroens since she wrote  articles about a couple of our club members in her weekly column “Autobiography”, which appears every Friday in the Driving section of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.  “Sure”, she replied “I’d love to have your car there.  It’s so cute!”.  Oh well, I’ve been called worse…

In January, March seems a long way away.  I had hardly given the matter any further thought until I got another e-mail in late February, firming up the arrangements. Suddenly I started to remember all the little details about my car that might be noticed in such exalted surroundings.

So, several chilly Saturdays were spent in my unheated garage.  First, was the basic task of getting access to the far corner where the car was stored.  Frankly, once the car is put away, that side of the garage reverts to being a dumping ground for overflow from the house.  This year, the pile included three derelict VeloSolex mopeds.

Discovered while excavating the back of the garage

Once I had access, I started by rounding up all the mothballs (but happily, no mice), replacing the left front tire (my ratty spare was a fond memory of the flat I had on the trip back from the ICCCR last summer), and installing my brand new, chrome-trimmed grill (merci, Hervé.

New chrome grill shines under the bright lights

Various other jobs followed as the deadline loomed.

Finally, there was a detail that I have been meaning to get to for two years: making the car’s name official.  So, on the last Sunday before the show, I headed off to the Stittsville Flea Market, where there is a guy who makes custom lettering.  After much hemming and hawing, I came away with a lovely set of transfers.  Of course, mid-March in Ottawa is hardly ideal weather for lettering cars, but thanks to a couple of space heater and a hair dryer, my 2CV now proudly wears her name: Gisèle.

She wears her name proudly

... front and rear

Shannon had arranged transport, because of the uncertain weather, and the fact that most of the cars she attracted were coming out of storage for the show. So, on Monday evening, March 17 (St. Patrick`s Day, and all) a flatbed truck arrived at my house. The guys from Gloucester Towing were terrific.  Very knowledgeable, very careful, and very reassuring to this somewhat nervous owner

All lined up

and up she goes

Secured and ready for the trip

Soon my son Scott and I were off down the Queensway, to the Congress Centre.  As soon as we arrived, I spotted Shannon waiting to greet us.  There was a whole crew to help unload,

Whoa Nelly!

and to roll the car into the huge freight elevator

Going up, first floor Automotive supplies...

(much better than the rather daunting ramp the new cars were using).  After we got Gisèle in place in the empty hall

The bright lights beckon

(and ArmorAll-ed the tires!), we helped organize the rest of the display, which included a 1926 Franklin Touring, a 1957 Berkley (328cc sports car), a 1966 Corvair Corsa, a 1969 Alfa Romeo 1300 Junior, a 1973 lightweight Land Rover (stretching the definition of a convertible), and a 1977 Super Beetle cabriolet .  My word, my 1979 2CV was the newest car in the group – that doesn’t happen to me very often!

The Cabri-Olé display

In some ways, the highpoint of the whole event happened before the show even opened.  Tuesday night was the Press Preview Gala, and we were invited.  It was a “black tie optional” evening, and the ambiance was delightful.  Everyone was dressed to the teeth,

Your reporter, and his (much) better half

there was a wonderful selection of food and wine, two bands were playing, and there in the middle of all these glittering new cars sat my proud little 2CV!

55 years after her debut at the Paris Auto Show

Later in the week, I spent some time on our display (titled “Cabri-Olé”), answering questions, and listening to stories from visitors to the show.  As was the case when the club had a display at the Byward Market Classic last spring, many people wanted to share their Citroen Memories with me.  I even had the pleasure to be visited by Jean Dallaire, Jacques Charpentier, and Michel Landry from our club.  It was lots of fun.  I also had one person tell me that the 2CV was the ugliest car he had ever seen, and another who told me that Gisèle was his favourite car of the whole show.  I guess I have all the bases covered!

When 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon rolled around, I was tired but happy.  Of course now the whole process had to be repeated in reverse. Unlike the arrival, which was spread out, the departure happens all at once.  It was a bit like a very expensive rush hour getting all those shiny cars out at the same time.

I rolled the 2CV into the sunshine on Colonel By Drive, and prepared for the long wait for a flatbed truck.  While I waited, I got to looking around.  It was a lovely sunny afternoon, quite mild, and the roads were dry.  Suddenly, I realized that there was a better way!  I grabbed a couple of tools, opened the hood, and reconnected the battery.  After a quick check of the oil level, I cranked the engine over a few times to get it lubricated, and then climbed behind the wheel.

The first  time a car starts in the Spring is always a special moment, and as I twisted the key, I uttered a little prayer to the gods of things mechanical.  Without a moment’s hesitation, the little two-cylinder burst into life, and settled into a smooth idle.  Once the smoke from the cylinder storage treatment had stopped, I told Shannon that I wouldn’t be needing a truck after all, and I headed for Stittsville.

A completely trouble free drive home, on a lovely Spring afternoon was a  perfect way to wrap up what had been a really great experience.  Thanks for the invitation, Shannon.  You can call me anytime.