Our Cars : Keith’s Citroën GS – 2500 miles on

After a quiet winter and spring resting up in Cumbria, I decided it was time to ready my Citroën GS for a summer of car shows – and its first appearance at the Hagerty Insurance Festival of the Unexceptional. That’s easier said than done, when the car’s at one end of the country, and you’re at the other – but, in my world, any opportunity for a long drive is an opportunity to be relished.

A week before the off, I’d had the car MoT’d by my classic-friendly tester (Mill Garage, Frizington), and it passed without advisories. To celebrate, while it was there, I asked him to give it the once over just to make sure it was still in fine fettle, given that I was intending to bring it south and join the classic car show circuit.

And that’s why I found myself on a train, trundling north on a sunny day in mid-June. My plan was simple – to get up before sunrise, jump into the GS, and drive it so I could then do a full day’s work. I would be helped by the fact the drive would be taking place on the summer solstice, and that a 260-mile commute from my home in West Cumbria to Peterborough in a Citroën GS should be a joy from start to finish.

A very early start

When did you last see the A66 this empty?
When did you last see the A66 this empty?

At 4.30am, on the longest day of the year, I climbed in, belted up, turned the key and psyched myself up for the drive south. A couple of minutes later, the first sliver of sun crested the horizon, and I waved goodbye to the barn, and headed towards the A66. Settling into a 60mph cruise in the GS, what struck me is why on earth I wouldn’t do this more often – getting up early to drive your favourite car is something every petrolhead should do on a regular basis.

The roads were completely empty and, as the sun became brighter, I could just get on with the business of enjoying my car. For pretty much the first hour I had the roads to myself, and the GS was absolutely in its element – singing away at 4000-5000rpm, and wafting in a way that no car this small has any right to.

The problem with this as a drive is that there’s no bad story to tell. GS and I managed to avoid the usual A1 traffic delays – and, for once, Traffic England managed to keep all of it open. By the time I rolled into Peterborough for 9.00am, I was fresh, happy, and ready for the day’s work ahead. I’m not sure any other comparable 1970s saloon could have managed that feat as effectively. In short, I love my GS, and in my ever-changing fleet, it feels like this one is the keeper.

We made it to the Festival of the Unexceptional without any hassles...
We made it to the Festival of the Unexceptional without any hassles…

Downsides? Not really, other than the fuel consumption, which averaged 25mpg. But it’s a small price to pay. It’s now at my place near work, sharing the drive with another Citroën – a gorgeous CX 20 Pallas, which I am currently the custodian of.

Did we make it to the Hagerty Insurance Festival of The Unexceptional? Of course we did – and, as I drove through the gates of Stowe School, I was honoured to be directed to display my slightly crusty example right at the front of the pack.

Even better news was that I met with Chris Salter, the guy I bought the GS from last March. As I said before, I picked it up sight unseen and, even more unusually, I’d never met Chris face-to-face, concluding the deal via email. He was delighted to see his car again, his enthusiasm reinforcing what it is so magical about my GS… it’s going to be a great summer!

The Citroen GS shares drive space with Keith's CX. If you want to hear more about that car's adventure back onto the road, please do get in touch.
The Citroën GS shares drive space with Keith’s CX. If you want to hear more about that car’s adventure back onto the road, please do get in touch
Keith Adams


  1. 25 mpg on a long run ? Ouch. My 3-litre V6 automatic, with the benefit of an extra 20 years of technological development and a small amount of Citroen DNA does a lot better than that.

    • Oddly enough my Wolseley did 34mpg on the way back from Blackpool, around 300 miles – but then it wasn’t doing 5k rpm all the way.
      Although I will say it wasn’t much fun on the satnav diversion through a city centre, what with the WW1 battleship turning circle (partly tyres), the rpm variable headlights (now cured with LED 7″ units) and the ancient tyres (new Falkens have made a real difference).
      It’s nice to drive early and not be stuck behind every one-speed-wonder in the area. Sometimes even the weather cooperates.
      Incidentally does anyone else have a problem with petrol station pumps overfilling on classic cars? They do it on mine every time.. Still I guess it stops tailgaters for about 45 miles.

    • I’d imagine in everyday use in the seventies, a GS would average 30-35 mpg, similar to a Mark 2 Escort. Possibly driving a seventies car on a motorway for long distances with no fifth gear could explain 25 mpg.

  2. When the GS was a current model, I was never fond of the styling, always thought they looked awkward. But now with hindsight, they seem to look better than they did in the 70s-80s. But I never considered owning one due to all the horror stories I read about the complicated, eccentric mechanicals which meant that you had to use a Citroen dealer for servicing – your average local garage wouldn’t even look at them.

  3. My vice headmaster (vice as in second in command!) had a GS just like this. He was a big lad – former rugby player – and I enjoyed watching him enter the car. It would sag on the right hand side, then pump itself level after he started the engine. Unlike his previous car, a blue Capri; whose left hand longitudinal chrome strip always sprung off at the front after his children slammed the passenger door. He would clip it back on in a very matter-of-fact way, and go to work.

  4. The GS/GSA was always considered a left field choice 40 years ago, as were all Citroens, but they had a loyal following among buyers who wanted something French and less conventional than Peugeot and Renault. However, it wasn’t until the eighties and the BX that Citroen became a mainstream choice, as the BX retained the GSA’s suspension, but removed the quirky dashboard and looked more conventional.

  5. The GS is an advanced car in the suspension and aerodynamics, I do not comprehend why 50 years later we are still driving on 1950scut-price Mcpherson strut suspension technology with big wheels and overwide tyres in the name of aggressive cornering and only adequate ride comfort

    • I’ve heard that hydraulic suspension systems need a lot of attention over the life of a car compared to McPherson struts.

      In the case of the GS, many seemed to be scrapped in the UK after less than 10 years on the road, possibly because owners needed to a fair bit of money on regular servicing to keep them working well,

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