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
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.
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!