The great Citroen resto - Faine 454

By: Jon Faine

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It's a big day when the Citroen's chassis and engine are re-introduced

Ten years have passed since I bought my 1926 Citroen B2 as a sad incomplete ambitious project. To mark the decade, the motor has this month – at last – been re-introduced to its loving companion, the chassis. The icing on the anniversary cake came in the shape of the gearbox marrying up to the engine block and… voila! We are on the path to looking something like a car again.

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Radiator shrouds hard choices here

Back in 2011 the poor orphan was listed as a 5CV ‘Baby" Citroen on Ebay and only one idiot bothered to bid. I had taken the foolish step of inquiring about the somewhat sad wreck, cob-webbed in a warehouse. The seller said it was in storage in Melbourne’s outer east, but as he had moved to Sydney, was fed up with paying for its moth-balled space and had lost interest in it. He gave me a phone number for the storage house and upon inquiring it turned out to be out west not east, and when I went to have a look, it turned out to be the bigger, much less common, more desirable and more powerful B2, not a 5CV. Having established that the seller did not know where it was or what it was, I took the plunge. After the ‘auction’ ended, he volunteered that many of the missing pieces were under his house in Sydney. Did I want to come and get them?

| Read next: Polishing the Citroen B2 chassis

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2021 Motor and gearbox reunion

In the decade since, I have stripped every last nut and bolt from the chassis, straightened it, rust proofed, painted it all and last year got her back on her own axles and wheels fitted with correct beaded edge tyres. The magnificent brute of a four cylinder motor with the power of all of 10 horses – yes, that is correct, one more than nine – was working well before it was divorced from the chassis all those years ago, so other than making it look a bit prettier I have not disturbed it.

| Read next: Nice engine, no brakes - Citroen rebuild

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I have scavenged several spare B2 radiators over the years, finding them at swap meets and in dusty sheds littered with Citroen left-overs. The best of them was taken to the radiator repairers Pansino in Brunswick and thankfully the ‘V’ core was in perfect condition and only some loose top and bottom tank seams needed soldering repair. The shroud is another challenge altogether and, as a radiator casing is in many ways the face of a car, it will need specialist attention. Made from brass, but coated with nickel silver, the usual finish these days is to get them chromed. But chrome is super shiny, and the original and correct nickel silver has a different patina. But I am tempted to get the small creases and dings tapped out and then have the shell left in polished brass. To see what it might look like, I put in a few hours on a spare as guinea pig using just my bench top buffer and it looks fabulous. Non-original, but the entire car will be non-original by the time I finish so I can do as I please. The windscreen supports that will hold the half-round sports style aero-screens are also in brass – so either the entire lot gets plated or it all stays in polished naked brass. There is no urgency in making a decision, and I ought contemplate about the headlights and how they will be as part of the overall look of the ‘B2 Caddy’ replica that this will one day be.

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 Spacers on the lathe

The radiator sits on two round supports that bolt to the chassis. The cute cast mounts offer up short studs to the lugs on each side of the bottom of the radiator. My re-conditioned radiator, made by Gallay a hundred or so years ago is about 5mm deeper in the base than the typical and more common radiator made by Usines [factory] Chausson. Upon offering up the restored radiator to the mounts, I discover that the very lowest section of the bottom tank rubs on the chassis. A few minutes on the lathe turned some old over-size nuts into spacers, but tragically, the need for spacers means the studs are now too short, so my next task is to grind them off, drill new holes, tap them out and insert longer studs into the mounts to suit.

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brake levers & links in my spray booth

The final steps in getting the running gear complete has been to refurbish the prop shaft, flexible coupling and the rod-actuated brakes. The threads on each rod were rooted (technical term) and all needed tapping and each stirrup and pinion was de-greased, scraped, wire-brushed and sanded before being given a thorough coat of spray paint. Although I have been laughed at by several friends, I am using different colours for different systems – the chassis and propulsion parts are red, the suspension and springs black, the brake rods and levers silver. That way, although lairy, it is instantly obvious what parts are where. It is also a bit of fun – which, after all, is what we are supposed to be doing… isn’t it?

 

From Unique Cars #454, June 2021

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