Imagine that you are in the
process of consulting a photo album
displaying hundreds of different models of your chosen car in the
presence of a specialist who with his expert's eye can share with you
his comments on each image down to the last detail. This one, is it
original, is the colour correct, should a car of that year have that
particular accessory, what year is it.....here you will find the
answers to all these questions and many more; a veritable mine of
information which only a respected marque specialist can provide.
This specialist is Olivier de
Serre, writer of many works on Citroen
and especially on the Traction and DS. He imparts his knowledge with
brio and amazes us with the depth of his knowledge and the acuity of
his observations. Most of the photography here comes from the archives
of the weekly ‘La Vie de l’Auto' which has written about the world of
collectors’ cars for over thirty years, reporting on classic vehicle
meetings and providing a market place for collectors to advertise.
This work is the first of what
will certainly be an extensive series
dedicated to the classic cars we love, and not just the DS ...."
As stated above, Olivier de Serres is well-known to many enthusiasts
for his authoritative and well-researched books so my expectations were
high. Unfortunately, it fell short on a number of scores.
the registration numbers of the cars have been Photoshopped to ensure
they are not legible. This has been crudely done with white,
yellow rectangles that do not line up with the dimensions of the number
plates. A minor point you might think but I found myself
irritated, especially when de Serres refers to the registration number
which is illegible. Secondly, some of the images are badly
with bits of the cars missing. Thirdly, some of the pictures are
low resolution and fourthly, they are all too small to allow one to
observe the detail on which de Serres comments.
And then there is the text which suffers from a number of
shortcomings. On the whole, the translations are good but
occasionally, errors creep in; errors which indicate to me that the
translator is not a ‘petrol head’. An example of this is “DS20 Pallas
1968/9 Promotional claim that year <<it is at the same speed that
one discovers superior cars>> It was the period of the first
speed limits.” I had to read the French to work out what
was meant –
it should have said, “it is at high speed that one appreciates superior
Then there are occasional orthographical errors, most noticeable in
words where there are slightly different spellings in French and
English and where the French prevails. Then there is the
of words – in French, syllables generally end with a vowel; in English
they generally end with a consonant. The hyphens are consistently
misplaced between vowel and consonant. And then there are a
typesetting errors with a few words of the French text included in the
middle of the English text.
My biggest gripe though is de Serres’ comments on the photos which are
frequently repetitive; contain critiques of the photographers’
composition and sometimes seem unrelated to the particular image.
An example of this is “The big front
wings with their <<cats’
eyes>> involved considerable sheet metal work even without c (new
line) ounting the wiring for the directional headlights.”
some twenty pages in from the second part of the book which covers
models from 1968 to 1975. Had it occurred at the beginning of
section where the final facelift is discussed, this would have made
sense. Sometimes, the information given is wrong, for instance
the 'strapontins' (additional fold down seats in the Familiale) are
described as 'rear facing' and the DS23ie's badge is described wrongly
as having the words 'Injection …lectronique' above 'DS 23' whereas it
is in fact below it.
It comes across as a guessing game where someone shows him a photo and
asks him to identify the model, year, etc. After a while, this
rather tedious and the sheer number of photos of all too similar cars
adds to the tedium.
There are very few pictures of unusual cars (apart from Henri Chapron’s
creations); just a couple of US market cars and a Belgian-built one but
nothing from Slough.
De Serres is critical of most of the attempts at personalisation; he
clearly disdains the fitting of accessories, especially if they are not
from the right period and he makes the point, repeatedly, that a car
must have been used for towing whenever wing mirrors are fitted.
I really wanted to like this book and I am sure that
will enjoy it. For the D enthusiast who wants something
this book makes a change from all those books that simply rehash the
history of this model. The concept is great but it falls down in
execution which is a great pity. The cover states that this is
1. Let us hope that Volume 2 does not repeat these issues and
Volume 1 goes into a second print run, the errors are corrected.
The book was first published in 2012 but a review copy was only sent to
me recently. I find myself wondering whether the publishers have
a large quantity of unsold stock.
This book cannot be recommended at the list price. If it cost
€20, it would be overpriced. A great disappointment.
© 2014 Julian Marsh