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The Classic Citroëns, 1935–1975

by John Reynolds

ISBN 0-7864-2171-1 235 photographs, appendix, bibliography, index 280pp. hardcover (8.5 x 11 inches) 2006 Price $55 (£31)

Published by McFarland

“Never judge a book by its cover” – this aphorism applies to this book with a vengeance.  The cover is superb and promises great things.  John Reynolds’ well deserved reputation as Britain’s foremost writer on the subject of Citroëns and the luxury price of this American book meant I approached it with high expectations. 

The onset of disappointment occurred the moment I opened the book.  It is printed on paper that bears more than a passing resemblance to the stuff that emanated from the Soviet Union and its satellites.  This was brought home to me since coincidentally I recently received some Oltcit promotional material from a Romanian friend and the paper used was not dissimilar – except that the print quality of the Romanian material was far worse.  In fact, appearances notwithstanding, the paper on which this book is printed is tactilely rather good.

Like many readers, initially I flick through a book’s pages, glancing at the colour pictures (except there aren’t any) and I tend to dip into the text before turning to the serious business of reading it.  It was with a mixture of surprise and delight that I discovered my name in the Acknowledgments section alongside such luminaries as Leonardo Bertoni, Jacques Wolgensinger, Olivier de Serres, Anthoine Demetz, Ken Smith and Wouter Jansen.  Inevitably this predisposed me towards giving the book a glowing review but sadly, to do so would be less than honest.

So apart from the lack of colour pictures and the appearance of the paper on which it is printed, what is wrong? John Reynolds’ erudite prose has been subjected to sloppy editing and proofing; entire paragraphs are duplicated and in particular, the “Language Of Angels” has been mangled (whether this is a deliberate act by an American who is disgusted by Chirac’s opposition to the removal of Saddam or merely indicative of his or her ignorance of French is not clear) with incorrect gender and misplaced and/or absent accents.  Other errors include crediting the LNA and Visa twin pot with 300cc more than it possessed (perhaps the editor thought John had made a mistake since obviously no engine could possibly be that small) and stating that the CX’s coefficient of wind resistance was “improved from 0.30 to 0.35” (again the editor clearly does not realise that a decrease in the CD represents an improvement).  The book has been translated from British English to the American variety, which makes sense; given its target market but oddly, many of the references to British market cars remain intact and there is a random mix of metric and US measurements.

On the plus side, there is an awful lot of information about the people responsible for our favourite marque and some astute analysis of the company’s wildly different business strategies under its three owners and, sloppy editing and proofing notwithstanding, John Reynolds’ writing remains a joy to read.

Unfortunately the book is overpriced, especially when one compares it with “Citroën - Daring To Be Different” (ISBN 1 85960 896 5), which is published by Haynes Publishing and sells for £19.99. This book seems to be a lightly Americanised version of “Daring To Be Different” and is more expensive and lacks the production values and style of the Haynes book.

© Julian Marsh 2006