Cars of the Northern Group: Malcolm’s Citroen C6

We’ve all got our favourite marques and cars outside our non-bias motoring journalist status. In my instance, one’s most desired motor manifested itself when I was still clad in short trousers and itchy hand-knitted woollen socks.

I was ten years of age in the final days of 1956 and like most boys knew every car by its shape and insignia. I clearly recall the day that year experiencing the excitement seeing a spaceship wafting along the road and coming to a rest outside a shop and settling down on its skirt. It could so easily have been a scene from the centre-page spread of The Eagle. Rather than a visitor from outer space, it was the first sighting of a right-hand drive Citroën DS, typically painted in two-tone pastel shades. The Goddess, as it was popularly termed, had made its debut in France in October 1955, but it was a year before production was underway at Citroën’s factory on the Slough Trading Estate.

When the pilot of the extra-terrestrial voyager emerged from the shop, engaged the engine and lifted off, it was as if sheer magic. There and then I was determined to one day have one of these fabulous machines. Citroën ownership, firstly in the shape of a Dyane 6, had to wait until 1974, which meant suffering seven years driving BMC’s confections that, in contrast with the French competition, were lacking in adventure. It would be another three years before the acquisition of my long-anticipated DS, itself a revelation in style, engineering and sheer driving excitement.

Several hydropneumatic Citroëns have been in my custody since 1977, one in particular will be familiar with fellow motoring journalists. This is the 1961 Sherwood Green and Daffodil Yellow ID19 (index no 57 EKX) that was for some time on the Citroën UK and DS Automobiles press fleets. I bought it at the Beaulieu Autojumble in 1991-1992, and in the twenty or so years before parting company had driven it on several occasions throughout the British Isles and Europe. The ID19, once Citroën Cars Ltd’s press and publicity vehicle that was reserved for use by the firm’s chief engineer Ken Smith, now resides in Paris at Citroën’s Le Conservatoire.

In Citroën chronology, successor to the DS and its ID sibling was the CX, itself giving way to the XM and then, in October 2005, the C6 which is significant as being the final vestige of the marque’s hydraulic models. With its sleek shape, self-levelling suspension, legendary ride quality and interior comfort, I was hooked. Though far too expensive for my pocket at launch, a deal was struck 30 months later for a 2006 model taking my XM in part exchange to afford me a quality car equal to the best cars on the market.

At launch, the C6’s technology was wholly impressive with voice commands; head-up display; automatic rain-sensor windscreen wipers; self-cleaning headlights; front and rear seats that were both reclining and heated; hi-tech navigation and an awesome level of standard equipment. Sumptuous seating with memory positioning; lane departure warning; tyre pressure sensors; smart headlamps that angled with the steering to provide the ultimate in lighting were all part of the car that served as official transport for the French President. Smoothness came with a choice of V6 petrol and diesel engines.

The opportunity to acquire the last C6 to be imported to the British market was too good to miss, and at three years old this became my prime transport on 1st February 2015. Now with more than 75,000 miles recorded, the 3.0 litre V6 HDI mated to a ZF six-speed automatic gearbox still excites. It’s economical, too, providing 50mpg on a good run. A grand tourer with a quirky interior it certainly is, and on occasions has provided for fast dashes across Europe. A total of 4,500 C6s were built, fewer than 500 coming to Britain to make it a specialist car that even now commands attention wherever it goes.

I’ve dwelt on the upsides, now for the downturn. It’s a complex machine to maintain and parts are expensive as well as being hard to source. Production of the C6 ceased in 2013 and therefore Citroën main agents seldom see an example. In some instances, more recently adopted dealers have never seen one and would rather not take on any servicing. For many owners, it’s the independent Citroën specialists that offer servicing solutions, though knowledgeable and reliable firms are hard to find.

The C6 is my everyday car. Its virtues outweigh any disadvantages. I know that I am prejudiced but can confidently say the ride quality is better than a Mercedes-Benz or Rolls-Royce. You’ll know that the Silver Shadow used Citroën technology for its self-levelling. My ‘other car’ is a 2CV, though my stable has included Renaults, Fiat 500s (including an original Topolino), Austins, Morris and a grand Bentley. If I had to part company with the C6, what would succeed it? It would be a difficult decision, but I will have to let you dwell on that…