By on December 26, 2010

Readers of On The Road gush about the incredible asphalt journeys taken by the book’s protagonists, but they did most of their driving in a brand-new Hudson and a brand-new Cadillac limousine. Here is a truly heroic road trip: a solo San Diego-to-Miami drive in a basket-case Citroën ID19 that ran for the first time in 25 years when it clanked a single lap around the Sears Point paddock and then headed onto the track.

Meet Mike Spangler, the man behind the Lunar Rover Mini Moke and turbocharged ’62 Austin Mini race cars. He decided that it would be fun to drive the Citroën— veteran of two incredibly punishing 24 Hours of LeMons races— nearly 3,000 miles to the season-ender LeMons race in Miami.

A single LeMons race generally kills most cars. Honda Civics? Toast. Fox Mustangs? Crusher bait. The Citroën hadn’t even had an oil change since 1985, so Mike decided he’d do some routine maintenance before leaving on his lunatic journey. You know, tune-up, adjust the valves, that kind of thing. Whoops, busted rocker pedestal!

After much thrashing, the car was ready to go this morning at 7:30 PST.

He’s been rolling east for two hours now and the Déesse appears to be running well; he’s made it across the mountains and out of the wet weather. Text message from a minute ago: “4k @ 70mph. climbed into mtns over 4k elevation gain in the rain no prob. Babying throttle because clutch slipped under uphill throttle test last night b4 departure.”

I hope to see the man and the car when I show up in Miami to judge the race. Wish him luck!

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21 Comments on “Solo Road Trip Heroism: San Diego To Miami In a Caged $500 Citroën...”

  • avatar

    How the hell do you get parts for something like that? Pepboys ain’t gonna cut it. MM seems to have astonishing luck at the Pick N Pulls but they’re a little difficult to haul with you!

    • 0 avatar

      Western Hemispheres ( has a good supply of parts for Citroëns or there’s always and the odd small-time French car supplier. We race a Peugeot in LeMons and it really hasn’t been that difficult finding parts much to our surprise.

  • avatar

    Driving that thing across Mississippi and Alabama is sure to set off some Top Gear style hijinks.

  • avatar

    Reliable, easy-to-service cars are for cowards.

  • avatar

    …and I’m questioning myself for eyeballing a clean Volvo 850 wagon sitting under a tree in a neighbor’s front yard.

  • avatar

    I’ll bet the hydropneumatic suspension is nice and comfy!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Hey Rolls licensed the technology, so it must be awesome.  Citroens like that have always intrigued me for their technological wonder and dare to be different-ness but I’ve never been insane enough to seriously covet one.

  • avatar

    My big question, as someone who has lusted after doing something like this for years: how the hell is that car road-legal?

    • 0 avatar

      California does not require any sort of safety or equipment inspection for registration, and no emissions testing for pre-1976 cars. Anyway, it has all the lights and other gear it needs to be street-legal.

    • 0 avatar

      Question answered. For a dumpy state, WV (my state of residence currently) is a nightmare to inspect in. No emissions yet, but I’d say within 5 years it’ll happen. Literally everything else has to be showroom to technically pass. Of course, if you know Billy-Bob at the Quick-E-Mart, he can hand you a state inspection at any given moment…

  • avatar

    This looks like fun and so comfy a ride, I once drove a $600 Misubishi from Bunbury in West Australia to Sydney the long way via Northern territory and only gave it an oilchange and new plugs in prep the idea being if it died no great loss just walk away….. but the damn thing kept going and 40,00km and 10 months later fuming and knocking it drove to the wreckers.

  • avatar

    Hey, at least the thing didn’t have 250,000 miles on it.

  • avatar

    wonder how he was able to fix the rocker support? is not simple thing.
    they have a v configuration so the head is kind of hemi combustion.
    RR did bought the hydro-pneumatic system. RR used it for height control, brake system
    Citroen use it for brakes, P steering, height control.
    can conclude it as when its running is great, if it didnt run u wish it was the 2cv.
    these ds19 were very aero-dynamic for its time and even for today’s standard.
    the steering wheel is out of this world. consistent with start trek, flash gordon.
    there is still 1 shop who service them here in Vancouver.
    OT one dude test drove a 560sel, they use some kind of hydraulic suspension system too, a pump ran off a cam.
    he said as he pulled out he heard it bottom out, turned out the hydraulic reservoir was empty.
    perhaps was a leak somewhere, is convoluted to fix.
    420sel  was much easier.

  • avatar

    My most vivid memory of Kerouac’s trip was his first run out west on the back of an old flatbed truck with several other hitchhikers, at 70 miles an hour on roads that in 1949 weren’t much like today’s interstates at all.
    Still, that’s one heck of a drive for that car.  Nice story.

  • avatar

    The steering wheel with a single curved strut was intended to have the strut normally at the left side so that in a front-end impact the driver would hit the steering wheel, the rim would bend from the single attachment point and with the strut form an angled surface that would slide the driver’s body to the right behind the dashboard.  It appears this one has the steering wheel mounted wrong.
    The spare tire is mounted up in the nose to help absorb impacts.

  • avatar

    I think the roof top is fibreglass panel for easy post crash removal on the DS/ID? They were pricey to build & buy in the day. The self levelling (trying to remember dad’s in Brussells) consisited of four blue-colored plastic spheres placed in the corners of the engine bay. When starting you had to wait several seconds for DS/ID to raise on its suspension. If you drove away immediately before the suspension rose you risked disembowling the car.

    The French system of taxation per number of cylinders set the home preference for large fours.
    The unavailability of an automatic and DS/ID 6 cylinder class pricing in NA hindered sales.

    The spares mounted in the nose to help protect the transmission.

    I read somewhere Hitch wanted to get his hands on the newly-released DS for filming “To Catch a Thief,” as poulet [police] chase cars but they were too far on back order from the factory in the first year.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    If I remember correctly if you had a flat tire you  didn’t need a jack, you just lifted the suspension on the other wheels.
    Local Citroen dealer used to drive a car in the annual parade on 3 wheels.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    You forgot about the part where Sal, Dean, and another character hit the road from Denver to Mexico City in a basket case ’37 Ford towards the end of the book. That trip was one of the more epic ones in On the Road.

  • avatar

    Way to go……….wish I could be there with the Zippys in our Honda # 613. Had a great time at Chicago.
    Baby that Citro……..24 hours at this track will be the ultimate TEST for car and drivers. Good Luck.

  • avatar
    Ken Nelson

    That crosscountry trip was nothing for a DS – they’re a lot more rugged than most people know.  The later (66-75) 5 main engines are bulletproof and could easily be supercharged as did the French cops doing nothing to the bottom end.   In 1994 my son and I drove my ’67 DS21 convertible, restored by putting an entire good chassis under the bodywork, from Detroit to Vancouver to join a group of 26 Deaux Chevaux from all over the world who’d gathered for a 3 week rally/camping trip around the Pacific Northwest.  Vancouver, Banff, Glacier, Yellowstone, all thru Wash State & Oregon, way out in the boonies, arriving at the finish in SF after 3500 miles of backroad.  Then headed into the N. end of Death Valley (in August!) on the way home, driving a very rough gravel road 70 miles at 65 mph avg, no AC, arriving in Furnace Creek at 118 F in the shade – steering wheel black vinyl wrapping was so hot I had to wear gloves, but the car never overheated.  The famous DS hydropneumatic suspension just ate up the road – who needs 4WD with a FWD DS – they’ll go damn near anywhere.  Kudos to Mike for having the guts to make the trip in what most people would’ve written off as scrap – just another “old” DS come back to live and impress again, and still look like it’s 50 yrs ahead of everything else – hah!

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