Car dealer Alec Lowe's 1973 Citroen DS23 Pallas Prestige has come fresh from the paintshop to the showroom floor.
The prime late classic has been selected from hundreds of entries to be among 98 displayed at the second annual RACV Motorclassica in Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building from October 21-23.
"I have even driven it, except to and from the paintshop and the workshop," says Lowe, 62. "It hasn't been seen anywhere before. This is its first time out."
Lowe explains that the "Prestige" designation means it is a Special with a wind-up glass partition in the rear. The interior was built by Bugatti coach builders Henri Chapron of Paris for government and diplomatic use.
This particular car was specially imported for use by the French ambassador to Australia who sold it to his secretary when he returned to France. She sold it to Lowe in 1995 for $7500.
"It was in pretty good condition, but we've done a total nut-and-bolt restoration from the ground up," he says. "If it hasn't been reconditioned, it's new.
"I wouldn't want to know what we've spent on it." It's insured for $50,000, but Lowe says the last Prestige model sold for $90,000 in Paris, unrestored.
"I'm hoping to take it back to France for a driving holiday and maybe sell it over there," he says. "I might get more for it in a left-hand-drive market."
Lowe says he had no problem obtaining parts for the car or working on the front-drive vehicle. Nor should he as he started his career as a Citroen mechanic working with legendary endurance rally driver Jim Reddiex.
He navigated for Reddiex in Repco round-Australia rallies in the 1970s and recalls one rally incident where they hit a tree and bent their CX machine into a banana shape, popping the windscreen.
"It was still driveable because all the mechanicals are up front, so we drove to the next stop holding the windscreen in place with our hands," he says.
Lowe says the DS model was an innovative car when introduced in 1955 with a number of firsts throughout its model life, ending in 1975, including swivelling headlights that turn with the steering wheel.
"That's only been re-introduced in luxury models in the past decade and they don't turn as much as these. They almost go at right angles," he says.
Other innovations included power disc brakes, hydropneumatic auto-leveling suspension with auto-leveling headlights, variable ground clearance, power rack-and-pinion steering and a lightweight fibreglass roof.
It also featured a wider front track and different-sized wheels to counter the understeer effects of front-wheel-drive introduced in the Citroen Traction Avant in the 1930s.
The DS has been named one of the coolest, beautiful and most influential cars of the last century.
Citroen DS23 Pallas Prestige
Price New: $9000
Price Now: about $90,000
Engine: carbureted 2347cc 4-cylinder
Body: 4-door sedan
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Did you know: The original 1955 DS was designed, not by car designers, but Italian sculptor Flaminio Bertoni and French aeronautical engineer Andre Lefebvre.
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