icccr-2016-50flag_cinecars_dutchA Bird of Paradise, a tropical singing bird, according to the dictionary, often used as a nickname for colourful people, cheering up the grey middle class with their appearance. Cue Bob!

I run in to them quite regularly, these Birds of Paradise of the classic car world. Bob is one of them and not the least, I might add. I walk past his tent on the campsite of the ICCCR2016. A difficult abbreviation for the International classic Citroën Rally, which is held in The Netherlands this year. Bob is wearing a cap with a little propellor and a sticker that plee’s for a Brexit. Well that’s one thing that worked out. Sort of.

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Bob is looking kind of sad, sitting in his chair with his feet up. His ankle in some kind of bandage. ‘What happened to you?’ I ask. ‘I fell over climbing a fence on my way over to the tent last night.’icccr-2016-55Somehow I suspect Bob might have been a bit under the influence last night, when his instability had to face the fences surrounding the camping area. Nevertheless I’m a bit sorry for Bob. He’s out here, all on his own. ‘My wife has gone to the festival and left me behind with some water.’ ‘You’re of worse than a prisoner, Bob. At least they get bread to soak in their water’, I reply. We’re of for a good one. Bob states the two of us share two letters. I’m Robbert with two b’s, he’s Bob with two b’s. You can’t argue with that kind of logic. Strengthened by this level of male bonding we continue our conversation.

icccr-2016-51Bob is sitting next to a Deux Chevaux, a very early example that is. He has been using it as a daily driver ever since he bought it in 2005. Which is another great story. He saw the car for sale at an event up north and wanted to buy it straight away. The owner wasn’t anywhere near, so Bob phoned the mobile number as advertised and agreed to meet and buy the car later that day.
When push came to shove the owner, being fed up with the lousy weather, had left early. Bob didn’t give in and one week later they met somewhere half way. Bob living near Chichester and the vendor living up in the north of England. Bob payed the money and in return became the proud owner of a 1951 2CVA. Originally ‘powered’ by a 375cc engine, Bob upscaled to 435 and by now to a whopping 27bhp from a 602cc engine. The car takes Bob wherever he wants to go throughout Europe. Before this meeting they just popped over to Germany. And now they’re here, sprained ankle and all.

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Bob isn’t much for detailing, which you can very well spot just looking at his car. The ‘dans son jus’ classification is very much in order here. I’m quite curious what the BX he apparently has at home might look like. Meanwhile Bob is a sitting duck with his leg in the air. His return to England might be threatened by the incapability to drive the stick shifted Citroën. My suggestion to let the Misses drive the car home doesn’t go down very well. No, no, at home he has another 2CV, a van, which she drives about once a month.icccr-2016-53For five miles, nothing more. No, he’s not going to risk his life getting in a car with her behind the wheel. His wife just joined us, to feed her sorry excuse for a husband, English style, so cooked lunch it is. I’m allowed a little peek in the kitchen area, which looks a little bit tidier than the car. The car is never even being washed, although Bob gives it a quick dab of used engine oil every year. He calls it ‘green’, since at least the oil gets recycled. We talk about classic cars. He doesn’t relate to modern cars at all.
I tell him about The Canary and The Brick (my two classic Volvo’s) and he tells me his little Citroën is called ‘Bert’. No, not half of Ernie and Bert, which would have been kind of funny when the other 2CV at home would be named Ernie. BERT however is an abbreviation. Too bad Bob can’t remember what of. I guess that’s the result of to many warm beers.

icccr-2016-56He wants his wife to get the information sign from the car. And a Citroën hat. I’d like to help out, but I can’t get the door to open. ‘Pull harder and give it a bang’, Bob shouts. I reply I’m afraid to damage his car. The truth is I’m afraid it might just fall apart like the Pink Panthers Deux Chevaux ‘Silver Hornet’ in the movie. His wife does the trick and there you are, the door opens. Through the window I already spotted no space is left unused inside the car. The sun visor is held back with some string, hiding a series of caps for one. I’m trying to imagine how Bob and his lovely wife cruise the highways of Europe in this cosy little tin snail. A beautiful couple, unconventional, no pretenses and completely analog. No PC or smartphone. Which might be part of the explanation for the Brexit sticker on Bob’s cap. In the end they managed to get everything back in to the car. Except for the laundry, which is still hanging from the rear view mirrors when the drive of into the sunset. On the road for more adventures. Lucky birds, these Birds of Paradise.
Robbert Moree

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