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Gaston - Citroen GS Pallas

wheelnut

Member
I am constantly inspired by amazing technical and restoration project stories on Aussiefrogs. Largely inspired by the restoration story Lamoor was putting up, I purchased a 1978 Citroen GS Pallas sight unseen from Perth almost 3 years ago and I must say that the commentary on Aussiefrogs about all sorts of issues kept me working on "Gaston" to see the project through, particularly Pottsy’s posts which give me courage to investigate the really technical stuff. So, I thought it was only fair that I put my project up in the hope that those who contributed will take pleasure in the final outcome, and that maybe, someone who stumbles on a GS needing work, will bite the bullet and bring that car back to life. He now looks like this.
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I fell in love with a GS in the mid-1970s. I was keen to buy the station wagon model as a family car to replace my well worn Renault 10 , with the benefit of extra room to accommodate my growing young family. Unfortunately, my then wife did not agree with the purchase of a Citroen because of the risk of being caught out with a breakdown of the “funny” (her words) French suspension that nobody understood. We thus bought the first of our subsequent series of Renault 12s which we thoroughly enjoyed and found to be fantastic cars. Nevertheless, I retained a hankering to own a GS.

Fast forward through many years to my now retirement, and the opportunity finally arrived to acquire a Citroen. My lust these days would be for a good DS 23 or a well specced D special, but my now partner just cannot get her head around the “funny” (her words) shape of those cars and so that is not to be. A GS would be acceptable.
So, when a pleasant looking ‘78 GS Pallas appeared in Just Cars, the opportunity arrived. The car was in Perth, so I bought it sight unseen. The Seller’s representations made the car sound very appealing (you know the story, previously owned by the Citroen Car Club president, well maintained, lots of new work recently completed). The reality is that when a relatively rare car that you are seeking turns up on the market, you buy it and sort out the problems when they arrive. The deal was concluded by e-mail and bank transfer, but I was fortunate to have been able to get to Perth at the time the car was being delivered to the transport company to freight it to Sydney. It turned out to be in complete and reasonably sound condition, reasonable paint finish but otherwise quite tatty and unloved.

Despite there being a large sign which I had written and taped to the steering wheel requiring anybody moving the car to make sure that the hydraulic pressure was built up before the car was moved, the transport company rolled Gaston from the top deck of their car transporter without having started him. That resulted in the vehicle finally stopping when it ran into the back of another parked car transporter. The fact that the ground clearance had not been lifted caused a couple of bits underneath to be bumped as well. There was resulting damage to the rear right corner bumper, boot, taillight and fender, and for some reason a broken high beam headlight. Fortunately, the transport company recognised that they might have made a bit of a mistake, and did not quibble about the quote that I got to repair the damage, and paid me out in full.

Still driveable, I took Gaston from the freight yards at Minto in the south-west of Sydney through the freeway system and the “Old Road” to the Central Coast where I live. Missing a boot lid rubber and excessively rich exhaust made the ingress of exhaust fumes a challenge. But that feeling of driving the GS swinging through the bends on the old Pacific Highway from Berowra to the Central Coast confirmed that I'd made the right decision in my choice of car. Old tyres of various pressures, running “over rich” with the resulting limited power band, and that constant exhaust present in the cabin notwithstanding, I fell in love with this car.

The original aim was to get the car registered as soon as possible, and then progressively upgrade bits and pieces, both cosmetically and mechanically to keep it running in good condition for club rallies and events. On getting Gaston home and doing some serious inspection, I recognised that it would be impossible to register the car in New South Wales. It had still been registered in Western Australia but I don't know how that testing mechanic slept at night. With copious oil leaks from the suspension and the engine, along with the over rich running and lack of protection from exhaust fumes in the car, and rust at the base of both B pillars, not even the most sympathetic inspector in New South Wales would pass it. To repair the various bits and pieces that were needed, the car needed to be pulled apart, so I put it up on jack stands and got to work .

Mechanically, the car was sold to me with new rotors and pads, all new spheres and a new clutch, with everything working. That was basically correct, however, the timing belts were over three years old, the carburettor could not be tuned to get rid of the rich running, the oil leaks were not acceptable, and the exhaust system leaked at almost every joint. There wasn't a lot of visible rust, but it was there anyway.

Fortunately, other than the leaks, the hydraulics did everything they should, and a compression test showed a mid range reading of 115 psi, but uniform across all 4 cylinders. Synchro on second gear is weak ( helped now by better choice of oil ), but otherwise no nasty noises and smooth gearshifts, and brakes and steering are good. An engine and gearbox rebuild in the medium term (phase 2 of my ownership) will sort those issues.


After re-kitting the carburettor myself, with no resolution of its problems, I took it to be fully rebuilt by Carburettor Service Co, in Parramatta Road, Burwood, a company who had worked on these sorts of carburettors when the cars were current. It needed a new idle jet cut-out solenoid, accelerator pump jet, needle and seat and machining to the base and the top deck. The best part of the work that they did was to replace the step nose mixture screw in the Weber carburettor by modifying the seat and installing a tapered screw out of a Solex carburettor. Now fully tunable and working perfectly.


I replaced points, condenser, plugs and plug leads to get the ignition circuit working correctly. I put new sphere seals and gaiters on all four corners, and replaced the timing belts, the front crankshaft seal and the engine mountings. At that time I also reset the valve clearances and renewed the rocker cover seals. I also replaced the missing hot air tube from the manifold to the aircleaner to bring it back to original specification Most people tell me that that is unnecessary in Australia, but I figure Andre Citroen knew a bit about these things and that was why they were installed in the first place. That got the suspension sorted and the engine working properly. I then got down to try and sort out the exhaust system leaks. Well, what an interesting job that is.

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I started by pressurising the exhaust system via the tailpipe using my very first spraypaint outfit, the CIG Little Beaver that I bought in the early 1980s. Then I got a small spray bottle with soapy water and applied that to each of the joints, starting at the back. I found small cracks at the inlet and outlet pipes on the muffler, which were easily welded up. The main issue was the 3 mm gap at the outlet end of each exhaust manifold (which my predecessor had tried to bridge with silicone, to no avail) and the major problem being splits in the left-hand side exhaust manifold. I have to say that the exhaust system is a masterpiece of design. It really is a 4 into 2 into 1 extractor system, but with the separator between the cylinders from each head being welded internally in the manifold, rather than being separate pipes. This makes it a very complicated unit to work on, and unfortunately a predecessor who had tried to fix this manifold before had used brazing, so it was now impossible to repair because you can't weld to bronze. What to do? Aussiefrogs to the rescue. I posted a request in "parts wanted" to see if anyone happened to have a left side manifold in good condition lying around, and for a while got no response. Then just days before Christmas last year David Rogers contacted me to say that he had one that he could let me have. Talk about Santa Claus. David posted it to me, and it turned out to be in great condition and is now comfortably mounted into the car. Thanks again, David. I separated the whole exhaust system from front to back, including the heating tubes up to the carburettor base and back down, and then started progressively from the manifolds backwards to mount each component. The previous gap at the end of the manifolds existed because the Y piece bracket had been modified and incorrectly mounted, limiting forward movement of that section. I put each section in place with the clamps loosely mounted, placing timber above the exhaust piece and a jack stand or jack (it needs a few) beneath each section to hold it into the correct alignment, and then progressively tightened all of the joints a bit at a time. I needed to bend a ring spanner to reach some of the nuts at the less exposed unions, but Voila ! - A properly sealed exhaust.

Overall the bodywork was quite good. A previous owner had resprayed the bonnet, bootlid and sides, (but for some reason not the roof) a few years ago and the paint was in reasonable condition. There was no sealing rubber to the boot aperture, but all four door seals were still sound, with hinges and catches on the doors operating properly. On two doors the windows had separated from the winding mechanism. All four corners of the bumpers had been bumped and scraped out of shape, as had all four full disk hubcaps. These had been pressed against the curb and folded around the ridge in the centre of the wheels. The beam across the front of the under tray was badly rusted and there was some rust at the base of both B pillars. Obviously, there was the damage from the transport incident also to be repaired. The electrics were in good condition, only requiring two new high beam units (you can't replace just one. Can you?) and a new tail lamp cover, plus a new indicator flasher can to get the Flash rate up to the correct specification for New South Wales registration. All of the switchgear, warning lights and the buzzer in the cockpit worked fine. I took out all four window winding mechanisms and gave them a good clean and lube, and then reglued all four glass panels to their respective slides. I used lots of thinners to make sure the glue would bind, and used super strength Araldite for the job. So far so good. So, to the rust. A large hole in the main frame of the under tray had been filled with silicon and covered with an aluminium plate pop riveted to the structure to hide the rust. Questionable structural integrity, I would think.
3 who said no rust?
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4 patch time
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5 More patching
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To effect these repairs I like to cut out the rusted material and butt weld patches back into place. I use magnets to hold the new piece into place while tacking, and then Mig weld the full perimeter of the patch. I did the same at the base of the B pillars. The thing to watch here is to make sure that you make one large patch, rather than a number of small patches because welding in small areas distorts the parent panel. I make that mistake on the driver’s side sill and needed to use a bit more body filler than I would usually like to rectify that error. Once I had done the repairs I treated all box sections and the doors to a copious serve of fish oil.
6 More rust - Left side
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7 More rust - right side
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8 Bit tidier
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The repair to the body panels was quite complicated, because the profile of the boot lid is very complex and backed by a reinforcing panel to carry the hinges, and as I didn't want to unpick all of the spot welds around the whole boot lid, it was better solved by forming a new section of steel to be butt welded into place. The fender had been compressed forward so that it bulged outwards, but I was able to pull that out with a large slide hammer to get it back into the correct profile around the fuel filler cap, The combination of the aggressive use of a slide hammer and the damage done in the original crash meant that the top corner of that panel was so scrunched up it had to be replaced. I made up the section and then cut out the un- repairable section so that I had a well matched panel to weld. That came out okay. Unfortunately, try as we might we couldn’t match the body colour, I took a fender up to Peninsula Paint in West Gosford, a very helpful business. The colour has a goldy tone and we couldn’t quite get there. When you are only buying two litres of colour, there is a limit as to how much time the business can put into colour matching, which is a dark art at the best of times. Maybe the sunshine will help the blending over time. My longer term plan (Phase three) is to fix a bit of presently inconsequential surface rust at the leading edge of the bonnet and at the base of two doors, and then do a complete repaint inside and out.
9 Fabricated patch
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10 Bit tidier
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11 Bit tidier 2
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12 Happy with the panel fit
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I then got on to the hubcaps and the bumper ends. Fortunately they are all stainless steel, and can be self polished, rather than needing chroming after the work was done. Each of the hubcaps required quite a bit of heat shrinking and planishing to get them back into shape. Unfortunately, in some places I had to use a steel hammer rather than a timber mallet and this meant that refinishing the surface would be that much harder. After getting them back into shape, they needed sanding with successive grits of 240, 320, 600, 1000, and 1500 followed by a long time on the stitched and loose cloth wheels to polish them to their final finish. Similarly, the bumper ends needed to be tapped out from inside, using a variety of modified coach bolts as drifts to reach in and get pressure behind the welded in mounting brackets. Again, this damaged the outer surface a bit, requiring the same refinishing as the hubcaps. The major sections of the bumpers were straight and true, so only needed polishing.
13 Finished hubcap
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The transport company had broken one of the high beam headlights in transit. I spent some time on the Interweb and found a pair of Hella units which had the right diameter and reflector depth. I wanted to keep the adjustable mounting so I cut the reflector of the broken lamp and bonded the new unit into the existing with superstrength Araldite. I have used this fix before on some Alfa Romeo headlights and found that that glue can withstand the vibration and temperature. I did both lights because the new light was so much clearer than the old and I wanted a match. I probably should have done all four for an even better result. I also refurbished the surround panel to improve its appearance.
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14 Before and after
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The stainless steel mouldings around the side windows are usually polished stainless steel, but for some reason mine have been largely painted out in flat black. I tried to remove some paint and found the surface beneath would be very difficult to polish up, so I resolved to repaint these. Two hours of sanding and masking up for 10 min of painting. The rubber seals for the door glass were very badly perished and shrunken all round. I found an online catalogue for a business in Melbourne called Scott's Old Auto Rubber, and in that found a profile that could be adapted into the Citroen stainless steel mouldings. I think it is from an old Rover, but it works a treat. The filler beads in the front and rear windscreen rubbers had also perished badly, and were chalky and black. I measured the critical dimensions and went to my friendly Auto One store, where they allowed me to look at all of the replacement fillers that they had in stock to see if I could find one that fitted. For the front rubber I used a filler from a Holden Gemini, and for the rear the filler from an LH Holden Torana fitted well. The profile is a little more prominent than was standard on the GS when new, but the replacements certainly do the job.
15 What a masking job
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16 Seal in position
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17 Windscreen filler bead from Holden Gemini
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The interior of the car was in the saddest condition. The dashboard and instruments were fine, as were the carpets throughout, but the steering wheel had an ill- fitting leather cover that had seen better days, and the seats and door trims were just stuffed. The rubber rings in the seats were perished and broken, the foam was crumbling and mouldy, and the upholstery, which had obviously been replaced somewhere in the life of the car, was badly shaped and in terrible condition. The seats were taken back to their bare frames, and rebuilt using Pirelli webbing for the suspension, foam for the main construction, and a beautiful suede finish for the trimming. Because the seat trims were so badly out of shape they could not be used as templates, so we had to scale up photographs of original cars to get the upholstery dimensions and stitch patterns right. A costly exercise. This were done professionally, but I got the upholsterer to buy an extra couple of metres of the cloth so that I could repair the door cards. The seats don’t have the “lounge chair” feel of the rubber loop suspended seats, but they are supportive and very comfortable.
18 Seat as the car arrived
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19 Seat now
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20 Original and refaced door card
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21 Finished door card
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I hunted high and low in the auto parts stores for a suitable steering wheel cover but no luck. Eventually I got back onto the Interweb and found a perforated leather stitch- on cover from a company called "Wheelskins" in the US. They have a wide range of colours and patterns, and will make to non-standard specification if necessary. The price was good, but the freight from the US to Australia these days is astronomical. I found a colour that matched the original steering wheel and dashboard well, placed the order, and four days later it was at my post office box. The old steering cover had burnt itself to the rubber steering wheel, so it was a difficult job to get that off without damaging the base. I had to fill a couple of tears in the rubber with silicone to get a smooth finish, but then the new cover stitched on perfectly, following the manufacturer’s instructions. I'm really happy with the result.
22 Wheelskin in place
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There are only a few little things to do now, such as brush finished decorator trims for the window winders and door handles which I have yet to make, and the sun faded switch heads on the controls. But Gaston is now registered on club plates and has knocked up his first thousand kilometres. It is such a delight to play with this car.
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23 On the road at last
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24
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Attachments

lamoor

Member
Hi
congratulations on a stunning looking car. so good to see more restored GS's in the fold. when the CIT IN is next on at least there will be more GS's to see and chat about. in fact these must be the rarest in this period because most were neglected and others simply rusted away.

thanks for the compliment though i took 10 years and still going. looking forward to catching up at next tech day post C19.
 
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Ken W

1000+ Posts
Ian,

What is your chassis number? I bought a green GS Pallas in new in 1978. My son Ken and I are refurbishing another green GS Pallas that was next off the production line after the one I bought and its chassis number is GXGB58GB0960. We have had to rebuild the engine as it was seized when we bought it and 2 other engines had other major issues.

Cheers, Ken
 

Bruce H

1000+ Posts
A great job. Thanks for the detailed description of your work, and the suppliers you’ve found. The efforts people are putting in to their GS’s makes me wonder how much work I have waiting for me sitting in the carport :).
Would you be happy for me to add a current photo of Gaston to the Register?
 

Bruce H

1000+ Posts
Ian,

What is your chassis number? I bought a green GS Pallas in new in 1978. My son Ken and I are refurbishing another green GS Pallas that was next off the production line after the one I bought and its chassis number is GXGB58GB0960. We have had to rebuild the engine as it was seized when we bought it and 2 other engines had other major issues.

Cheers, Ken
Hi Ken
I think Gaston is 58GB2335, a 1978 plated car.
 

wheelnut

Member
Hi Bruce. Thanks for the response. I’m happy for you to add the photo. Lamoor is right - we will have a great dislplay of GSs when we are allowed to congregate next.
ian
 

wheelnut

Member
Hi Ken. Gaston is GXGB58GB2335. The engine is 0647054872. I bought the car from WA but don’t have any prior history. Cheers
ian
 

sparkey

Member
Great job you have done there wheelnut. Sounds like you have had a very rewarding experience.

In the words of Pleiades Automotive Hydraulics, when I had a GS part made up; they are 'super' little cars

I happened across a similar GS to yours at a CCCV day 17 Oct 2010 (attached photo). If my memory serves me correctly, there was some sort of link to Perth (the owner was about to go back there or something like that)

The car was on the market at the time and no further details are available.
 

Attachments

wheelnut

Member
Hi Sparkey You've got a great memory to get back and find that. That's my car. The top trim missing (still) from the grille, dings in the hubcaps and the bent aerial all match. I have tried to make the top trim in sheet aluminium but it is just to many curves for the skills I have.cheers Ian
 

wheelnut

Member
Gaston's story (Continued) . Gaston is back in hospital - in fact, in the intensive care unit.

As I suggested in my original post, there was always going to be a stage two which involved freshening up the engine and the front suspension. I was planning to wait to do this until after the CCCNSW Cit-In at Cowra, featuring the GS for its 50th anniversary, where Gaston and I could meet fellow GS enthusiasts, but as that was postponed and I was locked down due to Covid, I decided I would bring that forward and do the job now. The main aim was to fix up the oil leak onto the clutch from the rear seal, and get rid of the smoking on overrun from what I expected to be worn valve stem seals. I'm now glad I got into it when I did.

Everything ahead of the firewall is now in a zillion bits on various benches in my garage. Once I started, I took everything to pieces, sorted that which was still good from that which was to be replaced and placed my order with the suppliers in Europe. I am now waiting for deliveries to put everything back together.

My predecessors working on this car have been, to put it generously, heavy-handed. The amount of effort required to get things out and apart has been humongous. I was complaining about this to a fellow GS enthusiast here in Sydney, and he put things into an interesting context for me. He reminded me that for many years the Citroen GS was an unloved vehicle, and many were kept going on the smell of an oily rag and a shoestring budget, so no one was paying mechanics rates to get the work done well and properly. They really were being cobbled together for a number of years out of older parts and simple methods to keep them running at minimum cost. Suitably chastened, I have stopped grumbling and got on with the job.

I had to make made a couple of special tools to help me on my way. My valve spring compressor from days gone by was fine for pushrod engines, but I needed to make an extension cage to allow it to reach past the high sides of overhead camshaft heads; and I needed to make the tools to remove the ring nuts for the wheel bearings and to press out the wheel bearings . Its moments like these one is pleased to have kept up the payments to BOC for the (rarely used ) welding gases.

The first thing was the axle nuts. With the car in gear, chocks on all four wheels and a six-foot extension on the breaker bar on the 32 mil socket, and my 90 kg standing on the end of said bar, the car started to rise against its ( I guess modest) compression onto the chocks. There's no way those nuts were coming off without mechanical intervention. In the end, once I had the driveshafts out on the bench, I drilled into the nuts at the base of one of castelations and then narrowed and sharpened a chisel to a razor edge and pinged them open. Fortunately no damage to the thread. Interestingly, 6 of the axle studs in the diff. flanges were the wrong pitch thread, onto which the original nuts had been forced. Ugh.

Once the engine and gearbox were out and disassembled, the good the bad and the ugly appeared. Fortunately the barrels and pistons are in good condition and reusable with a very light hone to allow rebedding of the new rings. Ring gaps on the existing rings were up to 35 thousandths, where the right number is 12, no doubt contributing to excessive oil into the combustion chamber. I will use Renault R16 rings because they are more readily available. The bottom end was fine, so I will not need to do mains or big ends. However, as per the photograph below, the camshaft and the rocker on the exhaust valve to number four-cylinder was badly worn, so they will be replaced. Also, the inlet valve on number one cylinder was terribly worn into a concave shape on the valve and convex on the valve seat, so that valve will also be replaced. The seat is okay to be recut to take the new valve. All of the other valves and valve seats just need to be lapped when I reassemble the motor. As expected, the valve stem seals were in poor condition, worn and also with nicks from poor installation, so it is not surprising that quite a bit of oil was getting into the cylinders.

The clutch was saturated with oil, and the clutch plate will therefore be replaced. Surprisingly, it was still working fine. Not only was the rear engine seal leaking, but the front input shaft seal was also leaking quite generously. I had a mixture of two oils contaminating the clutch. Fortunately, neither seal is hard to replace when things are in bits.

Structurally the driveshafts are in good condition, but all four boots need to be replaced. The right side front wheel bearing was very sloppy, and the left side bearing, while reasonably firm was noisy, so they are being replaced. This is where the heavy handedness showed its hand. The ring nut on the right side had been properly peened and was reasonably easy to free, but the ring nut on the left side had been installed using a cold chisel to drive it into place and the same cold chisel to anchor it to the wall. I had to remove about 3 mm off the top of the ring nuts in three places to start to get it free, and when it wouldn't budge any further, to drill through it in a couple of places to break a part out of it so that I can actually get it out of the housing. Fortunately the housing was not damaged in the process and won't need to be replaced. I am also doing two ball joints and both drop links to the stabiliser bar, plus the silent block bushes to the lower control arm , while I have it all in bits. The tie rod ends are fine.

By the end of all of this I guess I will know what I'm doing, and hopefully Gaston will be ready for some trouble free long-distance driving, which I contemplate for 2021.

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forumnoreason

1000+ Posts
I'm chasing you doing same jobs Ian, will have to make up new paper seals at rear cams as not avaialable, at least from anyone I'd buy them off! I had a pile of valve seals left over from D resto, they fit.

Quick question! how did you get the rocker shafts out, there is a special tool to make up with nut and bolt to wind and push out but I was wondering if you can tap, belt them out?
 
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wheelnut

Member
Tap, Forumnoreason, Tap. None of this "belting stuff. The end bolts are smaller than the bore of the shafts, so by removing the spacer you can screw the end bolt into the shaft and drive onto that. As it moves through a centimetre or so, , check for any burrs in the shaft at the centre bushes before you drive it all the way out. One of mine had a small burr which I didn't notice and I scored the end bush. Fortunately not enough to be a problem.
When I make paper gaskets I rub silicone into the surfaces and let that set before installing. Makes them a bit stiffer to handle and seat. Cheers Ian
 

ramonm

Member
Hello Ian,
That is a great looking GS - fantastic job..
Great colour- of course !
congratulations
Ramon
 

N5GTi6

1000+ Posts
Wow - what a great read and what a great job you're doing.

I've had a similar requirement before to make up special tools to remove cams / rockers (not on a Cit though) and it's certainly worth the trouble to do it right and not just bash things that put up resistance.

Keep up the good work - I look forward to the next installment !

Cheers

Justin
 

Dapco Auto France

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