Conservatoire Citroen might just be the world’s most intriguing manufacturer car collection
AS RECENTLY as 2003, PSA’s Aulnay-sous-Bois factory north-east of Paris churned out over 447,000 cars per year.
Some 5000 employees were employed there at its peak, and production of Citroen CX, AX, Saxo and C3 models each topped over a million units. It was France’s industrial juggernaut, but since its closure in 2013 it’s now just brownfield real estate opportunities, windswept car parks and, tucked away inconspicuously on one corner of the complex, the home of the Conservatoire Citroen.
From the outside, you’d probably never take note of this inauspicious low-rise, but housed cheek-by-jowl within its confines is a priceless collection of the most fantastically eclectic cars created by any manufacturer. It’s at the same time, joyous, disorienting and slightly sobering. Above all else, it’s a reminder that Citroen has long been a pioneer rather than a follower and that alone is cause for celebration.
This isn’t a museum per se. There are no interactive displays or cars on spotlit pedestals. You’ll search in vain for any kind of virtual reality experience or audio guide to the wares within. The best you can hope for is a walkaround with the collection’s curator, the laconic Denis Huille. It took Peter Robinson fifty years to finally wangle an invite to this hidden gem, as featured in Wheels magazine’s August 2015 issue. You get to see the goods right now in this gallery tour of the best of the Conservatoire Citroen.