A Sunday in Serbia
4th GSiade – New Belgrade, October 4-5., 2008.
( Magyarul - , Srpski - )

In October 2006 whilst reading the forum of French page www.gs-gsa.org I noticed an interesting note: a spontaneous meeting of GS’ in Belgrade. I could not believe my eyes. Did these odd cars truly manage to survive the war horrors on the territories of ex-Yugoslavia?

Those who managed to visit Yugoslavia during the 70’s and 80’s know very well that our southern didn’t miss out on modern vehicles. They were known on manufacturing cars in Zastava, licensed by Fiat, but for Citroën lovers it’s also well-known that Citroen models were assembled in a Slovenian factory, Tomos, in Kopar. On March 15th, 1972 the management of Citroën and Tomos-Iskra signed a contract which meant building a factory for assembly and production. In 1973 the name of this company emerged by combining Citroën and Tomos = Cimos. In this factory along with other models (e.g. 2CV, Dyane, Ami8, DS) around 15000 GS’ and around 1500 GSA’s were assembled. The history of the GS in Yugoslavia begins in 1971. For the first three years cars were only imported, but on 1975 production begins in the new factory in Nova Gorica. Starting palette of models included only two: GS Club Berline and GS Special Break, both with a 1220 cc engine. Color choice was also limited: canary yellow, beige, orange and white. The interior was with brown artificial leather or orange artificial leather (on early 1975). In the second series the Pallas model emerged, an exclusive model: white, beige and blue with light brown and blue plush interior, sunroof, chrome details (e.g. big chrome wheel covers) and adjustable fog lights. Alongside these choices, there was also a GSX 1.2 model in offer (canary yellow, brick red and beige with brown interior) on which the chrome details were covered by black paint, big wheel covers were reduced to smaller covers, and both sides of the car had a black two line decal. In 1979 and 1980 a new model was launched, GS Super 1.3 with a 1299 cc engine (white, blue, red and orange). Finally, from 1980 to 1982 a simplified GSA model was coming down the production lines, named GA (also with a 1299 engine). This latest type had a larger color choice: white, beige, canary yellow, orange and very interesting spinach green. GS models assembled in Slovenia had missed some details (different headlights, some electrical appliances and some body details were left out…). Cars were both assembled and painted as well as produced from scratch. The models which were only painted had rust on their roofs as soon as two or three years from production, due to bad storage (unprotected shells were left out on open). The best known characteristic of Slovenian made GS’ were the two-pieced round headlights which were inserted in a black or grey plastic case similar to an original one piece headlight. The same types of models were assembled in Indonesia and such was the GS Export model (for countries outside of Europe). An urban myth says that the round headlight were not only a design idea of the local company but that a factory in Slovenia called Saturnus had an enormous amount of these headlights in stock and they had to be used. These types of headlights can be found in some other car types (e.g. Lada). Later GS models were given a 5-speed gearbox (GSX-5).

Looking at the forum from the beginning of the story, envy started to come over me. There was about 20 GS’, among them some cars in really good shape. In that moment a decision was made: this is where I belong! Also, Belgrade is just 200 km away! I searched the forum for information on the second meeting. But in spring of 2007, as well as in autumn the same year, we missed the meetings. No wonder the effect of a hungry wolf started to appear. As soon as I noticed the announcement of this year’s event I felt a craving building up inside of me. Craving so strong that I registered on www.citroenforumsrbije.com (CFS= Citroen Forum of Serbia) with no knowledge of their language. Of course, I couldn’t write anything, and I could see just a fragment of the forum. Luckily, on the French forum I found the e-mail of Nebo Djurdjevic, who announced the meeting. On my interest he gladly sent me some information about the meeting and cautioned me that the whole Serbian forum can be seen after just one post. And on my joy he added that most of the people there can understand English, and also a big part of them can write in English too. The first big surprise was after my introduction post, when welcoming responses started to appear. Everyone was delighted with the new member from across the border. Two weeks passed in high preparations for the meeting. The list of people which applied was growing and growing finally stopping at 30 GS and 35 other Citroën models. But weather reports were getting worse and worse. And also a small home accident endangered the trip. We had to cancel the “Forum evening” on Saturday. I was very sorry not to be able to meet the people, who were hanging out on the Yachting club “Kej” on river Sava. What only remained was the hope that tomorrow we would drive on dry weather. Rain didn’t stop so we had to leave Esther (my GS’ nickname) and go with our new C4. Luckily we were across the border very quickly, the traffic was light, and so we could easily watch out for randomly placed signs of speed limits and also the police patrols along the road. We were surprised that we didn’t encounter police patrols which were randomly giving speeding tickets. Driving by the limit I didn’t get a single ticket, so the scary stories about these situations have probably disappeared in the fog… Highway, well, half-highway, was acceptable quality, and road manners better than ours. It was disappointing to notice that only Hungarian and Turkish drivers tried to push us into the emergency lane. Along the road it was nice to notice construction sites and awakening of this country after so many years of isolation. Due to bad weather, unfortunately, we were late on the meeting next to the monument of Eternal flame. First it was planned that the motorcade would leave this place around 3 pm, but due to bad and cold weather the motorcade left around 2 pm. We could see the last car leaving. So we could add this ass well to our disappointment list: driving a GS on three wheels. For a moment we thought that we missed the whole meeting. The lunch (CitroLunch) was arranged near Avala monument, in a restaurant called “Mitrovicev Dom” (Mitrovic’ Home). Having trust in the organizers, we sent an SMS, hoping that we had seen only a small amount of cars leaving for home, and the others were still around somewhere the Eternal flame monument. A quick response came just a minute after our message, and soon a beautifully restored GS appeared alongside a CX Break. We followed them through the city of Belgrade and caught up with the motorcade. While crossing the bridge across the river Sava we saw the Kalemegdan fortress, and coming to Avala before the lunch we stopped for a quick photo session. On one side there were just GS models, and on the other side every other model which was present. It was odd to see so many GS’ in one place. Some of them were beautifully restored, some waiting for that process. We even didn’t notice that the Cimos-yellow, so beautiful was the view of mostly white and beige GS’. Some of them were orange and alongside them we saw one chestnut brown metallic as well as one silver metallic Pallas. But, somehow I had most affection to Djura’s car. After being so long in service, this old, rusty white GS had in gothic letters written on the side: “In rust we trust”. This grotesque modification of the statement on the American dollar: “In God we trust” fits this car perfectly, as does those nearly two and a half million other examples of GS’ across Europe, which had worn out by middle class people, longing for a little piece of luxury.

Although by the afternoon the sun was shining and the roads dried it was still chilly. A nasty freezing wind got through every buttonhole on our coats, but in a cozy restaurant we started to talk very easily. People ordered hot tea, which was undoubtedly the sign of cold weather, and on the beautifully set tables were enormous amounts of fresh soft bread. We, the guest from Hungary, were seated for the main table and it was normal that everyone started to speak English around us. The mood rose as bean-goulash was served. During the announcement of the results of this GSiade we found out that in spite of bad weather 22 GS’ appeared, the oldest one being built in 1975 with orange interior, characteristic for that year. Time flies when you’re having fun, and suddenly it was already sunset. I wondered “How are we going to get back to the highway?” Although I had confidence in my ability of orientation - my wife sais that I should have been a migrating bird in my previous life, and some of my orientation crystals were somehow preserved – I wasn’t sure that we would be able to find the way back without a map. As I was wondering, two people offered to guide me to the highway, so I didn’t have to excersize my orientation senses. So we said goodbye to out hosts, and left for home. Thank you for a really nice atmosphere, see you next year!

GSdriver (English translation: Matija Cicvarić)