Driving from Auckland to Bluff in 11 days might not seem much of a challenge but doing it in a car which hasn't been road legal for 14 years doesn't make it easy.

"Actually the first challenge will be making it to the starting line," says Pete Littlewood, a water treatment technician from Kaponga, one half of rally team Cultural Divide.

Sven Hanne, chief executive of the Stratford District Council, is the other half, and says he is "sort of" sure they will get to the starting line in Auckland but yet to be convinced the car will actually then move.

Sven (front) and Pete with the Citroen they are taking on the rally.
Sven (front) and Pete with the Citroen they are taking on the rally.

The pair are participating in the annual Bangers to Bluff rally which challenges participants to buy a four-door car for less than $2000 and complete the route in 11 days. Organised by the Half Moon Bay Rotary Club, the rally is a fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis NZ and Hopeworks Foundation.

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All money raised goes directly to the charities and Pete and Sven say they are grateful to Fulton Hogan for sponsoring the car as well as NZME brand Driven, which has sponsored them as well.

The decision to enter the rally began as all good stories do, says Pete — in the pub.
"We were in Colonel Malone's one Friday night, and Sven suggested the rally. I thought it sounded fun, and the next minute we were looking online to buy a car."

With points for country of origin of the car, they originally wanted to buy a Lada, as a Russian car gave maximum points.

"Unfortunately, all the Ladas we could find were in the bottom end of the South Island and would have needed transporting up so they became too expensive," says Sven. With the next best points on offer being for a European car, a cheap yet reliable Euro import was sought.

"Somehow, we got the Citroen." Pete says. While the 1978 Citroen CX 2400 gti they purchased online lived up to the cheap part of the plan, reliability wasn't necessarily included.

For $400 they purchased the Citroen, which came with a free "donor" car as well - a 1977 Citroen Pallas which was equal parts rust and car.

While neither car was road legal at the time of purchase, and the Pallas was never going to regain that status, the CX passed its WOF within two months of first arriving in Taranaki from its previous home in Rongotea.

"We did a fair bit to get it ready for the WOF, then once it had passed that we started finding, and hopefully fixing, the next batch of mechanical issues which came to light." Sven says. While technically the car was driveable, it took a while for the car to get that message.

"We would take it out for a test drive to New Plymouth or Hawera and get there, but not back. It spent a fair bit of time being towed or on the back of a trailer."

With just a couple of weeks to go before the rally, the Citroen seems to be running more smoothly as issues are being ironed out and parts are changed out with the donor car.

"Actually we now have two donor cars, which has really helped." Pete says a second Citroen Pallas, a 1983 model, was given to them.

"We had been looking for help with the hydraulics in the car and someone put us in touch with a Citroen owner in New Plymouth who had this flood-damaged Pallas in his shed which he was happy to give us to help with parts."

"Trying to find parts for a 40-year-old French car in New Zealand certainly has some availability issues, and buying them online from Europe means a three-week wait each time to get them here," says Sven.

With Pete from the UK and Sven German, the team name reflects the the two countries and the French car.

At the end of the rally, the cars are auctioned off for charity.

While neither Sven nor Pete will commit to bidding, neither of them will rule it out.
"I reckon by the end of the rally we will either be glad to see the back of the car or want to keep it forever," says Pete. The deciding factor will be how much time they have spent driving, over time crawling under it.

Follow the Citroen on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Citroen-CX-554039454940282/
Donate: givealittle.co.nz/cause/bangerstobluff2018 (put cultural divide in the payment comments).

Disclosure: Editor Ilona Hanne is married to Sven. She does not have any interest, financial, mechanical or otherwise, in the Citroen and will not be bidding on it at the auction at the rally end.