The DS, a fifty-year-old goddess, part I
Yes, the DS is nearly fifty. It appeared at the Paris Motor Show, on October 6, 1955. Drawn by Flaminio Bertoni, the DS astonished everybody: it was 20 years ahead. Everything about this car sent its rivals to the museum: hydro-pneumatic suspension, front disc brakes, front wheel-drive, hydraulic gear change, intense use of plastic and aluminium and a splendid streamlined body. The engineers, ruled by André Lefebvre, had been summoned to give the best of themselves. Special congratulations to Paul Magès, for designing the whole hydraulic system.
On the other hand, the engine was inherited from the Traction, and even if Walter Becchia had endowed it with a new top, the DS would always lack the flat-6 once planned for the top-of-the-range Citroen. The company was simply short of money to achieve its development.
The public was more than enthusiastic: on the first day, 12,201 orders were placed. At the end of the show, this figure rose to 79,996! Even if the DS reached new technoligical summits, it remained affordable.
Citroen was both delighted and embarrassed: only 8 copies had been made hitherto. If fact, the car was still a prototype and the first customers underwent appalling reliability problems. It took Citroen a few years to solve them: by the time, the DS had acquired a dubious reputation…
But then, the company constantly improved and developed its goddess on wheels. 1958 saw the introduction of a simplified DS called ID, which was declined in an estate body (Safari)the following year. In 1960, the convertible came out in the Paris Motorshow. In 1961, the engine was modified and saw its power rise from 75 to 83bhp.
In 1964, the luxurious Pallas trim was introduced and in 1965, the old 1911 cc unit was deeply modified (on the DS only). It received a 5-bearing crankshaft and its capacity rose. From then on available in 1985 cc 90bhp and 2175 cc 109bhpversions, it allowed the DS to jump into the highway age with ease and elegance, helped by a new 5-speed gearbox.
It still had no real competitor: the Rover P6, the Peugeot 404, the Vauxhall Cresta, the Mercedes 220, all of them were left far behind in terms of comfort, roadholding or braking power.
See also : Nostalgia
The DS, a fifty-year-old goddess, part II
Bertoni died in 1963, but he had had time to draw a new front end for the DS. It came out in 1967, and once again, the audience was amazed. 4 headlamps took place under a glass panel, conferring the big Citroen an aggressive look. The central 2 lamps rotated the same direction as the wheels and in the mean time, automatically adjusted to the height of the car.
In 1969, a new “safety” dashboard took place in the cockpit and an electronic injection was adapted to the DS 21, which then developed up to 130bhp.
The ID 19 was replaced by the DSpecial and the ID 20 by the DSuper.
In 1971, the 2175 cc engine evolved to 2347 cc, and its power rose to 115bhp if alimented by a carburettor or 139bhp with the electronic injection, allowing the DS to reach a top speed of 118 mph. What a contrast with the 90 mph of the 1955 DS 19!The 2175 cc engine did not disappear though, and was mounted in a new DSuper5 instead.
In the same year, the production of the refined cabriolet ceased.
In 1973, the production ceased in Paris and was transferred to Aulnay-Sous-Bois, on a new assembly line designed for the CX, launched the following year
In 1974, the businessman-intended DS Prestige Pallas disappeared.
On April 24, 1975, the last DS sedan, a blue 23 Pallas, rolled out of the factory, it was the 1,330,755th made in France.
If we add the copies made abroad (in Slough, UK, for example, or Forest, Belgium), the figure rises to 1,455,746. Neither the CX (even if it sold honourably) nor the XM (a real failure) were able to reproduce the dazzling success of the DS, and I don’t think the future C6 will.
Even after 20 years, the DS remained out of reach in terms handling and ride and dynamic safety. Besides, its 0.36 cz drag coefficient was still unsurpassed, even by the CX.
But what remains of this car, beyond its charisma and its unique character, is the flavour of the dream.
Those who had designed it did not care of silly marketing laws, they just wanted to make their dreams come true.