1971 Citroën DS

The Citroën DS first appeared in 1955 and remained in production until 1975. Some people, me included, think they should still be making them. When we look at the cars that were being made in 1955, and then we look at the Citroën DS we can appreciate just how enormous a jump in technology and the art of automotive design these cars were. There was only one thing about the car that had remained conventionally old fashioned and that was the engine that was used in the initial post war era, a problem that was progressively rectified in 1965 with the introduction of a 2175cc four cylinder engine producing 109hp. This engine was further upgraded in 1970 with the addition of Bosch fuel injection. In 1973 for the last two years of production the engine was increased to 2347cc and, depending on the model, power was up to a healthy 141hp.

But it’s not the engine that makes the Citroën DS such an extraordinary car. The engine was pretty much the only conventional thing about it. For example, there was no brake pedal as such. Instead there was a largish rubber ball which you touched with your foot to engage the braking system. The suspension was hydro-pneumatic, using a fluid and air arrangement to provide both springing and damping, and also to allow the owner to raise or lower the ride height of the car at will.

Jay Leno features one of these wonderful, and wonderfully different cars in an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage”. As he takes you for a tour of the car watch how he changes a wheel, it’s an impressive system.

The Citroën DS suspension and the effect of the lounge chair seating all add to the impression of sheer comfort. The steering wheel and dashboard are similarly at once a work of art, and completely practical.

The single spoke steering wheel maximizes the driver's view of the dashboard whilst the dashboard itself is clean, stylish and uncluttered. (Picture courtesy cadycars.be)

The single spoke steering wheel maximizes the driver’s view of the dashboard whilst the dashboard itself is clean, stylish and uncluttered. The unusual rubber brake is visible in this picture. (Picture courtesy cadycars.be)

The engine’s position in the car is in front of the driver, but behind the front axle line which some, me included, refer to as a “front mid-engine”. This keeps the weight as far to the rear as possible and makes it possible to get close to a 50/50 front to rear weight distribution.

The engine is positioned behind the front axle line. The differential and gearbox are in front of the engine. (Picture courtesy Wikimedia)

The engine is positioned behind the front axle line. The differential and gearbox are in front of the engine. The unusual asymmetrical tread pattern tyres appear to be by Michelin. (Picture courtesy Wikimedia)

In addition to the common four door saloon/sedan body style the Citroën DS were made as two door convertibles and as five door “Safari” station wagons.

Citroën Safari station wagon. With the hydro-pneumatic suspension one of the most desirable long distance touring cars one could hope for. (Picture courtesy wallpaperup.com)

Citroën Safari station wagon. With the hydro-pneumatic suspension one of the most desirable long distance touring cars one could hope for. (Picture courtesy wallpaperup.com)

The Citroën DS was a car that tended to re-define what the word “car” actually meant. It might have been described as “ahead of its time” but in fact it was perfect for its time and still looks modern forty years after production ceased and sixty years after production started.

1971 Citroën DS-2

 

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