Monday 26 September 2011
The Citroën DS was an executive car produced by the French manufacturer Citroën between 1955 and 1975. Styled by Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni and the French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre, the DS was known for its aerodynamic futuristic body design and innovative technology, including a hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension.
The DS advanced achievable standards in automobile ride quality, handling, and braking. Citroën sold nearly 1.5 million D-series during the model's 20-year production run. The DS came in third in the 1999 Car of the Century competition, recognizing the world's most influential auto designs, and was named the most beautiful car of all time by Classic & Sports Car magazine.
After 18 years of secret development as the successor to the Traction Avant, the DS 19 was introduced on 5 October 1955 at the Paris Motor Show. In the first 15 minutes of the show, 743 orders were taken, and orders for the first day totalled 12,000.
Contemporary journalists said the DS pushed the envelope in the ride vs. handling compromise possible in a motor vehicle.
To a France still deep in reconstruction after the devastation of World War II, and also building its identity in the post-colonial world, the DS motor car was a symbol of French ingenuity. The DS was distributed to many territories throughout the world.
It also posited the nation's relevance in the Space Age, during the global race for technology of the Cold War. Structuralist philosopher Roland Barthes, in an essay about the car, said that it looked as if it had "fallen from the sky". An American advertisement summarised this selling point: "It takes a special person to drive a special car".
The high price tag, however, hurt general sales in a country still recovering from World War II, and a cheaper submodel, the Citroën ID, was introduced in 1957. The ID shared the DS's body but was less powerful. Although it shared the engine capacity of the DS engine (at this stage 1,911 cc), the ID provided a maximum power output of only 69 hp compared to the 75 hp claimed for the DS19. Power outputs were further differentiated in 1961 when the DS19 acquired a Weber-32 twin bodied carburetter, and the increasing availability of higher octane fuel enabled the manufacturer to increase the compression ration from 7.5:1 to 8.5:1.A new DS19 now came with a promised 83 hp of power. The ID19 was also more traditional mechanically: it had no power steering and had conventional transmission and clutch instead of the DS's hydraulically controlled set-up. Initially the basic ID19 was sold on the French market with a price saving of more than 25% against the DS, although the differential was reduced at the end of 1961 when the manufacturer quietly withdrew the entry level ID19 "Normale" from sale. A station wagon variant, the ID Break, was introduced in 1958.
The ID19 followed the DS19's example in using a punning name. While "DS" is pronounced in French as "Déesse" (goddess), "ID" is pronounced as "Idée" (idea).
The DS was the first mass production car with front power disc brakes. It also featured hydropneumatic suspension including an automatic leveling system and variable ground clearance, power steering and a semi-automatic transmission, and a fibreglass roof which reduced weight transfer. Inboard front brakes (as well as independent suspension) reduced unsprung weight. Different front and rear track widths and tyre sizes reduced the understeer typical of front-engined and front-wheel drive cars.
As with all French cars, the DS design was affected by the tax horsepower system, which effectively mandated very small engines. Unlike the Traction Avant predecessor, there was no top-of-range model with a powerful six cylinder engine. Citroën had planned an air-cooled flat-6 engine for the car, but did not have the funds to put the prototype engine into production. Despite the rather leisurely acceleration afforded by its small four-cylinder engine, derived from the Traction Avant, the DS was successful in motorsports like rallying, where sustained speeds on poor surfaces are paramount, and won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1959 and controversially in 1966, after the disqualification of the BMC Mini-Cooper team.
The DS placed fifth on Automobile Magazine's "100 Coolest Cars" listing in 2005. It was also named the most beautiful car of all time by Classic & Sports Car magazine after a poll of 20 world-renowned car designers, including Giorgetto Giugiaro, Ian Callum, Roy Axe, Paul Bracq, and Leonardo Fioravanti.
- engine: 4 cylinders
- capacity: 1911 cc
- horsepower: 75 HP
- gearbox: 4+1
- top speed: 140 km/h