Just as it had done 21 years previously with the revolutionary ‘Traction Avant’, Citroën stunned the world again in 1955 with the launch of the strikingly styled ‘DS’. Beneath the shark-like newcomer’s aerodynamically efficient, low-drag bodyshell there was all-independent, self-levelling, hydro-pneumatic suspension; plus power-operated brakes, clutch and steering.
No European car would match the DS’s ride quality for several years, the fundamental soundness of Citroën’s ahead-of-its-time hydro-pneumatic suspension being demonstrated by its survival in present-day top-of-the-range models. The DS’s original 1,911cc, overhead-valve, long-stroke engine was replaced in 1966 by a short-stroke 1,985cc unit, also available in 2,175cc and 2,347cc versions, while other DS developments included swivelling headlights, fuel injection and a five-speed gearbox.
Other models offered alongside the original DS were the ID (a simplified, cheaper version), the cavernous Safari estate and the two-door Décapotable (convertible), the latter boasting coachwork by Henri Chapron. (Chapron’s first convertibles had been produced independently of Citroën, but the factory eventually gave the project its blessing). Citroën’s Décapotables were built on the longer, stronger chassis of the ID Break (Estate) but the model was never produced in England, where Citroën’s right-hand drive cars were assembled at its Slough factory. In total, 1,365 usine (factory) convertibles were made with either the DS19 or DS21 engine between 1960 and 1971, while Chapron built a further 389 of his own, the last in 1973.
… one of our favourite cars.
Atelier Automobile / Berlin / Germany