single shot /// citroën ds

April 06, 2020 /// issue no. 97

Citroën isn’t a name most Americans know unless they follow the World Rally Championship. With Sébastien Loeb at the helm Citroën won nine straight world driver’s championships and only missed the constructor’s championship twice in that span. I nearly named my son Seb so that he could either be named after Loeb or F1 champ Vettel, but that was quickly vetoed by my wife.

My first run in with a Citroën in the flesh was in the summer of 2003. I worked the late shift loading auto body supplies on to delivery trucks in an industrial park by MCAS Miramar in San Diego. The job paid a great hourly rate for a college student and I got to work alongside either the E46 M3 or 996 C4S that my boss kept in the warehouse, depending on which he was storing at the time. As a car geek I also spent a lot of time admiring the cars a few doors over at Citroën Concours of America. And by cars I mean any number of Citroën DS that would be parked out back.

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At the time, I had no idea what these funky cars were. They looked European for sure and I was fascinated by the covered rear wheel arches. It took me a while to uncover that they were Citroën’s and even longer to realize the impact the DS had on the industry.

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To put it lightly, the DS was a hit. When revealed in 1955 at the Paris Motor Show, the DS took 80,000 reservations over the course of the show. By comparison, the Tesla Model 3 took in 180,000 reservations in its first day. 80,000 reservations in the time before personal computers or even the internet seems unfathomable.

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Why was it so well received? The DS screamed innovation. Its aerodynamics were designed by a rocket scientist and the DS has since been named by Classic & Sports Car magazine as the most beautiful car of all time. With Citroën being owned by Michelin when the DS was developed, it was designed around the new radial tire (read: tire in today’s parlance). The suspension featured auto-leveling and variable ride height and the roof was made of fiberglass to lower the vehicle’s center of gravity. Turn adaptive headlights that are mostly found on high-end cars today? That came to the DS in 1967. (But only in Europe. Even then Americans had idiotic legislation.) Clutch-less manual? Yeah, the DS had that. The DS was also the original hard parker. The car would lower itself when parked as the engine-driven hydropneumatic suspension depressurized.

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There’s something weird, funky, lovable, modern, yet entirely classic about the DS. Even if you can’t bring yourself to drive a French car, we should all appreciate what Citroën did to help the cars parked in our driveway to evolve in to what they are today.

Coffee time,
Steven


daily automotive addiction.