50 Aniversario del Citroën DS

Este año 2005 se celebra el 50 aniversario del vehículo que innovó más que ningún otro.

Un de las webs que hacen un resumen sobre este acontecimiento es: 50 Years of the DS


The Citroën DS

Within months of the launch of the Traction Avant in 1934, Citroën’s engineers set to work on its successor. Early design studies used the basic underpinnings of the Traction but with a more “streamlined” body. At much the same time, work was being undertaken on the car that would become the 2 CV.

The Traction replacement was given the codename VGD – Voiture à Grande Diffusion or “mass produced car”) by Pierre Boulanger. André Lefèbvre, the spiritual father of the Traction started with a clean sheet – he proposed a monocoque structure in which the centre of gravity would be as low as possible, the roof and bonnet would be of aluminium and the floorpan would support unstressed, lightweight body panels.

The Nazi occupation of France meant that all development work on new models was prohibited. However, despite this constraint, work continued in secret where, free from normal commercial constraints, fervid imaginations were allowed to run riot. Citroën’s management foresaw that at the end of the war, there would be an almost insatiable demand for new products. They were also well aware that much of France’s road infrastructure was in a very poor state of repair and that any new model(s) would require suspension systems that could cope with this. Fuel would be likely to be rationed and expensive so the new models would need to be economical.

In December 1950, Pierre Boulanger was killed at the wheel of an experimental Traction and Robert Puisseux became Président-Directeur Général of Michelin who owned Citroën. He handed control of the VGD project over to Pierre Bercot, the new managing director of Citroën. Bercot agreed to a redefinition of the project, believing that here was the opportunity to create a car that would be as far ahead of the Traction as that car was of its contemporaries in 1934, even if that meant that the new car’s launch would be delayed. André Lefèbvre was given carte blanche yet again and Projet D was born.

In the early nineteen fifties the Traction was looking increasingly dated – indeed Renault took to marketing its Frégate as la 11 CV Moderne and Peugeot with its 203 and Simca with its Aronde were making inroads into Traction sales with their “modern” styling. Citroën’s response was to offer the Traction in colours other than black.

In April 1952, l’Auto Journal published photos of a prototype being clandestinely tested on the deserted roads of the Midi and in the June edition, they published accurate technical specifications. Bercot was furious and called in the police but the journalists refused to divulge their sources. Citroën improved security and a veil of secrecy descended over the new car, only to be lifted slightly with a preview in 1953 of hydropneumatic suspension fitted to the rear of the 15 CV H

The media continued to speculate about the new car but it would be three and a half years before the DS was finally revealed.

On Thursday 5th October 1955 at 9 o’clock, the new Citroën was unveiled at the Paris motor show. Minutes later, dozens of DS 19s were driven out of the factory gates and into the Paris traffic. 45 minutes later, Citroën had taken 749 firm orders and by the end of the day, 12 000 orders had been placed, the vast majority by people who had never seen the car. The Traction effect had been repeated. Unfortunately, so had the problems. No-one had the faintest idea how these cars worked. The workshops had no manuals. The salesmen had no publicity material. The obsessive need for secrecy had worked against the company. Early cars were less than totally reliable. Many was the owner who found himself stranded with no steering, no brakes, no clutch, no gearchange

no suspension and a big pool of fluid under his car. The local garagiste had no idea what to do. The company quickly mobilised itself, providing the agents with the necessary workshop manuals and training to allow it to honour its guarantees. But when it was working, the DS was undoubtedly la Reine de la Route offering novelty and modernism in addition to unprecedented levels of comfort, road holding, braking and safety. Little by little, the bugs were solved. The hydraulic fluid formulation was improved to reduce oxydisation caused by the intensely hygroscopic properties of the early fluid and eventually, the DS became as reliable as any of its conventional contemporaries – if maintained properly.

Over its 20 year lifetime, the DS was refined and improved and the range was extended to include numerous new variants. The DS was built in England, Belgium, South Africa and Australia as well as in France.

The DS was considerably more expensive and more complex than the Traction so in 1957, a “dry” DS was introduced and production of the Traction ended. The ID 19  retained the body and suspension of the DS but was equipped with a conventional braking and steering system and a normal clutch and manual gearchange. Despite marginally lower power, the ID 19 offered similar levels of performance thanks to a reduction in the load placed on the hydraulic pump.

In 1958, the ID Break (estate car or wagon) was launched, available as a 7 seater, 9 seater Familiale or Commerciale.

In 1960, the 6 volt electrical system was replaced by a 12 volt system.

In 1961, power output was increased to 83 bhp.

In 1962, the front end of the car was tidied up resulting in a 8 kph/5 mph improvement in top speed.

Quartz halogen auxiliary driving lamps were introduced in 1964.

Two new engines were introduced in 1965 – a 90 bhp short stroke 1 985cc unit which replaced the long stroke Sainturat engine in the DS 19 and a 109 bhp short stroke 2 175cc engine which powered a new model – the DS 21.

The front end of the car was redesigned again in 1967 with four lamps mounted behind transparent faired in panels and on top of the range models, the inner pair of lamps swivelled with the steering while the outer pair were linked to the suspension maintaining a level beam irrespective of whether the car was accelerating or braking. In North America, these lights were replaced with four, fixed and exposed lamps.

In 1968, the DS21 gained an extra pair of horses while the DS 19 gained thirteen. Along with the additional power came a name change to DS 20. The ID became D Spécial if equipped with the old engine or D Super if fitted with the DS 20 engine. All cars gained a new dashboard too.

In 1969, the millionth DS was built and to celebrate, the DS 21 was offered with Bosch electronic fuel injection boosting power to 139 bhp.

In 1970, a five speed manual gearbox was offered.

A Borg Warner fully automatic gearbox was made available in 1971.

In 1972, the DS 21 was replaced by the DS 23 equipped with a 2 347cc engine developing either 124 bhp when fitted with a carburettor or 141 bhp when equipped with fuel injection. The D Super was available with the DS 21 engine and 5 speed gearbox and was called the D Super 5-21.

On 24th April 1975, production of the DS ceased.

Total production of all models came to 1 455 746.

Other variants included the Pallas – an upmarket trim option; Prestige – fitted with a glass screen to separate the owner from the chauffeur; a short-lived basic version of the ID called the Normale; and a cabriolet.  Henri Chapron also offered a range of cabriolets, coupés and limousines as well as building a lengthened DS for President de Gaulle.  A number of short wheelbase, two door coupes were also built for rallying and as testbeds for the Maserati-powered SM.