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Citroën DS: French Design Classic

Citroën DS: French Design Classic

Автор Lance Cole

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Citroën DS: French Design Classic

Автор Lance Cole

188 страниц
1 час
4 авг. 2021 г.


Launched in 1955 yet looking like a sci-fi design proposal for a future then undreamed of, Flaminio Bertoni's ellipsoid sculpture with wheels that was the Citroën DS stunned the world.

There was a near riot at the 1955 Paris Motor Show launch of the car, orders flooded in for this, the new 'big Citroën' (a Voiture a Grande Diffusion or VGD) as the car that replaced the legendary Traction Avant range.

The term 'DS' stems from two Citroën parts of nomenclature - the type of engine used as the 11D, (D) and the special hemispherical design of the cylinder head as 'Culasse Special' (S): DS out of 'Deesse' or Goddess, was a more popular myth of ' DS' origination, but an erroneous one.

But it was not just the car's aerodynamically advanced body shape (Cd. 0.37) that framed the genius of the DS: hydro pneumatic self-levelling suspension, advanced plastics and synthetics for the construction of the roof and dashboard/fascia, and amazing road holding and cabin comfort were some of this car's highlights.

Only the lack of an advanced new engine was deemed a missed opportunity. In fact Citroën had created a new engine for the car but lacked the resources to produce it in time for 1955.

DS was a major moment in the history of car design, one so advanced that it would take other auto manufacturers years to embrace. Yet DS in its 'aero' design was the precursor to today’s low drag cars of curved form.

Manufactured worldwide, used by presidents, leaders, diplomats, farmers and many types of people, the DS redefined Citroën, its engineering and design language, and its brand, for decades to come.

Prone to rust, not the safest car in the world, and always lacking a smoother powerplant, the DS still became an icon of car design.

Reshaped with a new nose and faired-in headlamps in 1967, DS remained in production until 1975.

Across its life DS spawned an estate car variant as the 'Safari', a range of limousines, two-door convertibles, and even coach-built coupes and rally specials.

This car was a product design that became an article of social science - it was that famous and it defined a European design movement upon a global stage then packed with 'me too' copyist designs.

The DS or 'Goddess' as it was tagged, was a tear-drop shaped act of French confidence in a world of the regurgitation of the known. Some argue that DS and its effect has never been surpassed.

This new value-for-money book provides innovative access to the design, history, and modeling of the revolutionary DS - one of the true 'greats' of motoring history and, a contemporary classic car of huge popularity.
4 авг. 2021 г.

Об авторе

Following early training in illustration and car design/styling, Lance Cole began to write about cars and aircraft. After becoming the 1983 Jaguar Cars/Guild of Motoring Writers Lyons Scholar, he has enjoyed a long career in the media, writing for all the major newspapers and specialist magazines, including The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Classic Cars and the South China Morning Post. The author of over 100 articles and fifteen books, including five for Crowood, he now provides media, content and strategic PR advice, to major organizations including car manufacturers.

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Citroën DS - Lance Cole

DS delight as a later DS speeds along in its unique style. (Photo Author)

CarCraft 4



Lance Cole

First published in Great Britain in 2021 by PEN & SWORD TRANSPORT

an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd

47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS

Copyright © Pen & Sword Books, 2021

ISBN 9781526789853

eISBN 9781526789860

Mobi ISBN 9781526789877

The right of Lance Cole to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the Publisher in writing.

Every reasonable effort has been made to trace copyright holders of material reproduced in this book, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to hear from them.

Pen & Sword Books Ltd incorporates the imprints of Pen & Sword Archaeology, Atlas, Aviation, Battleground, Discovery, Family History, History, Maritime, Military, Naval, Politics, Railways, Select, Social History, Transport, True Crime, Claymore Press, Frontline Books, Leo Cooper, Praetorian Press, Remember When, Seaforth Publishing and Wharncliffe.

For a complete list of Pen & Sword titles please contact

Pen & Sword Books Limited, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2AS, England

Email: enquiries@pen-and-sword.co.uk

Website: www.pen-and-sword.co.uk



Origins: Autos to Aerodynes

Designed to be Daring

Deviations on a Theme

Details in Design & Profile

Die-cast & Modelling


Front cover. Top: Norev’s 1956 DS at 1/18 scale in die-cast. (Photo Author) Centre left: Dashboard and interior of later right-hand drive DS to British specification. (Photo Author) Centre right: A top of the line DS at rest in all its ‘cats eyes’ glory. (Photo Author) Profile: The classic DS 19 profile of post-1958 specification and depicted in the Jonquille (AC 305) colour (Lance Cole)


Quintessential DS. Note Pallas-trim level sill covers, side rubbing strips and C-pillar finish. The ‘intergalactic’ style and scaling of the DS is very evident here. (Photo Author)

Launched in 1955 and looking like a sci-fi design proposal for a future then undreamed of, the Citroën DS became a symbol of something more than just a car. In its advanced thinking it defined a great French era of technology and even of French social science amid an intellectualism, a political and industrial confidence and an engineering education. France began a new age in the 1950s and the DS helped launch that era.

Somehow the DS was more than the sum of its automotive parts. A car, a Citroën and it seems something more – which endures to this day. None of the accolades heaped upon the DS was hype; it really was the height of engineering and design. Yet, curiously, it never received the advanced engine envisaged to complement its overall design. And underneath its advanced body, there lay hydro-pneumatics, and the use of new materials amid new design.

Alongside the DS in the early 1950s, the French produced the world’s first twin-engined and swept-wing jet airliner – one with the engines uniquely mounted at the back of the aircraft. This was the elegant Sud Aviation/Aérospatiale Caravelle, an airliner that wiped the complacent British and the Americans off their arrogant aeronautical perches with the shock of its new technology and its wonderful aerodynamics and style. Caravelle created new design thinking, a new 1950s design language – just like the DS did.

The Caravelle and the DS framed a great era in French history and both would sell in America. Imagine, an American airline using a French jet airliner! It happened even as Boeing was expanding. DS shocked the Americans too, but it was a bit too advanced for the mainstream, accountancy-led thinking of Detroit and its carmakers and their set formulas of design, driving and, above all, costs and profit. Yet front-wheel drive and aerodynamics would be seeded into the American automotive psyche by the DS and the subsequent Citroën SM.

Against this backdrop, we were visited by the alien from the galaxy that was the DS – or as Roland Barthes tagged it, Déesse (Goddess), in his Mythologies as being something that had fallen from the sky on an unsuspecting public. The derived term Déesse became a DS colloquialism but DS was the car’s name and badge.

The DS was the new technologie – aerodynamic, part-plastic, devoid of suspension springs – via its ride-height-adjustable gas and air suspension system and its pump – and built with the world’s first synthetic content and moulded dashboard: it had a new seat construction method, and was unusually built up on a part-frame under chassis with bolt-on unstressed body panels. It contained other innovations too. The DS made contemporary 1950s rivals look like antediluvian-design dinosaurs.

America’s answer was flashy colours, pointy fins, bling, acres of chrome, sheets of soft steel and sheer horsepower, all wrapped up in huge cars that in general, defined a motorized society but not advanced engineering thinking.

With the exception of the brilliant and innovative Rover P6 series, Britain’s answer was to continue to produce square-rigged austerity-cruisers of cars. Germany stayed boxy and upright with one glorious exception – the NSU Ro80 with its Wankel rotary engine and futuristic premonition of a body that took aerodynamic design to new heights:

Ro80 arrived over a decade after the DS and only lost the plot due to the failures of its rotary engine design. The DS would stay in production from 1955 to 1975. Along the way it would morph into many variations, with, from 1967, the faired-in, ‘cats-eyes’ headlamp and nose treatment.

Today, the DS still astounds and has a tribe of dedicated devotees, some of who are so devoted that they are blind to its only significant fault and, attack those who discuss it. Yet the DS deserves its place as a radical disrupter of engineering design and its role in the development of the motor car. Here in the DS, was wrapped an incredible moment in the history of man’s motoring and no one should be in any doubt about the DS and its effect.

Yet despite this history of design set off by Citroën with its Traction Avant model in 1936 and the Deux Chevaux/2CV, in 1955 the DS was a shock to a world that was still turning out box-shaped, rear-wheel-drive cars with wheezing engines, cart-spring suspension and horsehair-stuffed leather seats that filled interiors which resembled those of an Edwardian-era railway carriage or an hotel lounge.

This DS is unusual for its roof contours – because, although a fixed-head saloon, it has a rare, full-length roll-back, soft-roof conversion carried out in Switzerland in very low numbers. (Photo Author)

British-registered DS in one of the many shades of blue that Citroën offered for its car. The stance of the car at ride height is evident as it serenely cruises past. (Photo Author)

Even the French were shocked by the DS and, in response, in 1957, Citroën produced a lesser-trimmed DS known as the ID – it had less hydraulic features and was cheaper. To confuse things further the ID became the D Special in later years.

The author grew up with a family DS and has owned and driven the DS/ID and Citroën hydro-pneumatic cars all over the world, in France, Australia and in Africa – where many DSs still reside. So herein, is the DS tale, written in a detailed yet accessible style of DS enthusiasm with just one caveat – the car’s structural safety design being the elephant in the room and a point of massive contention in the DS world. The DS was not the only car that had such issues, so we need to see this facet of the DS in the context of its time.

The essential DS roof-mounted trumpets

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