Citroën DS (French pronunciation: [si.tʁɔ.ˈɛn de
ɛs]) is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive executive car that was
manufactured and marketed by the French company
Citroën from 1955 to
1975 in sedan, wagon/estate and convertible body configurations.
Italian sculptor and industrial designer
Flaminio Bertoni and the
French aeronautical engineer
André Lefèbvre styled and engineered
Paul Magès developed the hydropneumatic self-levelling
Noted for its aerodynamic, futuristic body design and innovative
technology, the DS set new standards in ride quality, handling, and
braking—and was the first production car equipped with disc
Citroën sold 1,455,746 examples, including 1,330,755 built at the
Paris Quai André-
Citroën production plant.
The DS placed third in the 1999
Car of the Century
Car of the Century poll recognizing
the world's most influential auto designs and was named the most
beautiful car of all time by Classic & Sports Car magazine.
1 Model history
4 Technical innovation – hydraulic systems
5 Impact on
Citroën brand development
6 Replacing the DS
7.1 ID 19 submodel to extend brand downwards (1957–69)
7.2 D Spécial and D Super (1970–75)
7.3 Series 2 - Nose redesign in 1962
7.4 Series 3 - Nose redesign in 1967 with Directional headlights
7.5 New Green Hydraulic Fluid
8 International sales and production
9 DS in North America
10 Design variations
10.2 Station Wagon, Familiale, and Ambulance
10.4 Chapron variations
10.5 Bossaert Coupe
10.6 The Reactor
11 Technical details
11.2 Source and reserve of pressure
Gearbox and clutch
11.3.1 Hydraulique or Citromatic
11.3.2 Manual—four-speed and five-speed
11.3.3 Fully automatic
12 In popular culture
14 Production figures
15 See also
17 External links
After 18 years of secret development as the successor to the Traction
Avant, the DS 19 was introduced on 5 October 1955 at the
Show. In the first 15 minutes of the show, 743 orders were taken,
and orders for the first day totalled 12,000. During the 10 days of
the show, the DS took in 80,000 deposits; a record that stood for over
60 years, until it was eclipsed by the
Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3 which received
180,000 first day deposits in March 2016.
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 was a symbol of French ingenuity. The DS was
distributed to many territories throughout the world.
Turn indicators were mounted in the upper corners of the rear window.
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".
Because they were owned by the technologically aggressive tire
Citroën had designed their cars around the
technically superior radial tire since 1948, and the DS was no
The car featured a novel hydropneumatic suspension including an
automatic leveling system and variable ground clearance, developed
in-house by Paul Magès. This suspension allowed the DS to travel
quickly on the poor road surfaces common in France.
In addition, the vehicle had power steering and a semi-automatic
transmission (the transmission required no clutch pedal, but gears
still had to be shifted by hand), though the shift lever
controlled a powered hydraulic shift mechanism in place of a
mechanical linkage, and a fibreglass roof which lowered the centre of
gravity and so 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 unequal tyre loading,
which is well known to promote 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.
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.
The DS placed third in the 1999
Car of the Century
Car of the Century competition, and
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
Both the DS and its simpler sibling, the ID, used a punning name. "DS"
is pronounced in French as "Déesse" (goddess); "ID" is pronounced as
"Idée" (idea). An intermediate model was called the DW.
DS19 at the 1956 1000 Lakes Rally
The DS was successful in motorsports like rallying, where sustained
speeds on poor surfaces are paramount, and won the Monte Carlo Rally
in 1959. In the 1000 Lakes Rally,
Pauli Toivonen drove a DS19 to
victory in 1962.
In 1966, the DS won the
Monte Carlo Rally
Monte Carlo Rally again, with some controversy
as the competitive BMC Mini-Cooper team was disqualified due to rule
Mini was involved with DS competition again
two years later, when a drunk driver in a
crashed into the DS that was leading the 1968 London–Sydney
Marathon, 98 miles from the finish line. The DS was still
competitive in the grueling 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally,
where it won over 70 other cars, only 5 of which even completed the
Technical innovation – hydraulic systems
Citroën DS will slowly sink to the ground as the
engine-driven hydraulic system is depressurized
In conventional cars, hydraulics are only used in brakes and power
steering. In the DS they were also used for the suspension, clutch and
transmission. The cheaper 1957 ID19 did have manual steering and a
simplified power-braking system. An engine driven pump pressurizes the
closed system to 2,400 pounds per square inch.
At a time when few passenger vehicles had independent suspension on
all wheels, the application of the hydraulic system to the car's
suspension system to provide a self-levelling system was an innovative
move. This suspension allowed the car to achieve sharp handling
combined with very high ride quality, frequently compared to a "magic
The hydropneumatic suspension used was pioneered the year before, on
the rear of another car from Citroën, the top of range Traction Avant
Citroën brand development
DS Citroen near Mount Baker, WA, U.S.A. ca. 1970
The 1955 DS cemented the
Citroën brand name as an automotive
innovator, building on the success of the Traction Avant, which had
been the world's first mass-produced unitary body front-wheel-drive
car in 1934. In fact, the DS caused such a huge sensation that
Citroën was apprehensive that future models would not be of the same
bold standard. No clean sheet new models were introduced from 1955 to
The DS was a large, expensive executive car and a downward brand
extension was attempted, but without result. Throughout the late 1950s
Citroën developed many new vehicles for the very large,
profitable market segments between the 2CV and the DS, occupied by
vehicles like the Peugeot 403,
Renault 16 and Ford Cortina, but none
made it into production. Either they had uneconomic build
costs, or were ordinary "me too" cars, not up to the company's high
standard of innovation. As
Citroën was owned by
Michelin from 1934 to
1974 as a sort of research laboratory, such broad experimentation was
Michelin after all was getting a powerful advertisement for
the capabilities of the radial tire
Michelin had invented, when such
experimentation was successful.
New models based on the small, utilitarian 2CV economy car were
introduced, notably the 1961 Ami. It was also designed by Flaminio
Bertoni and aimed to combine
Three-box styling with the chassis of the
2CV. The Ami was very successful in France, but less so on export
markets. Many found the styling controversial, and the car noisy and
underpowered. The Dyane was a modernised 2CV with a hatchback that
competed with the 2CV inspired
Renault 4 Hatchback. All these 2
cylinder models were very small, so there remained a wide market gap
to the DS range all through the 1960s.
Citroën finally introduced a car to target the mid-range -
Citroën GS, which won the "European car of the Year" for 1971 and
sold 2.5 million units. It combined a small 55 horsepower flat-4
air-cooled engine with Hydropneumatic suspension. The intended 106
horsepower Wankel rotary-engined version with more power did not reach
Replacing the DS
The DS remained popular and competitive throughout its production run.
Its peak production year was 1970. Certain design elements like the
somewhat narrow cabin, column-mounted gearstick, and separate fenders
began to seem a little old-fashioned in the 1970s.
Citroën invested enormous resources to design and launch an entirely
new vehicle in 1970, the SM, which was in effect a thoroughly
modernized DS, with similar length, but greater width. The manual
gearbox was a modified DS unit. The front disc brakes were the same
design. Axles, wheel bearings, steering knuckles, and hydraulic
components were either DS parts or modified DS parts.
The SM had a different purpose than replacing the 15-year-old DS
design however - it was meant to launch
Citroën into a completely new
luxury grand touring market segment. Only fitted with a costly, exotic
Maserati engine, the SM was faster and much more expensive than the
DS. The SM was not designed to be a practical 4-door saloon suitable
as a large family car, the key market for vehicles of this type in
Europe. Typically, manufacturers would introduce low-volume coupés
based on parts shared with an existing saloon, not as unique models, a
contemporary example being the Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class. BMW
follows a similar strategy of a mid size sedan (5 series), large coupe
(6 series), and large sedan (7 series) sharing common
The SM's high price and limited utility of the 2+2 seating
configuration, meant the SM as actually produced could not seize the
mantle from the DS. While the design funds invested would allow the DS
to be replaced by two cars - a 'modern DS' and the smaller CX, it was
left to the CX alone to provide Citroën's large family or executive
car in the model range.
The last DS came off the production line on 24 April 1975 - the
manufacturer had taken the elementary precaution of building up
approximately eight months of inventory of the "break" (estate/station
wagon) version of the DS, to cover the period till the autumn of 1975,
when the estate/station wagon version of the CX would be
The DS always maintained its size and shape, with easily removable,
unstressed body panels, but certain design changes did occur. During
the 20-year production life improvements were made on an ongoing
ID 19 submodel to extend brand downwards (1957–69)
The 1955 DS19 was 65% more expensive than the car it replaced, the
Citroën Traction Avant. This affected potential sales in a
country still recovering economically from World War II, so a cheaper
Citroën ID, was introduced in 1957.
The ID shared the DS's body but was less powerful and luxurious.
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 carburettor, and the increasing availability of
higher octane fuel enabled the manufacturer to increase the
compression ratio 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.
D Spécial and D Super (1970–75)
The ID was replaced by the D Spécial and D Super in 1970, but these
retained the lower specification position in the range. The D Super
was available with the DS21 2175ccm engine and a 5 speed gearbox, and
named the D Super 5.
Series 2 - Nose redesign in 1962
Citroën DS in the Museum der Autostadt Wolfsburg, showing Series
1 (1955–62) original nose
Citroën DS Convertible – Series 2 (1963–1967) – redesigned nose
Citroën DS23 Pallas – Series 3 (1968–1976) with four
headlights under glass
Directional headlight detail of a DS21
In September 1962, the DS was restyled with a more aerodynamically
efficient nose, better ventilation and other improvements. It retained
the open two headlamp appearance, but was available with an optional
set of driving lights mounted on the front fenders. All models in the
range changed nose design at the same time, including the ID and
station wagon models.
Series 3 - Nose redesign in 1967 with Directional headlights
In late 1967, for the 1968 model year, the DS and ID was again
restyled, by Robert Opron, who also styled the 1970 SM and 1974 CX.
This version had a more streamlined headlamp design, giving the car a
notably shark-like appearance. This design had four headlights under a
smooth glass canopy, and the inner set swivelled with the steering
wheel. This allowed the driver to see "around" turns, especially
valuable on twisting roads driven at high speed at night. The
directional headlamps were powered by the car's central hydraulic
Behind each glass cover lens, the inboard high-beam headlamp swivels
by up to 80° as the driver steers, throwing the beam along the
driver's intended path rather than uselessly across the curved road.
The outboard low-beam headlamps are self-leveling in response to
pitching caused by acceleration and braking.
However, this feature was not allowed in the US at the time (see World
Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations), so a version with
four exposed headlights that did not swivel was made for the US
This 'turning headlight' feature was new to the market - it had only
been seen before on the very rare three headlight 1935 Tatra 77A. The
Tucker, which never was mass-produced, had a central headlight that
turned with the steering. 45 years later, it is now a commonly
available feature, even in the United States.
New Green Hydraulic Fluid
The original hydropneumatic system used a vegetable oil liquide
hydraulique végétal (LHV), similar to that used in other cars at the
time, but later switched to a synthetic fluid liquide hydraulique
synthétique (LHS). Both of these had the disadvantage that they are
hygroscopic, as is the case with most brake fluids. Disuse allows
water to enter the hydraulic components causing deterioration and
expensive maintenance work. The difficulty with hygroscopic hydraulic
fluid was exacerbated in the DS/ID due to the extreme rise and fall in
the fluid level in the reservoir, which went from nearly full to
nearly empty when the suspension extended to maximum height and the
six accumulators in the system filled with fluid. With every
"inhalation" of fresh moisture- (and dust-) laden air, the fluid
absorbed more water.
For the 1967 model year,
Citroën introduced a new mineral oil-based
fluid LHM (Liquide Hydraulique Minéral). This fluid was much less
harsh on the system. LHM remained in use within
Citroën until the
Xantia was discontinued in 2001.
LHM required completely different materials for the seals. Using
either fluid in the incorrect system would completely destroy the
hydraulic seals very quickly. To help avoid this problem, Citroën
added a bright green dye to the LHM fluid and also painted all
hydraulic elements bright green. The former LHS parts were painted
All models, including the station wagon and ID, were upgraded at the
same time. The hydraulic fluid changed to the technically superior LHM
in all markets except the US and Canada, where the change did not take
place until January 1969, due to local regulations.
International sales and production
1960 ID in Tunisia
1972 DS in
Thailand with special cooling vents
DS ambulance in Rio de Janeiro
The DS was primarily manufactured at the Quai André-
Citroën in the
Javel neighborhood of Paris, with other manufacturing facilities in
the United Kingdom, South Africa, the former Yugoslavia (mostly Break
Ambulances), and Australia.
Australia constructed their own D variant in the 1960s at Heidelberg,
Victoria, identified as the ID 19 "Parisienne." Australian market
cars were fitted with options as standard equipment such as the
Special DeLuxe" that were not available on domestic European models.
Until 1965, cars were assembled at the manufacturer's
to the west of London, using a combination of French made knock down
kits and locally sourced components, some of them machined on
site. A French electrical system superseded the British one on the
Slough cars in 1962, giving rise to a switch to "continental style"
negative earthing. After 1965 cars for the British market were
imported fully assembled from the company's French plant. The
British-built cars are distinguished by their leather seats, wooden
(early ID19 models) one piece plastic (early DS19 models) dashboards,
chromed number plate mount let into the front bumper, and (on pre-1962
cars) Lucas-made electrics. These were all right hand drive cars.
The DS was built and sold in
South Africa from 1959 to 1975.
The DS was sold in Japan, but the models were built in France and left
From 2005 to 2008, a young Frenchman named Manuel Boileau travelled
around the world in a 1971 DS ambulance. It was an 80,000 kilometer
journey across 38 countries called Lunaya World Tour. While traveling
through Laos, he located the forlorn 1974 DS Prestige belonging to
Sisavang Vatthana, the last King of the Kingdom of Laos, which is now
preserved and restored by specialists in Bangkok.
DS in North America
Citroën DS with exposed headlights
The DS was sold in North America from 1956 to 1972. Despite its
popularity in Europe, it didn't sell well in the United States, and
little better in Canada. While promoted as a luxury car, it did not
have the basic features that American buyers expected to find on such
a vehicle, such as an automatic transmission, air conditioning, power
windows, or a powerful engine. The DS was designed specifically to
address the French market, with punitive tax horsepower taxation of
large engines, as well as very poor roads – it's no great mystery
that it was a fish out of water when those constraints were
Further harming the DS' prospects on the other side of the Atlantic
was an inadequate supply of parts for the vehicle.
Jay Leno described
the sporadic supply of spare parts as a problem for 1970s era
customers, based on his early experiences working at a
Additionally, the DS was expensive, with a 115 hp (86 kW)
vehicle costing $4,170 in 1969, when the price was $4,500 for a
360 hp (268 kW)
Buick Electra 225 4 door sedan. The
Electra was available with an automatic transmission, power windows,
and came with a much larger engine, most usually a V8, and it was
hardly the only competitor to the DS to have these features as options
or as standard.
As a result of the insufficient supply of replacement parts, an
inability to compete with bigger and more luxurious cars sold for the
same price, and simply having not been designed for the North American
market in the first place, sales for the DS were mediocre throughout
its time on the market in North America. Through all the years it was
offered, a total of 38,000 units were sold.
US regulations at the time also banned one of the car's more advanced
features: its composite headlamps with aerodynamic covered lenses.
Based on legislation that dated from 1940, all automobiles sold in the
U.S. were required to have round, sealed beam headlamps that produced
a meager 75,000 candlepower. The powerful quartz iodine swiveling
headlamps designed for the 1968 model DS represented so many
performance improvements at once that they were far beyond what the
regulations could allow. Even the aerodynamic headlight covers
were illegal – as seen on the 1968 Jaguar E-Type. It took the
lobbying muscle of Ford to point out that the government was requiring
two contradictory things – safety, by ensuring that all headlights
were best-of-breed circa 1940, and fuel economy through the CAFE
standard – by definition, cars with poor aerodynamics are
sacrificing fuel economy. Composite bulb lamps and aerodynamic
covered headlights were not permitted until 1983.
The European lamps were legal in Canada, including the directional
The hydraulic fluid change in 1967 was another brain teaser for U.S.
automotive regulators at the Department of Transportation. NHTSA
follows the precautionary principle, also used by the Food and Drug
Administration, where new innovations are prohibited until their
developers can prove them to the regulators; this stifles the
experimentation that automakers need to advance their products.
NHTSA had already approved a brake fluid they considered safe – DOT
3 brake fluid, which is red and hygroscopic to promote internal rust.
This completely different fluid, used in aircraft applications – the
technically superior green LHM (Liquide Hydraulique Mineral) – took
NHTSA two years to analyze for automotive use. Approval finally came
in January 1969, so half the U.S. cars of the 1969 model year use red
fluid and half use green fluid.
Citroën DS Station Wagon – also known as the Safari, Break,
Familiale, or Wagon
Citroën DS Cabriolet d'Usine (Factory Convertible)
Chapron non-works convertible
Eartha Kitt behind the wheel of The Reactor
In 1965 a luxury upgrade, the DS Pallas (after Greek goddess Pallas),
was introduced. This included comfort features such as better noise
insulation, a more luxurious (and optional leather) upholstery and
external trim embellishments. From 1966 the Pallas model received a
driver's seat with height adjustment.
Station Wagon, Familiale, and Ambulance
A station wagon version was introduced in 1958. It was known by
various names in different markets (Break in France, Safari and Estate
in the UK, Wagon in the US, and
Australia used the terms
Safari and Station-Wagon). It had a steel roof to support the standard
roof rack. 'Familiales' had a rear seat mounted further back in the
cabin, with three folding seats between the front and rear squabs. The
standard Break had two side-facing seats in the main load area at the
The Ambulance configuration was similar to that of the Break, but with
a 60/30 split in the rear folding seat to accommodate a stretcher. A
'Commerciale' version was also available for a time.
The Safari saw use as a camera car, notably by the BBC. The
hydropneumatic suspension produces an unusually steady platform for
filming while driving.
Rarest and most collectable of all DS variants, a convertible was
offered from 1958 until 1973. The Cabriolet d'Usine (factory
convertible) were built by French carrossier Henri Chapron, for the
Citroën dealer network. It was an expensive car, so only 1,365 were
sold. These DS convertibles used a special frame which was
reinforced on the sidemembers and rear suspension swingarm bearing
box, similar to, but not identical to the Break (Station Wagon) frame.
In addition, Chapron also produced a few coupés, non-works
convertibles and special sedans (including the "Prestige", same
wheelbase but with a central divider, and the "Lorraine" notchback).
Between 1959 and 1964, Hector Bossaert produced a coupé on a DS
chassis shortened by 470 mm (18 1⁄2 inches). While the
front end remained unchanged, the rear end featured notchback
In 1965, noted American auto customizer
Gene Winfield created The
Citroën DS chassis, with a turbocharged 180 hp
(130 kW) flat-six engine from the Corvair driving the front
wheels. Since the DS already had the engine behind the front
wheels, the longer engine meant only one row of seats. This was draped
in a streamlined, low slung, aluminum body.
The Reactor was seen in American
Television programs of the era, such
as Star Trek: The Original Series episode 2.25 ("Bread and Circuses),"
Batman episodes 110 ("Funny Feline Felonies") and 111 (driven by
Catwoman Eartha Kitt), and Bewitched, which devoted its episode
3.19 ("Super Car") to The Reactor.
Michelin PLR is a mobile tire evaluation machine, based on the DS
Break, built in 1972, later used for promotion.
Citroën DS with headlight wipers
1969 Pallas interior with Hydraulic gear selector – mounted top
right of steering column with unusual single spoke steering wheel.
Note the "mushroom" brake pedal. (The pedal on the left is the parking
In a hydropneumatic suspension system, each wheel is connected, not to
a spring, but to a hydraulic suspension unit consisting of a hydraulic
accumulator sphere of about 12 cm in diameter containing
pressurised nitrogen, a cylinder containing hydraulic fluid screwed to
the suspension sphere, a piston inside the cylinder connected by
levers to the suspension itself, and a damper valve between the piston
and the sphere. A membrane in the sphere prevented the nitrogen
from escaping. The motion of the wheels translated to a motion of the
piston, which acted on the oil in the nitrogen cushion and provided
the spring effect. The damper valve took place of the shock absorber
in conventional suspensions. The hydraulic cylinder was fed with
hydraulic fluid from the main pressure reservoir via a height
corrector, a valve controlled by the mid-position of the anti-roll bar
connected to the axle. If the suspension was too low, the height
corrector introduced high-pressure fluid; if it was too high, it
released fluid back to the fluid reservoir. In this manner, a constant
ride height was maintained. A control in the cabin allowed the driver
to select one of five heights: normal riding height, two slightly
higher riding heights for poor terrain, and two extreme positions for
changing wheels. (The correct term, oleopneumatic (oil-air), has never
gained widespread use. Hydropneumatic (water-air) continues to be
The DS did not have a jack for lifting the car off the ground.
Instead, the hydraulic system enabled wheel changes with the aid of a
simple adjustable stand. To change a flat tyre, one would adjust the
suspension to its topmost setting, insert the stand into a special peg
near the flat tyre, then readjust the suspension to its lowermost
setting. The flat tyre would then retract upwards and hover above
ground, ready to be changed. This system, used on the SM also, was
superseded on the CX by a screw jack that, after the suspension was
raised to the high position, lifted the tire clear of the ground. The
DS system, while impressive to use, sometimes dropped the car quite
suddenly, especially if the stand was not placed precisely or the
ground was soft or unlevel.
Source and reserve of pressure
The central part of the hydraulic system was the high pressure pump,
which maintained a pressure of between 130 and 150 bar in two
accumulators. These accumulators were very similar in construction to
the suspension spheres. One was dedicated to the front brakes, and the
other ran the other hydraulic systems. (On the simpler ID models, the
front brakes operated from the main accumulator.) Thus in case of a
hydraulic failure, the first indication would be that the steering
became heavy, followed by the gearbox not working; only later would
the brakes fail.
Two different hydraulic pumps were used. The DS used a seven-cylinder
axial piston pump driven off two belts and delivering 175 bar
(2,540 psi) of pressure. The ID19, with its simpler hydraulic
system, had a single-cylinder pump driven by an eccentric on the
Gearbox and clutch
Hydraulique or Citromatic
The DS was initially offered only with the "hydraulique" four-speed
semi-automatic (bvh—"boîte de vitesses hydraulique") gearbox.
This was a four-speed gearbox and clutch, operated by a hydraulic
controller. To change gears, the driver flicked a lever behind the
steering wheel to the next position and eased-up on the accelerator
pedal. The hydraulic controller disengaged the clutch, engaged the
nominated gear, and re-engaged the clutch. The speed of engagement of
the clutch was controlled by a centrifugal regulator sensing engine
rpm and driven off the camshaft by a belt, the position of the
butterfly valve in the carburettor (i.e., the position of the
accelerator), and the brake circuit. When the brake was pressed, the
engine idle speed dropped to an rpm below the clutch engagement speed,
thus preventing friction while stopped in gear at traffic lights. When
the brake was released, the idle speed increased to the clutch
dragging speed. The car would then creep forward much like automatic
transmission cars. This drop in idle throttle position also caused the
car to have more engine drag when the brakes were applied even before
the car slowed to the idle speed in gear, preventing the engine from
pulling against the brakes. In the event of loss of hydraulic pressure
(following loss of system fluid), the clutch would disengage, to
prevent driving, while brake pressure reserves would allow safe
braking to standstill.
Manual—four-speed and five-speed
The later and simpler ID19 had the same gearbox and clutch, manually
operated. This configuration was offered as a cheaper option for the
DS in 1963. The mechanical aspects of the gearbox and clutch were
completely conventional and the same elements were used in the ID 19.
In September 1970,
Citroën introduced a five-speed manual gearbox, in
addition to the original four-speed unit.
In September 1971
Citroën introduced a 3-speed fully automatic
Borg-Warner 35 transmission gearbox, on the DS 21 and later DS 23
models. It is ironic that the fully automatic transmission DS was
never sold in the US market, where this type of transmission had
gained market share so quickly that it became the majority of the
market by this time. Many automatic DSs, fuel-injected DS 23 sedans
with air conditioning, were sold in Australia.
Cutaway model shows engine set far back from front wheels ("MF
layout"), and partially reveals configuration of the oleopneumatic
The DS was originally designed around an air-cooled flat-six based on
the design of the 2-cylinder engine of the 2CV, similar to the motor
in the Porsche 911. Technical and monetary problems forced this idea
to be scrapped.
Thus, for such a modern car, the engine of the original DS 19 was also
old-fashioned. It was derived from the engine of the 11CV Traction
Avant (models 11B and 11C). It was an OHV four-cylinder engine
with three main bearings and wet liners, and a bore of 78 mm
(3.1 in) and a stroke of 100 mm (3.9 in), giving a
volumetric displacement of 1911 cc. The cylinder head had been
reworked; the 11C had a reverse-flow cast iron cylinder head and
generated 60 hp (45 kW) at 3800 rpm; by contrast, the
DS 19 had an aluminium cross-flow head with hemispherical combustion
chambers and generated 75 hp (56 kW) at 4500 rpm.
Like the Traction Avant, the DS had the gearbox mounted in front of
the engine, with the differential in between. Thus some consider the
DS to be a mid engine front-wheel drive car.
The DS and ID powerplants evolved throughout its 20-year production
life. The car was underpowered and faced constant mechanical changes
to boost the performance of the four-cylinder engine. The initial
1911 cc three main bearing engine (carried forward from the
Traction Avant) of the DS 19 was replaced in 1965 with the
1985 cc five-bearing wet-cylinder motor, becoming the DS 19a
(called DS 20 from September 1969).
Spare tire, mounted under the hood
The DS 21 was also introduced for model year 1965. This was a
2175 cc, five main bearing engine; power was 109 hp This
engine received a substantial increase in power with the introduction
of Bosch electronic fuel injection for 1970, making the DS one of the
first mass-market cars to use electronic fuel injection. Power of the
carbureted version also increased slightly at the same time, owing to
the employment of larger inlet valves.
Lastly, 1973 saw the introduction of the 2347 cc engine of the DS
23 in both carbureted and fuel-injected forms. The DS 23 with
electronic fuel injection was the most powerful production model,
producing 141 hp (105 kW).
IDs and their variants went through a similar evolution, generally
lagging the DS by about one year. ID saloon models never received the
DS 23 engine or fuel injection, although the Break/Familiale versions
received the carburetted version of the DS 23 engine when it was
introduced, supplemented the DS20 Break/Familiale.
The top of the range ID model, The DSuper5 (DP) gained the DS21 engine
(the only model that this engine was retained in) for the 1973 model
year and it was mated to a five-speed gearbox. This should not be
confused with the 1985 cc DSuper fitted with an optional "low
ratio" five-speed gearbox, or with the previous DS21M (DJ) five-speed.
In popular culture
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle survived an assassination attempt at Le
Paris on August 22, 1962, planned by Algerian War
veteran Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry. The plan was to ambush the motorcade
with machine guns, disable the vehicles, and then close in for the
kill. De Gaulle praised the unusual abilities of his unarmoured DS
with saving his life – the car was peppered with bullets, and the
shots had punctured the tyres, but the car could still escape at full
speed. This event was accurately recreated in the 1973 film The
Day of the Jackal.
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle visits
Isles-sur-Suippe (Marne) in 1963
Citroën DS 21 Pallas originally owned by actor
Ken Berry of F
Troop—note non-factory vinyl roof and C-Pillars—dealer added
Citroën DS 21 used in the 2009 American television program The
Beyond de Gaulle and the French aristocracy, the roomy DS also
appealed to French taxi drivers.
Outside France, the car drew an eclectic customer mix, such as
Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, Pope John XXIII, painter Marc Chagall, and
actors Ken Berry, Jeff Bridges, and Rosamund
The DS is featured prominently in Gavin Lyall's 1965 suspense novel
Midnight Plus One as the "get away car" for a fugitive businessman and
his hired bodyguards on a journey from Brittany to Liechtenstein. An
ode to Jane Child's DS21 appears on her 1989 self-titled album.
According to Internet Movie Cars Database, the DS/ID has made over
2,000 film and television appearances so far.
After a driverless car chase, a DS transforms into the robot Rodimus
Prime in the 2017 film Transformers: The Last Knight.
Several episodes of the 1960s television series Mission: Impossible,
featured the DS including substantial appearances in "The Slave"
(episode 2.06) and "Robot" (episode 4.09).
In 1989, the film
Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future Part II featured a modified
Citroën DS as a flying taxicab, when the main characters travel 30
years into the future (2015).
Scarface (1983 film)
Scarface (1983 film) with Al Pacino
and the 2009 television series
The Mentalist both feature the DS in
Two films focus on the DS,
The Goddess of 1967
The Goddess of 1967 about a Japanese man
purchasing a DS (goddess or déesse in French) in Australia, and
1995's Icelandic-Japanese road movie Cold Fever.
Henri Chapron's Lorraine model at 2005
Citroën DS values have been rising – a 1973 DS 23 Injection
Electronique "Decapotable" (Chapron Convertible) sold for EUR
€176,250 (USD $209,738) at
Rétromobile in February
2006. and a similar car sold by Bonhams in February 2009 brought
EUR €343,497 (USD $440,436). On 18 September 2009 a 1966 DS21
Decapotable Usine was sold by Bonhams for a hammer price of
UK£131,300. Bonhams sold another DS21 Decapotable (1973) on 23
January 2010 for EUR €189,000.
The DS's beloved place in French society was demonstrated in
9 October 2005 with a celebration of the 50th anniversary of its
launch. 1,600 DS cars drove in procession past the Arc de
Groupe PSA created a new brand - DS Automobiles, intended as
high quality, high specification variations on existing models, with
differing mechanics and bodywork. This brand ranges across four
models, the DS3, DS4, DS5, and the China-only
SUV DS 6. The DS3,
launched in March 2010, is based on Citroën's new C3, but is more
customisable and unique, bearing some resemblance to the original DS,
with its "Shark Fin" side pillar. These have created their own niches,
with the DS4 being a mix of a crossover and a coupe and the DS5 mixing
a coupe and an estate. Many feature hybrid-diesel engines to maximise
Citroën DS production chart
Road & Track magazine, USA. June 1958.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Citroën D Series at Citroënët
Photo of Bossaert DS coupe
Photos of Gene Winfield's 1965 Reactor
Citroen DS at the Internet Movie Cars Database
Maybach SW35 photos for comparison:
1935 Maybach SW 35 design by Jaray, build by Spohn
1935 Maybach SW 35 design by Jaray, build by Spohn
Citroën car timeline, 1950s–1970s — next »
LN / LNA
Small family car
Large family car
ID / DSpécial / DSuper
Grand C4 Picasso
DS 7 Crossback
GT by Citroën
A division of Groupe PSA