Citroen DS | Spotted

51 years young, there's still nothing quite like a Citroen DS

By John Howell / Wednesday, October 6, 2021 / Loading comments

41,000 miles in 51 years. Crikey. If you’re the kind of person that gets the hots for a low-miler, no doubt that’ll have you chomping at the bit from the off. We’re talking a little over 800 miles a year, folks, but for me, this particular Citroën DS piqued my interest because, well, it’s a DS. And before you harangue me for that, yes, I am as much of a sucker for sports cars as anyone. Matt’s verdant Porsche 911 GT3 is right there at the fruity end of my automotive appreciation spectrum – but, at the other end, I am a bit of a softy for something, well, soft. And we’ve all heard tales of how soft a DS is; how they were used as camera cars to track the horses down racecourses, because nothing in the world could absorb divots like the DS’s hydropneumatic domes.

The other thing that gets me going is pushing the envelope of design and technology. That’s why I also have a thing for (hushed voice) the 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Yep, in terms of design, it was so out there I’ve always assumed drugs were involved somewhere, and its Hydra-Matic four-speed transmission, air conditioning and powered antenna, seats, windows, steering and brakes were a million miles away from…a contemporary Daimler Conquest, in beige.

So back here in Europe we needed something equally beguiling (or startling, depending on your view of the aforementioned Caddy), and in 1955 we got it. Out of the beige sea of post-war Daimlers emerged the DS. And it was just as vibrant and tech-laden as anything the Yanks had. In fact, compared to what else was out there, it was like a time machine that fast-forwarded the automotive mainstream from prehistoric to present in a flash.

Take the styling. It was, and I think still is, like nothing else: as dramatic as it is aerodynamic. You won’t find any styling cues here harking back to the era of running boards. Nope, it’s pointy nose and teardrop shape was new and ripe. As far as the tech is concerned, there’s even more to whet the appetite. Everyone knows about the fabled suspension, which ended up finding its way onto Rolls-Royces, but there’s also the directional headlights of the later cars like this one (they came after the restyle by the recently departed Robert Opron, who’s creative streak led to the Citroën SM, facelifted Alpine 310 and the whacky Alfa Romeo SZ) as well as the clutchless, Hydraulique semi-auto gearbox.

And while this was clearly no sports car, it did win rallies, including the Monte Carlo (twice) and had a number of features to aid handling that would’ve been noteworthy had they appeared on any Ferrari born in 1955: the glass fibre roof to lower its centre of gravity; inboard disc brakes to reduce its unsprung mass, grippy radial Michelin tyres and fully independent suspension front and rear that kept their contact patches placed evenly on the road. I know this stuff gets regurgitated all the time, but that shouldn’t detract from the point: this stuff was truly exceptional.

I will admit that this particular DS20’s shade of navy isn’t the most outrageous and its later design of dash isn’t as kitsch as the earlier version, but the tan interior is right up my alley, and I am intrigued by something else. I hadn’t realised that DS’s were also made in South Africa, so I’ve learned something. As the advert states, South African cars were initially built in Johannesburg before production moved to Port Elizabeth in 1970, and proved indistinguishable from the French cars, other than their vinyl seats replacing leather – presumably because they didn’t end up dried and brittle like a Cornflake in the heat.

The DS did get a bad rap back in the day for being overly complicated and unreliable. If you read into that, mind, it was because Citroën launched the car in a rush without making sure its dealerships were trained to fix them, causing the bulk of the frustrations. Hopefully, there won’t be any such problems with this 1970 DS20. It’s fitted with the later 2.0-litre petrol, which had five bearings on its bottom end for enhanced smoothness, and has apparently been the subject of ‘a fairly extensive restoration to a very high standards.’ So come on, tell me, am I really the only one out there who’s fallen in love with this goddess?


SPECIFICATION | CITROEN DS20

Engine: 1,985cc, four cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed manual (S.African spec), front-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],900rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
0-62mph: 14.2sec
Top speed: 104mph
CO2: N/A
MPG: N/A
Year registered: 1970
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £POA

See the original advert here

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