It was exactly 65 years ago, the DS 19 was presented to the public for the first time at the Paris Motor Show and made automotive history from the beginning.
The wonderfully quirky Citroën DS may have taken a while to design but the ’magic carpet’ was light years ahead of its time and rather jealous sightseeing rivals.
André Lefebvre’s innovative ideas were constantly evolving offering extraordinary creativity, whilst embracing the very history and integrity of the French marque.
The DS 19 project began way back in 1938, when the then director general of Citroën, Pierre-Jules Boulanger decided it was time to supercede the intellectual Traction Avant. The launch was planned for the 1940s, but the complexity of the car and the Second World War involved ten more years of work for the team of designers led by engineer Lefebvre, who had already designed masterpieces such as the 2CV.
Lefebvre decided he could implement the ideas and design processes that lead to the extremely charismatic and beautifully created Avant, which boasted front-wheel-drive and a much more spacious cabin area due to the lack of prop-shaft and rear differential axle. Other bonuses included the car being lowered because of the less needed space below, allowing for easier access and no sills to ‘clamber’ over on entry.
In addition to those aesthetic and aerodynamic advantages, the Traction Avant also benefited from a better distribution of weight and a lower centre of gravity, thus stability levels increased dramatically whilst driving.
Sign up to our newsletter for updates!
The Frenchman got to work but went even further, designing a rigid floor and framework to work in synergy with the hollow bodywork, which in turn made the DS much lighter. The streamlined body was attached to the platform and its strategically placed anchorage points. The bodywork was ingenious and of modular construction, allowing each element to be easily removed such as the plastic roof, aluminium bonnet, doors, rear arches and fenders.
Citroën DS – Impossible To Overturn
Centre of gravity was designed to reside below the wheel axis, which unless an explosion randomly occurred, made the Citroën DS virtually impossible to overturn. Not content with his already contemporary ideas, Lefebvre demanded at least two-thirds of the entire weight of the car on the front wheel driven system, so as to create the perfect traction. Thanks to the incredible hydropneumatic suspension, it was also possible to raise the car upwards, remove a wheel and drive quite normally thanks to the clever weight distribution.
This quirkiness has been well documented over recent years in practical demonstrations and road tests, even being used on TV (the episode of the American TV series Chips, in 1977, where the two famous motorcycle policemen stop a DS that covers the Californian highways on three wheels, without understanding how this is possible).
When the DS model was launched the South African branch of the company released a movie which saw “aerobatic team” of cars performing on three wheels on a race-track, demonstrating how perfect the weight distribution was on this incredible car.
Even today the exceptional stability and remarkable comfort have assured the Citroën DS of iconic and legendary classic car status, with a cult following who are willing to pay high prices for this now highly desirable car.
You may also like: Rupali Prakash – A Woman’s Perspective On The ‘Classic Chase’