Bring Proper Citroens Back!
Imagine yourself attending the 1955 Geneva Motor show and catching a glimpse of it for the first time. It really stood out among the sea of dull post-war cars which looked the same and were eons behind in terms of technology.
People back then weren’t as brainwashed by the media as we are today and thus they were able to think for themselves and not follow the proverbial herd straight into an Audi, Mercedes or BMW showroom where all their silver cars look the same -The only difference between them being their size and price (a trend which has preserved itself to this very day and is flourishing with hardly anybody noticing). Testament to the DS’s appeal are the 12.000 orders placed for it by the end of the first day of the motor show. A rare feat!
The DS’s beautiful body was drawn up by Italian-born aeronautical engineer Flaminio Bertoni. He did a brilliant job making the car a pleasure to look at and aerodynamically sound at the same time.
We take all the gadgets and the technology in our modern cars for granted and we do not realize that we owe so much to this one iconic car. Other famous classic cars such as the original MINI with its transversely mounted engine and the Fiat 500 which was an unrivaled packaging wonder changed only one thing at a time, while the DS changed the way we looked at cars, both from a design point of view and from a technological point of view.
Its main party piece, if you will, is its hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspension which does away with conventional steel springs, replacing them with balls filled with high pressure gas. The system allowed the car to alter its ride height while also powering the brakes and steering in later cars. It offered unmatched levels of refinement and ride quality as the gas filled suspension kept the wheels in constant contact with the tarmac while maintaining the car perfectly level.
An added benefit of the hydro-pneumatic system was the DS’s ability to stay perfectly level and drive on just three wheels – a real time saver in several different types of automotive distress.
By the way, It was on sale from 1955 to 1975 so there are many examples out there, in various states of decay. Some are salvageable and should be worth your time and attention, so if you’re interested in restoring a classic car do not overlook the DS. You’d be the lucky owner of an entire chapter of automotive history compressed into a refreshingly French package.
Unfortunately, Citroen is straying ever further from its original French core values in the quest for an ever greater market share and profits. The hydraulic suspension system and many of their other innovations aren’t present in any of its current DS badged cars.
Almost 60 years after launching its iconic DS, Citroen is yet again attracting the right sort of attention with 200.000 units of their new DS line sold over the last two years. But is this a really impressive numbers? I mean, it is a milestone in itself but with modern advanced production techniques they could have made 500.000 cars and even more in the same period if the demand for them was really high. People would have stopped buying MINIs or any other premium and slightly-under-premium small car and there would have been queues stretching for miles outside their dealerships if they had truly brought back their original assets.
It is important, however, to always remember Citroen’s heritage and why it means so much to many people. Ever since joining the PSA group, Citroen has made re-badged variations of cars found in parent company Peugeot’s line-up and has never really gotten the chance to give birth to something that's truly original, as they did until the 1980s. Their first attempt at ‘revival’ came in 2004 when they launched the C6, an excellent looking car which unfortunately suffered the same fate as the 166: despite being quite a good car in all respects, it never really sold well.
I personally am still waiting for Citroen to make something really special under their DS sub-brand and the recently unveiled No.9 Concept is awesome too look at but it`s not that French in its design. Why do all contemporary cars have to be styled to be aggressive? The original DS wasn’t aggressive at all and here I am nearly 60 years since its conception telling you about how great it is. And, I said, it's not just about the looks - No car since has been able to match its driving experience in terms of surprise or being so much ahead of its time.
As always in history, we never seem to be able match what was done in the past and as the world plunges deeper and deeper into consumerism and materialism and we buy more useless crap, the real values get tainted and we end up accepting things we wouldn`t have normally considered as normal (i.e. the modern money-driven car industry).
Our only salvation from a complete loss of car culture in the future is keeping retro and interesting cars like the DS on the road and maybe bringing them up to date with some modern technology while preserving the overall look and experience of the original car. So, Peugeot, allow Citroen to be itself again!
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