The debut of the Citroen DS series at the Paris Salon in 1955 was sensational. Some humorously suggested Flaminio Bertoni’s design was so futuristic that aliens must have invaded his drawing office and sketched out a 23rd-century machine, but the point was well made.
No other car before or since has provoked so much comment, for this was truly unlike any other car seen before or since. The European reaction was replicated when the DS 19 appeared in New York, billed as ‘the dream car of tomorrow, on the road today’. This aerodynamic marvel boasted a ‘Citro-Matic’ hydraulic system that controlled the suspension, steering, brakes, clutch and gear change.
It followed a grand tradition of French cars that broke the mould, and would go on to enjoy two successful decades of automotive life. Throughout that period it remained the world’s most technically advanced car, packed with amazing innovations. The DS was a machine that divided opinion into ‘love it’ and ‘hate it’ camps and whilst technical wizardry delighted supporters, detractors seized upon the car’s complexity as a disadvantage.
But some even worshipped this slinky car — its DS designation denoted Desiree Speciale, but these letters are pronounced the same way as the French déesse, which means goddess. So ‘Goddess’ the DS became, and remained. Even those who disliked the car had to admit that roadholding, ride quality, handling and braking were exceptional. A station wagon and rare convertible were introduced, and further enhancements throughout the production run ensured that the DS remained at the cutting edge with styling updates in 1962 and 1967, plus the introduction of features like electronic fuel injection, five gears, automatic transmission and headlights that turned with the steering. Though relatively few sold in America Oust 38,000) nearly 1.5 million DS models were produced.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1955 (until 1975)
1,911 cc OHV Straight Four
Top speed of 98 mph (158 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 21.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A junior (more affordable) look-alike version of the DS was introduced in 1957, without many of the DS’s advanced features – though it too had a punning model name in ID (as in doe for idea).