Better late than never — the arrival of the GS in 1970 plugged a gap that had cost Citroen dear over time. This four-door family car belatedly slotted between the Ami and 2CV economy cars and the luxurious DS — a vital market segment where rivals had been cheerfully cleaning up since Citroen discontinued the famous Traction Avant in 1957.
At least Citroen’s response met the standards of technical innovation and excellence for which the company was famous. When launched, the GS may well have been the world’s most technologically advanced set of new wheels, with great aerodynamics and numerous safety features. It was an instant hit with the car-buying public, too, confirming in the nicest possible way what Citroen had been missing for all those years.
The in-house styling was typically French — which is to say unlike anything else on the market. It was a fastback saloon with an enormous amount of boot space, the spare wheel having been cunningly placed on top of the engine. There were two trim levels —GS Club and the superior GS Pallas. A van and estate car were quickly added to the range, though a hatchback did not appear until the uprated GSA series arrived in 1979. If the GS had a fault, it was that all four engines offered were rather feeble for the job.
Unfortunately, Citroen had let things slide too far, despite the success of the GS. A number of factors combined to bankrupt the company in 1974 —the expensively aborted development of a Wankel engine, the effort of launching the GS, the cost of a new factory to build the CX replacement for the ageing DS and the catastrophic impact of the 1973 oil crisis. However, a shotgun marriage to Peugeot presided over by the French government saved the day.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1970 (until 1979)
1,015 cc, 1,129 cc, 1,222 cc or 1,299 cc Flat Four
With 1.0 I engine – top speed of 92 mph (148 km/h); 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 11.7 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Citroen persisted with its Wankel dreams and launched the two-rotor GS Biorotor model in 1973 – but it proved to be a nightmare with just a few hundred sold… and Citroen was forced to buy those back in order to avoid the expense of producing spare parts.