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Old 08-02-2011, 02:52 PM   #1
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Default CitroŽn DS in March 2011 'Thoroughbred and Classic Cars'

The March 2011 issue of ĎThoroughbred and Classic Carsí has a nine-page feature on the CitroŽn DS. Text by Andrew Noakes

Suspension of Disbelief

Hydropneumatic suspension and science-fiction styling make the CitroŽn DS an icon of individualist design. With prices rising, itís time to take a step into the future.

As French President Charles de Gaulleís car sped through the Paris suburb of Petit-Clamart in August 1962, bound for the airport at Villacoublay, it was ambushed by terrorists of the OAS. Machine-gun fire ripped through the bodywork, missing the President and his wife by millimetres, and bullets shredded the tyres. Other cars would have been undriveable, but de Gaulleís driver, Francis Marroux, was able to keep his foot down and whisk the president to safety because their car had remarkable suspension and steering like no other vehicle. The car that saved de Gaulleís life was a CitroŽn DS.

It was a vehicle that would define CitroŽnís individual approach to design for two decades and today it remains an icon of avant-garde styling. But it is also a car that polarizes opinion: for every double-chevron enthusiast who lauds the ride, roadholding and out-of-this-world styling, there are sceptics who scoff at the DSís complexity.

Though the DS was unveiled at the 1955 Paris motor show, development started as early as 1938 when CitroŽn managing director Pierre Boulanger began to think about a replacement for the Traction Avant. The VGD (Voiture a Grande Diffusion, mass-market car) was to be a big saloon capable of travelling at speed and in comfort on Franceís dilapidated roads, and that called for a suspension system with qualities not yet available on any car. Early work was halted by the war and other projects took priority in the immediate post-war years, so work did not resume in earnest until the late Forties, with CitroŽn chief designer Andrť Lefebvre keen to make the new car genuinely radical. Tragedy struck when Boulanger was killed in an accident in 1950 but Lefebvre pressed on with what was now known as Projet D.

Before the war, stylist Flaminio Bertoni had proposed a fastback body-style with a smoothed out Traction Avant nose in the interest of aerodynamic efficiency. With encouragement from Lefebvre he now refined those ideas into a far more forward-looking teardrop shape with low nose and integrated wings. There was no conventional radiator grille, air for the engine being drawn in beneath the car. For a while Bertoni experimented with a hump-backed shape which became known as líhippopotame. Later designs reverted to a smoother tail, but their aggressive teardrop form compromised rear headroom. The definitive shape arrived in the early Fifties when Bertoni raised the rear roofline and incorporated a wrap-around rear screen, effectively making the DS a six-light car.

The low nose left little room for the engine, so CitroŽn engine designer Walter Becchia, who had already drawn up an air-cooled flat twin for the 2CV, proposed a compact flat-six mounted right at the front of the car with the gearbox behind and driving the front wheels Ė the same layout as the 2CV. Air- and water-cooled prototypes were built, but experienced problems with overheating and misfiring, and the extreme forward-location of the engine contributed to poor handling. Eventually Lefebvre decided to abandon the new motor in favour of an updated version of the Traction Avantís 1911cc in-line four mounted so far back in the engine bay it encroached into the front of the cabin. The engine drove forwards to the gearbox Ė a conventional four-speed manual unit that was operated in a far from conventional manner. There was no clutch pedal and the driver was provided with a gear selector on top of the steering column with a C-shaped gate, neutral sitting in the middle of the C. Moving the lever away from the driver selected first gear, and a movement to the right selected reverse. From the neutral position, pulling the lever back selected second gear, then moving it right selected third and fourth gears in turn. Pushing the lever left from the neutral position operated the starter. The lever had no mechanical connection to the gearbox, instead controlling a hydraulic unit that automatically disengaged the clutch, operated the gear selectors and re-engaged the clutch.

This automated clutch and gearchange, and also the brakes, were powered by a high-pressure hydraulic system based on work by engineer Paul Mages, but its main function was to provide the required advanced suspension system. In place of conventional steel coil springs or torsion bars, were spheres, each divided by a synthetic rubber diaphragm. One side contained pressurized nitrogen, the other had incompressible fluid that transmitted the motion of the road wheel. The result was soft, rising-rate springs providing a supple ride, their connection to the wheels being through a hydraulic system also providing a self-levelling function to cope with changes in load. The system also provided the driver with adjustable ride-height for use on particularly poor surfaces, and jacking for wheel changes. The combination of hydraulic, self-levelling suspension and centre-point steering (where the axis of the steering swivel passes through the centre of the tyre contact patch) gave the car a remarkable ability to cross rough surfaces and drive on flat tyres.

The new carís structure and bodywork was just as innovative as its running gear. The Traction Avant had used a monocoque bodyshell that was unusual for its time and Projet D continued by introducing another advanced construction system. A strong platform chassis with deep sills provided most of the structural strength, with the suspension loads fed into either end and the engine mounted between a pair of outriggers extending forwards from the front bulkhead. A skeleton bodywork frame, known as caisson, was attached to the platform and carried unstressed body panels, mostly bolted on. The bonnet and boot-lid were aluminium and the roof was glassfibre. Inside there was even more innovation, with a moulded plastic dashboard and a single-spoke steering wheel.

It all added up to an extraordinary machine packed with innovative ideas, and it took the 1955 Paris Salon by storm. The car had been given the name DS19. Thousands turned out to see the show car, painted in champagne and aubergine with a sky-blue interior and white-wall tyres, as it rotated slowly on a turntable. Many of them thrust handfuls of francs at CitroŽn salesmen: 1000 orders were taken on the first day, rising to more than 80,000 by the end of the show.

Some potential customers were scared away after the initial excitement had died down. For one thing, CitroŽn had no cars to sell, as production didnít begin until January 1956, and then only slowly. For another, early cars were beset by hydraulic problems. Some of these were caused by production line workers who lacked experience building hydraulic systems, and they were exacerbated by dealers who couldnít fix customersí cars.

Despite these early problems, CitroŽnís rivals had no answer to the DS. Renaultís Fregate offered a unitary body and all-independent suspension, but its chrome-laden American styling was rapidly dating. Peugeotís new 403 had Pininfarina style and promised the same indestructibility as the 203, but it lacked the sophistication of the CitroŽn. Simca and Panhard simply didnít produce cars in the same class. For CitroŽn the drawback was cost, as the DS was considerably more expensive than the outgoing Traction Avant or any potential rival.

At the 1956 Paris show CitroŽn introduced its solution for customers who saw the DS as too complex and expensive: the ID19. Externally similar to the DS, the ID had a simpler interior with a more conventional dashboard, a larger steering wheel and unassisted steering. The brake hydraulics were conventional, and there was a manual clutch and an unassisted four-speed manual gearbox with column change. The engine was the same 1911cc unit, but a revised cylinderhead and intake manifold produced a slightly lower power output. The ID went on sale in the summer of 1957.

By 1960 CitroŽn had introduced two new models. An estate version was built on the saloon wheelbase. And at the other end of the practicality spectrum was the Dťcapotable, built by Paris coachbuilder Henri Chapron. Dťcapotables were built in small numbers between 1960-1971 and today are the most sought-after DS.
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Old 08-02-2011, 02:54 PM   #2
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continued...

*****


The DS and ID both received regular updates: reshaped rear wings were fitted, together with a 12-volt electrical system, for 1960. The DS gained a new steel-pressed dashboard for the 1961 model year.

By 1966 there were two DS models featuring short-stroke, five-bearing versions of the venerable Traction Avant engine designed by George Sainturat. The DS19 now displaced 1985cc and developed 90 bhp, while the new DS21 had a 2175cc unit producing 109 bhp and also offered the option of a plush Pallas trim level with leather upholstery and extra brightwork inside and out. The hydraulic system switched to a new fluid, LHM, a thin green mineral oil. Unlike the original red LHS it did not absorb water in use, which meant fewer problems with internal corrosion in the hydraulic system.

The most significant update to the DS came in September 1967 with the arrival of a restyled front end. Flaminio Bertoni had started the work and it was continued after his death in 1964, by Robert Opron. The restyle sank halogen headlamps and a new pair of long-range driving lamps into the front wings behind glass fairings. The headlamps self-levelled, while the driving lamps were arranged to steer into corners by means of a mechanical link to the steering rack.

Engine upgrades came next, the DS21 generated 115bhp in carburetor form and 139bhp when Bosch fuel-injected. A five-speed manual gearbox was another option, and for 1973 a 2.3-litre DS23 yielded 141bhp on fuel injection.

A more conventional three-dial dashboard arrived for the 1970 model year and for 1972 the original push-button exterior door handles made way for rectangular lift-up handles. The DS was finally phased out in 1975 after 20 years in production, during which time it had always been very expensive to build because of its hydraulic systems and unusual construction. While the DS found nearly 1.5 million buyers and made many friends, it never made a profit for CitroŽn. Its replacement, the CX, carried forward many DS innovations, including the hydropneumatic suspension.

Driving a DS today is an unnerving experience, not because of its unconventional controls but because so much about the model is so impressive even by modern standards. The semi-automatic gearchange, for example, is amazingly effective, offering fingertip gear selection thatís swift and positive, its only demerit being sometimes jerky operation at very low speeds that can make maneuvering a chore. The brakes are powerful, but the light, zero-travel, pressure-sensitive button that takes the place of a conventional pedal takes some getting used to. The power-assisted steering is conventionally weighted. The suspension remains a remarkable achievement, making all but the worst road irregularities imperceptible.

It makes sense to buy the best DS you can afford and get any prospective purchase inspected by an expert. DS interiors are one of the carís strongest features: light, roomy, very comfortable and with masses of Gallic charm. Wear and sun damage can make cabins look shabby, but they are generally easy to restore.

Mechanically, these cars are robust. Engines are reliable and good for high mileages before a rebuild is necessary. An indicator of a well-maintained car is the condition of the drive belts for the water pump, alternator and hydraulics Ė the belts are cheap but have to be removed and refitted in the correct sequence, a job thatís often neglected. Gearboxes rarely fail completely.

The hydraulic system is the biggest worry for most new owners, but problems are rarely major. A DS that has been parked with the engine off for some time would have sunk down on to its bump stops, but 30 seconds or so after starting the engine it should rise to its normal ride height; if the car is unladen the lighter rear end should rise first. When the engine is switched off the car should maintain its height for a few minutes. While driving youíll hear a variety of clicks and whirrs as the hydraulic system operates; these are normal, but listen for a constant clicking Ė it may mean the system is having trouble maintaining pressure.

Leaks are the hydraulic systemís most common problem and many DS leave the occasional drip of fluid on the ground. More significant leaks usually indicate worn seals. Catastrophic failure is unusual, but possible: if the pipe joining the hydraulic pump to the pressure regulator fails, the system can dump all its fluid in half a minute. If that happens the first sign is often heavy steering, followed by a loss of ride-height. By design, the brakes are the last system to be affected.

Buying a good DS demands a degree of planning, knowledge and an expert eye. But if that sounds like a lot of to worry about, think of the compensations. Few classics are so usable or so well-suited to long-distance touring in such comfort. Still fewer can boast the DSís automotive design status. And no other car can claim to have saved the life of a president with such style.
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Old 08-02-2011, 02:58 PM   #3
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...in the same issue...

*****


The DS in motorsport

Though the DS never had enough power to compete with larger-engined cars on straight-line performance, it was well-suited to long-distance road rallies where reliability, road-holding and comfort Ė to limit crew-fatigue Ė are more important than speed.

The DS19 won its class on its debut in the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally, but it took until 1959 for CitroŽn to sanction a serious rally effort with the ID19, drivers preferring its unassisted steering and manual gearchange. That year the ID took four outright victories in European rallies, including the Monte Carlo and Marathon de la Route. In 1961 just eight of the 85 Marathon entries finished, three of them DS19 including the overall winner driven by Lucien Bianchi. Five DS19 were among twenty finishers in 1962 and four were among the 21 finishers in 1964, CitroŽn taking home the Constructorís Cup on both occasions.

Lucien Bianchi and Jean-Claude Ogier nearly won the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon, but were eliminated after an accident. In 1969 CitroŽn rallied curious two-door DS coupťs, Robert Neyret and Jacques Terramorsi winning the Rallye du Maroc in one.

The SM then took over as CitroŽnís top rally car.
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Old 24-08-2013, 12:48 AM   #4
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First part about the DS5 saving de Gaulle's life re-confirmed here.
http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20130...d-by-a-goddess

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Old 24-08-2013, 08:19 PM   #5
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thank you for sharing this, tm :-)
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