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Hydropneumatic Suspension, Steerable Headlights

Produktion Jahre




Anzahl produziert

Less then 200


André Lefebvre, Flaminio Bertoni, Paul Mages

After 18 years of secret development to replace the Traction Avant, the Citroën DS19 was introduced with great acclaim at the Paris Motor Show on October 6, 1955. The response was so great that more than 740 orders were placed within the first 15 minutes of the show. This front mid-engine, front-wheel drive executive vehicle was indeed different and very special.

French aeronautical engineer Andre Lefebvre and Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni engineered and styled the car. The hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension system was designed by Paul Mages. This fully independent suspension had short shock absorbers filled with pressurized oil and gas on each wheel that allowed the car’s suspension to adjust its firmness and ride height.

Released in autumn of 1964 as the top-of-the-line option, the Pallas treatment was available on the DS series as a higher level of luxury and refinement. In French, “DS” is pronounced as “Deesse,” which means goddess, and “Pallas” was derived from the Greek goddess Pallas Athena.

The Pallas treatment was not its own line, just an elevated level of trim and equipment. When it was first released in 1964, the Pallas treatment car cost 15,370 French Francs and by 1973 the cost had risen to 27,000 Francs. While there is not an exact count as to how many were produced, it is widely believed less than 200 were made.

Described by Jay Leno as, “like riding on a cloud,” the DS was the first mass production car to offer hydropneumatics self-levelling suspension, which ensured the vehicle maintained a constant ride height of the vehicle above the road, regardless of load and the type of road the car was on. It also came with front inboard disc brakes and rear disc brakes. One other unique feature to the DS were the steerable headlights that were connected to the steering wheel by a cable. This allowed the driver to “see around” turns.

With France still deep in reconstruction after World War II and building its identity in a post-colonial world speeding into the Space Age, the DS became a symbol of French ingenuity. In the early 1960’s the DS was the car of choice for some of France’s most wealthy and powerful, which included President Charles de Gaulle.

The DS is credited with saving de Gaulle and his wife Yvonne’s lives during an assassination attempt on August 22, 1962. The Secret Army Organization, or the OAS, was a paramilitary group who were upset Algeria was granted independence by de Gaulle in early August 1962, so they devised a plan to assassinate him. While being driven to the airport, the car was followed by 12 OAS gunmen who opened fire on the vehicle and blew out all four tires. Despite this, the chauffeur was able to accelerate out of a front-wheel skid and drive to safety thanks to the car’s superior suspension. Charles and Yvonne de Gaulle kept their heads down and were unharmed.

The events from this incident were dramatized by Frederick Forsyth in his best-selling novel, The Day of the Jackal that was later made into a film. Knowing he owed his life to the DS, de Gaulle attempted to prevent the outright sale of Citroen to Fiat in 1969. As a result, Fiat could only purchase 15%. To avoid bankruptcy in 1975, the French government-funded Citroen’s sale to a group that included its French rival Peugeot.

From 1955 - 1975, Citroën built 1,455,746 DS models in 6 countries, of which 1,330,755 were manufactured at Citroën’s main Paris Quai de Javel production plant. The DS placed third in the 1999 Car of the Century Competition and fifth on the list of Automobile Magazine’s “100 Coolest Cars” in 2005. The DS is still recognized by car collectors, enthusiasts, and historians as a very noteworthy automobile for its design and engineering.

Be sure to see our 1973 Citroën DS23 Pallas Prestige the next time you visit the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum!

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