Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!





CITROEN DS-21

egkelly1egkelly1 Posts: 30
I just saw a movie trailer for a new film-this features a DS-21 in it! I haven't seen one of these thoings in years! Still, the DS-21 was very much a car ahead of its time-it was aerodynamic in an era when Detroit didn't know what a drag coefficient was!. It also had an excellent hydraulic suspension, which is still unsurpassed. Yet, most of the people who had these things complained endlessly about them-apparently French engineering had its flaws.
What are the prospects for CITROEN returning to these shore?
Tagged:
«1

Comments

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    Hmmm....very doubtful. You are right, the DS-21 was a remarkable car way ahead of its time. The car often wins journalists polls as one of the most significant post world war II cars every made.

    But complexity has its price, and on foreign shores with only Chevrolet mechanics to rely on, the Citroen owner in the USA was left high and dry by the factory.

    With the poor reputation still staining French cars in the US, and with the usual French chauvinism still in place (god bless 'em), I really doubt Citroen would, or could, make the massive investment in money, material and personnel necessary to market successfully in the US.

    That being said, Citroen still makes interesting cars.

    MODERATOR

  • dranoeldranoel Posts: 79
    I get back to France quite often and even there you don't see too many DS Citroens. The newer vintage Citroens (since the Peugeot merger) has resulted in a decent car but more like the Peugeot. I doubt that Citroen could have made it alone in the European car market. Both Renault and PSA (Peugeot and Citroen) are currently doing well and you see them all over western Europe--I understand they also are both strong in Africa and South America.
  • carnut30carnut30 Posts: 51
    I owned a 1968 ID-19 and a 1971 D-20. The former, in 58,000 miles, needed only fuel strainer replacements, 1 tire, and 1 muffler; that was excellent for the times. The importer had the doors Ziebarted; the other outer panels began to rust. Trade-in value was excellent after 3 years.
    The later D-20 was almost fast enough not to make you cry (0-60 mph in 17 sec), but had more problems. The hydraulic system was quite fail-safe. The nitrogen hemispheres could be recharged and new replacements were only $16 for a while. Again, the main problem was rust, in this case ALL outer body panels. Good thing the hood and trunk lid were aluminum and the roof plastic. The brakes were unusually good for the period, with automatic proportioning depending on load. The world's first asymmetric tires were OE (Michelins).
    There were FIVE dealers in eastern MA at the time, so ordinary mechanics did not wreck my Citroens. One of my neighbors from the Boston area used to take his family to Quebec city for routine service. The car always made it.
  • mrolandmroland Posts: 129
    I am 27 and would love to see Citroen make a comeback. I have had the pleasure of driving a 1977 CX prestige and an 86 CX Turbo estate. The turbo ranks in my top 5 cars I have ever driven. I think anyone who has a ride in a Citroen with the Hyropneumatic wouldn't beleive the ride and control. I realy like the Xantia, especially Activa, and wish they had brought it over.

    I think that there is a whole new generation of younger buyers who have seen british "CAR" and "Top Gear" magazines who would be up for some of these great European brands to reappear. I mean, the underpowered DS was not what 60's America was looking for in a car.

    By the way, Mr Shiftright, I love your cartoons, I have been reading Road and track for years.

    Marc
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    Hi mroland...thanks!

    I doubt we'll see Citroen here in America anytime soon. I think the capitalization necessary to launch the car here is enormous. But in France they are still making some great cars. They have a little diesel, is it a 205? It's really charming and gets up and scoots, too!

    MODERATOR

  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    Somehow I think I'm going to have to go to France to see one...

    But an old DS is a secret dream car of mine. Our neighbors had one when I was a kid... I used to get to ride in it.

    It would STILL look modern today. Think of a Honda Insight with some power and flair. I still want one bad, but I'm not crazy enough to buy an old one.

    When I win the lotto I'm going to buy one with a live-in mechanic.
  • merckxmerckx Posts: 565
    Wow-all these French car nuts! The DS my very favorite car back in the day.(I thought I'd be practical and lust after a Pug 504 instead!)

    Mr. Shiftright,I thought mentioning your work in R&T might be poor form,but I too love your cartoons. At first I couldn't believe you were our host. And let's put the whole LeCar thing behind us,OK?
  • mrolandmroland Posts: 129
    I know one that is sitting in a mechanics lot here just outside of Philly. Its looks like a black DS21, maybe 70 or 71. I can't remember which transmission it has. The mechanic also has a 2cv with a breadbox on the back. I forget what they call that. I dont know if he will part with either. I dont think I want a Citroen as my first classic, from what I can tell, its best to start with an MGB or Triumph. Something British with two seats!
    The guy who introduced me to these lives in NJ, he worked for CX Auto, and has been working on all Citroen for years. He doesn't do engine work on the SM Maserati engine, but hydropneumatics no problem. I understand when kept in good service the pneumatics can be reliable. (finding an Americaqn to service them is another story.)
    Its too bad that the devlopment of the DS, and the buyout of Maserati bankrupted Citroen, because the Peaugeot (cant remember spelling, they dont impress me much) products havent been as inspiring.

    Mr Shiftright, do you know where I can wriite directly to Peter Egan? I have been a fan of his for years.

    Marc
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    Marc....you can write to him c/o Road & Track. They are very good about forwarding mail. R&T is a very friendly family-type publication and I'm sure if you wrote to Peter he would get it promptly.

    merckx--don't worry, I don't take any of this personally and I trust you don't either. This is just chewin' the fat about cars, and it's supposed to be fun.

    MODERATOR

  • I understand that CITROEN (in its glory days) made all of its own parts! They even had their own thread standard for screws and bolts! This must have made them POPULAR with Chevy mechanics. The hydropneumatic suspension is still a wonderful technological achievement-what a pity that CITROEN never licensed it to GM! They also han their own instrument panels-the speedometers were quite unusual-the display was a rotating drum-VIVE LA FRANCE (vive la difference!!)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    They licensed it to Rolls Royce, though, and of course Maserati. Probably others I can't think of. I think my favorite part of the car was taking the rear fender off to change a back tire.

    MODERATOR

  • mrolandmroland Posts: 129
    Also Mercedes- Benz - the dictators favourite - 600SEL.
    I think it is so funny how recently carmakers have offered "self-levelling" or air suspensions. Usually it is Cadillac or Lincoln (I think the Navigator), like it is something special. I mean Citroen had it down 50 years ago! Cadillac would never admit that something French had a better ride.

    I think last year was the voting for the 100 best cars of the century. Did the DS win? It would get my vote for sure. It was so ahead of its time, they couldn't assemble it correctly. According to Jonathan Pressnall in has Book "DS" - the car was so advanced that production techniques had not caught up with the design, and the first two years of production were awful.

    Marc
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    It was a remarkable car. I think European journalists voted it the most significant car of the last 50 years, but I think "Car of the Century" when to the Ford Model T (as well it should have).

    No, I think Mercedes was an air suspension, it was not the Citroen system. I remember it had big bellows and that when they leaked Mercedes gave you these big rubber blocks to set in there so that you could drive the car in for service.

    You know what they say: "The French copy no one, and no one copies the French".

    MODERATOR

  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    I remember seeing one in a used car lot once. I would have loved that car, but the way it was sitting flat on the ground (with all the tires full of air) kind of made me decide to keep on walking past. Don't recall what model, but mid 50's is my guess. Contemporary to or earlier than the DS.. I don't know
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    That would have been around 1958 I think. Not a big success.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    Typical Cadillac disaster, right up there with the 8-6-4 engine, the Cadillac diesel and the Cimarron.

    MODERATOR

  • mrolandmroland Posts: 129
    The DS really should have been a Cadillac. The greatest car company during the 40s and early 50s. I think they put styling over technology, until even that went downhill. Nobody my age wants a Cadillac. BMW sure, Lexus, Infiniti, all on the list. Cadillac failed to keep up with the changing needs of the market and pandered to their growing demographic.
    I didn't know Caddy's had air suspension in the fifties. I have seen the Lincoln Continetal from the early 80s. All of them have keeled over to one side.
    My Citroen loving friend says that they placed the hydropneumatics in trucks as well. I have not seen any evidence of this. Then again, I never saw a Citroen truck in the US.
    I think the Citroen should have been car of the century. I place a higher importance on inoovation and technical achievement. Bringing cars to the masses like the Model T has had mixed results for both enthusiasts and those who hate cars.
    OK, so I am completely enamored with the DS. As has been mentioned, it still looks ahead of its time. What was the public reaction to seeing these on the roads in the 1960s? It must have been quite a stir when parked next to a Rambler!

    Marc
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    I don't think Americans knew what to make of them. You may remember that foreign cars were generally regarded with disdain by most American drivers in the late 50s, early 60s. They were thought to be puny or underpowered, and Ferraris were known to be fast but thought to be ridiculously overpriced. Only the true-blue enthusiasts could put up with the foreign car eccentricities. Most foreign cars imported into the US in the 60s weren't really all that suitable for American driving conditions, so you had to love them and their shortcomings.

    MODERATOR

  • Foreign sports cars were pretty popular in the late 50s and early 60s, especially MGs and Triumphs. More were sold here than in the UK. I grew up in central NJ and remember seeing a lot of them. I'd agree with you when it came to sedans. The only foreign car with more than 2 seats I remember in any great quantities was the VW beetle.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    Yeah, but in the early 60s not many were around....total MGB export worldwide in 1963-4 was only about 20,000 cars. Foreign cars became really popular when the gas crunch hit in 1973, otherwise, most foreign cars were playtoys for enthusiasts.

    But you make a good point....acceptance of foreign sedans was a lot slower than acceptance of the little cute roadsters. You looked very cool in a Jaguar XK150 but you looked like a dork in most Euro sedans of the time. Most sedans from Europe, with rare exception, were pretty ugly.

    MODERATOR

  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Owning a foreign sedan was really pushing the bounds of social acceptability well into the '60s. That's not hard to understand when you remember the Vauxhalls and Dauphines they were shipping over then, cars that always seemed to look used up in a few years. In fact, I remember my father saying something to the effect that "if Citroens are so wonderful how come they always look so clapped out?". (Hey, he said it, not me, and this was a guy who once owned an English Ford.)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    Well, there was nobody to take care of them and Americans didn't know anything about maintaining a car anyway. We are a throw-away culture. And on top of all that, the materials on many Euro cars from the 50s and 60s wasn't very good. The metal especially was very rust-prone...one theory is that it was often recycled steel.

    MODERATOR

  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I just have to wonder who bought the early imports. We were a conformist culture and even driving something like a '53 Stude raised a few eyebrows. Driving a car that looked like it was built in the Urals must have taken guts or...?
  • mrolandmroland Posts: 129
    My favorite cars ever have been from the 50s and 60s and europe. The did have some dorky cars like the Duaphine, there were also the gorgeous. Citroen, Jaguar, Maserati. I think the Alfa Romeo Guiletta has great purity of line.
    As far as looking well put together, I can see what you mean. Citroens seem to be made of real steel, but must Simcas, Fiats, Renaults, BMWs, and the like seemed to use the thinest stell possible. Maybe it was to save more fuel. Too bad the adorable Fiats all turned to dust after 20 years in this country. My coworker has a picture of her standing next to a Fiat 500 Barchetta (I think, real tiny convertible) - 1967, I havent seen one stateside. Did any survive?

    Marc
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    Well, they are importing them from Italy to collectors. You can actually get pretty decent money for a 500 these days. Microcars are IN!

    MODERATOR

  • mrolandmroland Posts: 129
    The arrival of the new mini cooper will only heighten that trend.

    Marc
  • My brain cells are getting tired, but i believe that part of Citroen's problems in the USA stemmed from that fact that they nevet had a real automatic transmission. I recall seeeing a DS-21 at the dealers-and the salesman was saying that the car had a "citromatic transmission". It was actually a clutchless manual, which had to be shifted-something that Detroit came out with in 1948!
    So, in spite of its advanced suspension, Citroen engineers were in the stone age (as far as transmissions were concerned)!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,501
    I think at the time Europeans just didn't much like automatics, and I don't think Citroen of all people would develop one just for the US market. Even the Brits just bought US transmissions off the self in those days, as did Volvo (Borg Warners), except for Rolls that used the Hydramatic from GM. About the only country developing its own automatics was Germany, mostly ZF, and this was only in the early 60s.

    Besides, a front drive automatic was pretty tricky business back in the 1950s.

    MODERATOR

  • mrolandmroland Posts: 129
    You are right about the transmissions being in the stone age. The Citromatic ran off the hyrdromatics, and was semiautomatic. It wasn't popular on eith side of the Atlantic. Meanwhile, they had four speed column mounted shifters. They introduced a five speed I think 71 or 72 - near the end.
    They ran out of money for driveline development. The car was supposed to have a flat six Citroen engine. However, the suspension, body work, and production went way over the budget estimates. This was a car that could not have happened in bean counter Detroit, it was a triumph of ideals over cost. I think it eventually led to Citroens demise - becuase it cost so much to develop, they couldn't sell it at the correct profit margin. They may have lost money on the early ones. Then they bought into Maserati...

    I have always theoriazed the Hydropneumatics must cost a lot to put in a car.

    Marc
  • kneisl1kneisl1 Posts: 1,686
    The things I remember about the ds19 and 21 were the one spoke steering wheel and the horn that was beeped by pushing in on a turnsignal like stalk on the steering column. No wonder the Germans always wanted to make war on them.
«1
This discussion has been closed.