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?
What are the prospects for CITROEN returning to these shore?
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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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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".
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!
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.
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?
So, in spite of its advanced suspension, Citroen engineers were in the stone age (as far as transmissions were concerned)!
Besides, a front drive automatic was pretty tricky business back in the 1950s.
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.
The car was very comfortable. I had the liberty of sitting in a restored DS21 Prestige, and the driving position was perfect. A soft but supportive seat, perfectly angled armrest on the door, and foot pedals that bent your knees just right to avoid back pain. Not like sitting on the floor, but not quite as upright as a Saab. Kind of like and easy chair.
ALso a brief article on the most fun car I've ever driven, a Saab 99 turbo.
But, the shift forks were moved to the neutral position by springs that butted on tabs that extended from the gearbox casing. Shift from 2 to 3 and a spring would move the 1-2 fork to neutral while a hydraulic cylinder moved the 3-4 fork to 3. Similarly, on a shift from reverse to a forward gear, a spring pushed the reverse fork to its neutral position.
How did I learn this? The tab on which the 'out of reverse' spring butted broke off, leaving the car permanently (until the gearbox casing was replaced) in reverse. Not recommended.
The French are very clever but they do go their own way, that's for sure.
And worth about 75 times less today---LOL!
Sometimes it is NOT good to be TOO FAR ahead of one's time. Just a little is best I think, whether it be in design, politics or art.