France Celbrates 50 Years Of The Ds
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  1. #1
    1000+ Posts Uga Boga's Avatar
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    May 2004

    Default France Celbrates 50 Years Of The Ds

    [03 October 2005] One of the most technically advanced and influential cars ever launched celebrates its 50th birthday today (6 October 2005), with the anniversary of the unveiling of the first Citroen DS at Grand Palais Exhibition Centre in Paris and the French are celebrating in style with a parade through the French capital, a major exhibition and a display of the art that has been inspired by a car that became known as the 'The Goddess'.
    The reverence given to the Citroen DS proves that its influence has gone well beyond the automotive world, with the DS becoming integral to the French nation, as much part of the world's view of France as the Eiffel Tower and its culinary reputation.

    This influence has been as much to with the astounding range and depth of technology that the DS debuted as the fact that, thanks to Citroen's policy of never approaching design issues in a conventional manager, the Citroen DS is a unique in its appearance today as it was when it first graced that stage in Paris 50 years ago.

    "Even today the Citroen DS still looks sensational and some manufacturers are still catching up with the technology it introduced to the world," says Miles Williams. "Everyone knows about the unique suspension, but it also debuted plastic and aluminium body panels to save weight, aerodynamics for economy, disk brakes for road cars and much more. As for its styling, it looks like nothing else on the road today, let alone in 1955 when it looked like nothing less than a spaceship from the next century!"

    "The influence of the DS continues through every product Citroen produces today, be it the Hydractive 3+ suspension in the new Citroen C5, the direct descendent of the original hydropneumatic suspension in the DS, to the spirit of design and technical innovation that is in every CitroŽn model, and even today's CitroŽn Sport team, which took the world titles in 2003 and 2004, can trace its roots back to the CitroŽn DS," says Mr Williams.

    To mark this outstanding contribution to automotive design and technology, as well as French Culture, the events organized to celebrate the DS include:

    - 'The CitroŽn DS as a work of Art'. A unique exhibition of art and cultural artifacts that have influenced or include the CitroŽn DS, Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, Paris
    - 'The Citroen DS re-launched'. A recreation of the events at the Grand Palais Exhibition Centre when the DS was first revealed to the world.
    - '50th anniversary of the CitroŽn DS: The saga of an exceptional car'. A unique exhibition on the CitroŽn DS the Citť des Sciences et de l'Industrie science museum in Paris.
    - 'Paris celebrates the DS'. A parade of more than 1,600 DS cars through the streets of Paris on 9 October.
    - The CitroŽn DS is the star of France's 32nd International Contemporary Art Fair

    The marvel of automotive design that is the CitroŽn DS was created by two men and their staff teams. Both were originally recruited by Andrť CitroŽn and they designed the Traction Avant, a car equally as revolutionary when it was launched in 1934. Andrť LefŤvre was an engineer, while Flaminio Bertoni was a draftsman and sculptor.

    The two men pooled their talent to create this automotive wonder. With the DS, they were set to revolutionize automotive history. Technology and styling functioned together in perfect harmony.

    The DS was far more than just a stylistic choice. Its lines were dictated by the technical solutions adopted, while its design reflected a close fit between utility and harmony, functional convenience and visual appeal. Comfort and safety were already key values for CitroŽn and remain so today.

    Fifty years have gone by since the unveiling of the DS, which has taken its rightful place in global automotive history. It has joined two other legendary models: the Traction Avant and the 2CV.

    A car of revolutionary design, the DS drove the whole automotive industry forward. By making avant-garde technology widely available, it set the tone for a generation of modern vehicles. The DS opened the way to progress and, for this reason alone, it has gained universal recognition for its role in the history of transport.

    But why "Goddess"?

    Pronounced the French way, DS is a homophone for "dťesse" (goddess), a semantic interpretation that is marvelously apt for this extraordinary car.

    Fabulous design

    It is impossible to talk about the DS without also talking about its style. It is a design classic in the purest sense of the words. To create and sculpt the sensual lines of the DS, Flaminio Bertoni worked in close cooperation with engineer Andrť LefŤvre, whose main concern were the aerodynamics. This is why - fifty years on - the world still marvels at the perfect synthesis between shape and function achieved by the DS.

    The DS is unique not only for its exterior styling but also for its distinctive interior. The dashboard is a sculpted work of art. Drivers can access the perfectly integrated controls without taking their hands off the wheel. The naturally sloping shape lets the light in and accentuates the impression of space. The whole cabin reflects stylists' efforts to make the car exceptionally ergonomic. The interior door handle, for example, was of totally new design. No need to fumble around to unlock and open the door, the two actions are performed in one smooth movement.

    Useful technology

    The DS was exceptional not only for its looks but also for its technology. It revolutionized automotive standards in terms of suspension, road holding, brakes and steering.

    The DS was the first car to make advanced technology widely accessible. At the time of its launch not even Europe's most prestigious cars had power steering and braking, which could be found only on a few exceptional vehicles.

    Today's cars owe a great deal to the DS in terms of comfort, braking and roadholding. With the arrival of the DS, all the other vehicle manufacturers were forced to work flat out in order to bring their models up to the level of the CitroŽn. As it was, the DS remained without any serious competition for more than a decade.

    At the heart of the DS's many innovations was the high-pressure hydraulic system made necessary by the hydropneumatic suspension. This system drove the power steering and disk brakes - also used by Jaguar at the time for the Le Mans 24 hour event - as well as the transmission with its automatic clutch, which prefigured the automated gearboxes of today.

    The DS also used avant-garde materials in its construction, including aluminium for the bonnet and plastic for the roof.


    On government service

    In France, government officials frequently drove black DS's. For many years, the DS was the official car for ministers, prefects and - above all - for General de Gaulle who was a real enthusiast. He went so far as to order a special DS for the Elysťe Palace (the official presidential residence), which was built by Chapron in 1968 using drawings from CitroŽn's engineering office.

    It has to be said that the DS contributed to saving De Gaulle's life in 1962 during an assassination attempt at Petit Clamart. Riddled with bullets and with two burst tyres, the DS was nevertheless able to elude the assassins in a chase across Paris and continue its journey, thanks to the suspension, and reach Villacoublay airport.

    Black DS's formed long, impressive motorcades at official events. They drove down the Champs-Elysťes on many an occasion, forming a unique block. These events were not only a great honour for CitroŽn. They were also great publicity, since they showed the DS to be France's most prestigious car.

    In 1959, CitroŽn brought out a version baptised "Prestige" featuring a window between front and area and - years ahead of any other car maker - a standard radio telephone. It was intended for VIPs with their own chauffeur.

    A DS for everybody!

    The DS was the high-status vehicle of choice for many categories of customer. During a twenty-year career in which 1,456,115 units were produced, the DS established itself as the market standard, proudly carrying all sorts of customers.

    It provided a comfortable and reliable ride for families, travelling sales representatives, doctors and others, in France and elsewhere. The DS was also popular with caravan owners, who found it to be an excellent tow car.

    Its suspension made it an ideal choice for television and TV production for dolly shots and motion shooting. The BBC used the DS to launch a unique level of coverage of horse racing, with a DS estate carrying a camera man on the roof following horses as they rode down their course by driving on a dirt road alongside the track. Only a DS could do this.

    Without forgetting the ambulance version of the estate, which enjoyed a virtual monopoly in its specific field of activity. Taxi drivers chose the DS for its comfort, and for its rear space, which was greatly appreciated by customers. It was also a frequent choice for drivers covering long distances, as well as for company managers and professional people.

    It has to be said that the DS cut a fine figure, particularly the Pallas version with its stainless steel trim and other refinements, such as the soft carpeting on a bed of foam. Remarkably, the DS was at ease everywhere, in the town and in the countryside. For business appointments or hunting expeditions, it brought automotive progress to the greatest number.

    Around the world

    The DS was widely exported and is known around the world. This extraordinary car was appreciated in most countries around Europe. It also carried CitroŽn's colours as far as the USA, Canada and Australia. Its distinctive and immediately recognizable lines laid the foundations of CitroŽn's global reputation.

    Some countries gave the DS nicknames based on official names, such as Italy, where the DS quickly became "la Pallas". In the UK, where the DS was produced up to 1965, the car adopted a number of local features including a wooden dashboard with round dials, and special rear lights. The estate, which was known as the Safari, was particularly popular.

    An all-round winner

    CitroŽn officially took part in its first international motor sports events with the DS, and quickly built up an impressive track record. Its favourite disciplines were rallies and long-distance raids and here - once again - it was an innovator.

    CitroŽn applied stringent professional standards to motor racing, in both the organisation and preparation of events. The Marque was the first to set up a real, structured motor sports department preparing the cars, the service and the driving teams in every detail. As a result, the DS won virtually everywhere.

    It claimed victory in the Monte Carlo Rally (1959 and 1966), the Neige et Glace (snow and ice) Criterium (1960, 1967), the Tour of Belgium, the LiŤge-Sofia-LiŤge (1961), the Road Marathon, the Tour of Corsica (1961, 1963), the Alps Cup and the Morocco Rally (1969).

    It also turned in a brilliant performance in the East African Safari and the London-Sydney, Wembley-Mexico raids. The DS won on all types of terrain - snow and ice, gravel and asphalt - driven by the greatest drivers of the time. A stunning demonstration of its on-road qualities.

    Advanced advertising

    In 1955, the DS was born against a backdrop of national gloom. It made the front page not only for what it was, but also because it offered a marked contrast to the economic and social climate in Europe at the time.

    The launch of the DS was a positive event, holding out hope for the future.

    The DS required a precise and inventive communication policy. The principle of hydropneumatic suspension, for example, was explained as the alliance of air and water The Baux-de-Provence quarries in France's provided the ideal setting for the first photos. The original presentation of design details in the catalogues was another innovation. Photos and drawings were used extensively to explain the benefits offered by the different innovations, such as the hydropneumatic suspension and the easily removable body parts.

    In the years that followed, the Delpire advertising agency staged the artistic presentation of each and every detail of the DS. Leading photographers and graphics artists represented the DS in pictures. They included photographers Pierre Jahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Klein, Robert Doisneau, Andrť Martin and Helmut Newton, as well as graphics artists Karel Suyling, Paul Rand and Milton Glaser.

    A cultural icon

    A star of the silver screen, the DS has played opposite an impressive line-up of actors. And continues to do so today.

    The DS's main film credits in France include "Fantomas" (1964) with Louis de FunŤs and Jean Marais and "The Brain" by Gťrard Oury with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Bourvil and David Niven (1969). This film was a huge box-office success, viewed by more than five million filmgoers.

    The DS has also played in Hollywood, where its most recent films include "Back to the Future II (1989), by Robert Zemeckis, with Michael J. Fox, "Gattaca" (1997), by Andrew Niccol with Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, and "Catch Me if You Can" (2002) by Steven Spielberg with Leonardo Di Caprio, Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken.

    The CitroŽn DS has played a starring role in Australian films, including the film "The Goddess of 1967" (2000) along side actors Rose Byrne and Nicholas Hope. The DS was integral to the story. JM, a young Japanese salaryman, leads a solitary, uneventful life in Tokyo, his only company a couple of rare snakes. But he dreams of owning a very special car the legendary model DS. Via the Internet, he makes contact with a potential seller, and flies to Australia to close the deal.

    At the airport, however, his contact is nowhere to be seen, and when JM goes to visit him at his home, he finds the man and his wife dead, apparently after an argument over money, and a young blind girl - BG - guarding a small child.

    She invites the visitor to test-drive the DS; he does, and is at once seduced. The car, BG explains, was not actually the dead man's to sell - but, she adds, she can take him to meet the real owner. JM agrees, and together these two isolated souls embark on a journey that will take them deep into the Australian outback, and also into their own pasts.

    For BG, it means recalling her troubled, ultimately tragic relationship with her mother, reliving a violent teenage encounter with a young boxer and, finally, confronting her aging, abusive grandfather. For JM, it means entering an alien landscape, a harsh and frequently hostile world - all the while fleeing a painful memory that forced him to leave Japan. Before long, their separate quests become one: a shared desire to transcend the past and find redemption, achieved under the benevolent eye of the Goddess.

    Asked why she chose the DS for the central role in her film director Clara Law explained "The Citroen DS is a symbol of man-made perfection."

    The film won the best actress award for Rose Byrne at the Venice International Film Festival and best director title for Clara Law at the Chicago film festival.

    The DS also starred at the unforgettable 11th Milan Triennale in 1957, which was dedicated to the osmosis between industry and the arts. Displayed alongside the works of universally recognized architects and stylists, the DS won the Industrial Art prize.

    The DS is a modern sculpture that was showcased and recognized as such. It inspired sculptors including Arman and Gabriel Orozco, whose work "The DS" was displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

    Pronounced the French way, DS is a homophone for "dťesse" (goddess), a semantic interpretation that is marvelously apt. The elegance and total modernity of the DS are no longer questioned.

    Half a century after its birth, the DS stands as a monument of global design. It will forever remain a star of the automotive industry, for the greater renown of CitroŽn.

    Key dates in the DS family

    - October 1955: Presentation of the DS 19 at the Paris Motor Show
    - October 1956: Presentation of the ID 19
    - October 1958: Presentation of the:
    o ID 19 estate and family versions
    o DS 19 Prestige
    - October 1960: Presentation of the cabriolet
    - October 1961: New dashboard on the DS 19
    - October 1962: New aerodynamic front end and redesigned front bumper
    - September 1964: Pallas saloon
    - October 1965: Market launch of the ID & DS 21 with a 2,175 cm3 engine
    - October 1967: New faired-in, swivelling headlamps
    - October 1968: New dashboard Presentation of the ID & DS 20
    - October 1969: The D Spťcial and D Super replace the ID 19 & ID 20 Fuel injection engine on the DS 21, alongside the carburettor version
    - November 1971: Automatic gearbox optional on the DS 21
    - October 1972: Market launch of the DS 23, replacing the 21 (2,347 cm3 engine), carburettor or fuel injection
    - April 1975: The last DS is produced (1,455,746 vehicles manufactured in France and other countries)
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2003


    Great article about a great car. Thanks for that Uga Boga. And I think, (hopefully) that after contemplating the idea for a while, and testing the water with a GS, that after a couple of failed attempts I may have finally found a D for myself. I have spoken to the owner and he is willing to sell. He is travelling at present, but I hope to be able to work out a price and close the deal in the next couple of weeks when he returns home... Will let you know what transpires.


  3. #3
    Simon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2000


    Nice article but such a shame that being an Australian article they forget the DS victories of the tied 1970 Ampol Trial, and the 1974 World Cup Rally by the Australian team of Welinski, Tubman and Reddiex.

  4. #4
    Too many posts! JohnW's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Perth, WA, Australia


    Quote Originally Posted by Simon
    Nice article but such a shame that being an Australian article they forget the DS victories of the tied 1970 Ampol Trial, and the 1974 World Cup Rally by the Australian team of Welinski, Tubman and Reddiex.
    So right Simon. I have a photo of a DS crossing Victoria Square at the start of that 1970 Ampol Trial. Haven't forgotten the 16 head gasket debacle either!!


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