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Homepage. This page: A photographic history of the ground-breaking Citroen DS in all its different guises.

Citroen DS - The world's most beautiful car.


Daniel Denis & Thibaut Amant.
ISBN 978 0 85733 238 7
Published 2012. (Hardback, 288 pages).
Review date January 2013.
DS cars book

UK RRP 40.

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This book can trace its origins to the first publishing of "DS - 50 ans de passion" back in 2005, and of "DS - la passion continue" of 2010. This edition, which sees both French titles translated into English and merged into one new volume, with extra material, was published in October 2012.
Rather than being a dry walk through the nitty-gritty of the DS and ID Citroens' gestation and development, this book leans towards being a photographic tribute to the type, utilising in the main recent photographs of restored and preserved vehicles. These well reproduced, large-format, images are accompanied by notes explaining the detail differences between models and seasons, so something of a reference work for anyone restoring one of these revolutionary and eclectic machines.
The work commences with several pages given over to the thinking behind the DS' novel design, explained in words accompanied by reproductions of pre-production drawings, both of which track the evolution of the streamlined bodywork from early sketched designs to that which made it into production. Given that the DS would be a replacement for the Traction Avant, or Light Fifteen, the reaction of journalists and the public alike must have been one of shock, mixed in with awe and not a little bewilderment in some quarters I expect. The mechanicals beneath the eye-catching form would be equally novel. There then follows a gallery of images featuring DS number 31, a car preserved in largely factory-original condition and a splendid machine indeed.
Following swiftly on are chapters featuring the 1955-1968 DS19, the ID19/D Super/D Special of 1957-1975, and the DS21/DS23 of 1966-1975, each variant described from its earliest days through to the ultimate versions of each, again with the differences recorded photographically. These would be the cars that most buyers would have encountered in their local Citroen dealerships.
Attentions are then drawn to the rarer models, the ones that command a premium today and are guaranteed to stop the clock at any show they attend, even Citroen-only gatherings. Chapter five considers the factory Cabriolet of 1960-1971, penned by Parisian-based coachbuilder Chapron, while the Chapron Cabriolet of 1958-1972 gets separate coverage later on. Away from the glamour of the convertibles the reader is then introduced to the delights of the load-swallowing ID estate (or break) of 1959-1975, truly an amazing vehicle, not just in terms of practicality thanks to its large wrap-around tailgate and hydropneumatic suspension, but also its looks. Once again modern-day photographs of preserved cars are featured.
To appeal to as broad a spectrum of buyer as possible, it was clear to Citroen that in addition to the standard models that were proving popular with the masses, there was room in the line-up for a plusher variant, designed to appeal to captains of industry. For this group the Prestige was introduced, a high-specification model that sold from 1958 through to 1975. Pages 143 to 153 cover the updates in detail.
As the book unfurls, the models featured become more and more interesting (to my eyes anyway). The Chapron Coupe for instance, a rakish two-foor fixed-head car, is a perfect example. The first cars were known as Le Paris, followed by an evolution badged as Le Concorde, and a later version called Le Leman. Chapron also went head-to-head with the factory and brought out its own four-door saloon, a more upright interpretation of the DS' flowing lines, and not one that caught on particularly. A small number were built only.
Perhaps surprisingly, cars utilising the DS' underpinnings were built for competition use, and the Ricou - assembled by a garage owner for use in rallying - featured a one-off low-slung sporting aluminium body, unlike anything that had come out of the factory. Citroen themselves would dip their toe in the water by creating the Group 5 coupe, a car with the unmistakable front end styling of the DS, matched to an overall profile that had echoes of Saab Sonnett about it. Happily both cars survive, the former in restored condition, the latter in largely-untouched but running condition.
The DS would catch the attention of coachbuilders other than Chapron, and many chassis were clothed with oddball, often one-off, body designs to fulfill a particular role. Examples in this book include an exceptionally-lengthy car transporter, a convertible with a centre roll-back roof, and a camper with the aerodynamics of a chicken shed. More resolved than many were the cars turned out by Hector Bossaert. The GT19 Coupe was a stylish two-door interpretation of the DS form, its rear looking not unlike a combination of Rover P6 and Austin 1100. The one-off cabrio though, on a truncated wheelbase, was less of a success and just the one example was built. Photographs of restored cars populate several pages.
The cars used as rolling test-beds by Michelin for tyre development work get a mention, including the bizarre Michelin PLR, a 9-ton 23ft long behemoth with ten wheels, designed to test commercial vehicle tyres at high speed. Completing the history of DS and ID cars is the story of the Presidential limousine specified for, and used by, President De Gaulle, a truly coachbuilt machine that shared no visual parts with the production models.
With the historical guide to all matters relating to the French-built DS complete, this just leaves the appendices. These consider the versions sold to the UK market, which, up until 1966, were assembled at Citroen's plant in Slough and featured several differences when compared to their French counterparts. Anyone taking on a Slough-built version would, I'm sure, find the explanation of the changes made to UK cars, very useful, especially when hunting down parts for a restoration project.
There then follow various tables, explaining the key changes made to the ID and DS throughout their lengthy production run, accompanied by a number of contemporary press photographs. The final pages are given over to the mechanical specifications of the more popular models.
This is a sumptuously-illustrated book, perfect for anyone who enjoys a wallow amidst full-colour photographs of both common and rare DS-based cars.
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