Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Citroen DS 19 Cabrio, 1964

Citroen DS 19 Cabrio, 1964

The Citroën DS (also known as Déesse, or Goddess, after the punning initials in French) was an automobile produced by the French manufacturer Citroën between 1955 and 1975. Citroën sold nearly 1.5 million D-series during its 20 years of production.The DS is well-known for its futuristic, aerodynamic body design, and for its innovative technology (including its hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension system).

The DS advanced the achievable standards in terms of ride quality, roadholding, handling, and braking in an automobile. Automotive journalists of the time often noted that competitors took decades to adapt to the higher standards it set. The smooth, aerodynamic body lines gave the car a futuristic appearance. While it looked very unusual in 1955, public tastes appear to have caught up with the DS in the post-Ford Taurus/Audi 100 era.

Model history

After 18 years of development in secret as the successor to the venerable Traction Avant, the DS 19 was introduced on October 5, 1955 at the Paris Motor Show. The car's appearance and innovative engineering captured the imagination of the public and the automobile industry almost overnight. 743 orders were taken in the first 15 minutes of the show, and orders for the first day totalled 12,000.

Far from being just a fascinating technology in search of a purpose, contemporary journalists were effusive in noting how the DS dramatically pushed the envelope in the ride vs. handling compromise possible in a motor vehicle.

The high price tag, however, hurt general sales in a country still recovering from World War II 10 years earlier, and a submodel, the ID (another pun: in French, Idée, or Idea), was introduced in 1957 to appeal to more cost-conscious buyers. The ID shared the same body with the DS, but had more traditional features under the hood. It had no power steering (though this was added as an option later), and instead of the hydraulically controlled manual transmission and clutch, it had a conventional clutch and transmission. Interestingly, the first model series was called 11D, a clear reminder of the last model of the Traction Avant, the 11C. A station wagon variant, the ID Break, was introduced in 1958.

Outside of France, the car's radical and cosmopolitan design appealed to non-conformists. A United States advertisement summarised this selling point: "It takes a special person to drive a special car".

Throughout its model lifetime, the DS managed to remain ahead of its time. It featured power disc brakes, a hydropneumatic suspension including an automatic levelling system and variable ground clearance, power steering and a semi-automatic transmission. A fiberglass roof reduced weight transfer. Inboard front brakes (as well as an independent suspension) reduced unsprung weight. Different front and rear track widths and tire sizes reduced the understeer typical of front-engined and front-wheel drive cars.

Despite the rather leisurely acceleration afforded by its small four-cylinder engine, the DS was successful in motorsports like rallying, where sustained speeds on poor surfaces are paramount.

The DS came in third in the 1999 Car of the Century competition, recognizing the the world's most influential auto designs. Winner and second place went to the Ford Model T and the Mini. It placed fifth on Automobile Magazine "100 Coolest Cars" listing in 2005.

Citroen 2CV Berline, 1963

Citroen 2CV Berline, 1963

The Citroën 2CV (French: deux chevaux, literally "two horses", from the tax horsepower rating) was an economy car produced by the French automaker Citroën from 1948 to 1990.

The 2CV belongs to a very short list of vehicles introduced right after World War II that remained relevant and competitive for many decades - in the case of the 2CV, 42 years.

During the German occupation of France during World War II, Michelin (Citroën's main shareholder) and Citroën managers decided to hide the TPV project from the Nazis, fearing some military application. Several TPVs were buried at secret locations, one was disguised as a pickup, and the others were destroyed, and Boulanger had the next six years to think about more improvements. Until 1994, when three TPVs were discovered in a barn, it was believed that only two prototypes had survived. As of 2003, five TPVs are known. For long it was believed that the project was so well hidden that the all the prototypes were lost at the end of the war (in fact it seems that none of the hidden TPVs was lost after the War, but in the 1950s an internal memo ordered them to be scrapped. The surviving TPVs were, in fact, hidden from the top management by some workers who were sensitive to their historical value).

After the war, internal reports at Citroën showed that producing the TPV would not be economically viable, given the rising cost of aluminium in the post-war economy. A decision was made to replace most of the aluminium parts with steel parts. Other changes were made, the most notable being an air-cooled engine, new seats and a restyling of the body by Flaminio Bertoni. It took three years for Citroën to rework the TPV and the car was nicknamed "Toujours Pas Vue" (Still Not Seen) by the press.

Citroën finally unveiled the car at the Paris Salon in 1948. The car on display was nearly identical to the type A version that would be sold next year, but lacked an electric starter: the addition of this one was decided the day before the opening of the Salon of Paris. It was enormously criticized. In spite of that, it had a great impact on low-income population.

It was laughed at by journalists, probably because Citroën had launched the car without any press advertising. Boris Vian described the car as an "aberration roulante" (rolling aberration) and the car was qualified as a "Spartan car" or a "sardine can" by many. History has confirmed that the car was charming in a lot of people's views, and a revolution in consumer transportation, at least on the French market.

The 2CV was a great commercial success: within months of it going on sale, there was a three-year waiting list. The waiting list was soon increased to five years. At that time a second-hand 2CV was more expensive than a new one because the buyer did not have to wait. Production was increased from four units per day in 1949 to 400 units per day in 1950. Some of the early models were built at Citroën's plant in Slough, England but the 2CV sold poorly in Great Britain in part due to its excessive cost. Expecting to boost sales, Citroën introduced a glass-fibre coupé version called the Bijou that was briefly produced at Slough. Styling of this little car was by Peter Kirwan-Taylor who was better known for his work with Colin Chapman of Lotus cars, but it proved to be too heavy for the diminutive engine to endow it with adequate performance.

In 1967 Citroën built a new car based on the 2CV, the Citroën Dyane, in response to the direct competition by the Renault 4. At the same time, Citroën developed the Méhari off-roader.

A rare Jeep-esque derivative, called the Yagán, after an Aborigine tribe, was made in Chile between 1972 and 1973. After the Chilean coup of 1973, there were 200 Yagáns left that were used by the Army to patrol the streets and the Peruvian border, with 106 mm cannons.

A similar car was sold in some west African countries as the Citroën "Baby-brousse".

A very special version of the 2CV was the «Sahara» for very difficult off-road driving, built from December 1960 to 1971. This one had an extra engine mounted in the rear compartment and both front and rear wheel traction. Only 694 «Sahara»s were built.

The purchase price of the 2CV was always very low. In Germany in the 1960s for example, it cost about half as much as a Volkswagen Beetle.

As time went on, this rural horse-substitute gained favor with a new audience: European nonconformists who protested mass consumer culture. At the time, a popular joke was that 2CVs came straight from the factory with Atomic Power - No Thanks! bumperstickers. Owning a 2CV was like being in a club - 2CV owners would wave to each other on the road.

The 2CV was mainly sold in France and some European markets. In the post war years, Citroën was very focused on the home market, which had some unusual quirks, like puissance fiscale. The management of Michelin was indulgent of Citroën up to a point, but was not prepared to initiate the investment needed for the 2CV (or the Citroën DS for that matter) to truly compete on the global stage. Consequently, the 2CV suffered a similar fate to the Morris Minor and Mini, selling fewer than 10 million units, whereas the Volkswagen Beetle, which was sold worldwide, sold 21 million units.

In Iran, the Citroën 2CV was called the Jian. The cars were originally manufactured in Iran in a joint venture between Citroën and Iran National up until the 1979 Revolution, when Iran National was nationalized, which continued producing the Jian without the involvement of Citroën.

Only a few thousand 2CVs were sold in North America when they were new - the car was so small and inexpensive that the cost of transport alone put it into a different and uneconomic price category. The 2CV was built in Chile and Argentina to address this issue for South America.
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