10 June 2017

More than an old car #17: Citroen DS

The French are well-known for being graceful and this is certainly true of this 1971 Citroen DS D20 Super. The DS has become a beloved French icon and it has many followers worldwide: Pope John XIII, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, actress Rosamund Pike [Gone Girl] to even the late president Charles de Gaulle, who survived an assassination attempt in it in 1962. It was also popular with taxi drivers as it was spacious, and it has appeared in more than 2000 film and TV shows such as Back to the Future 2 and The Mentalist.

The DS name comes from Déesse [French for 'goddess'] and it was the replacement for the popular Traction Avant, first produced in 1934. When it was first released in 1955, France was still recovering from the effects of World War 2 and this was seen as a symbol of ingenuity. There were many rave reviews about the car: people fell in love with its futuristic styling all the way to the superior hydraulics system. Citroen received 80,000 orders during the first 10 days, which remains a record. 
When production stopped in 1975, more than 1.4 million had been made.

The success of the DS cemented Citroen's status as an automotive innovator. An example was the hydraulic suspension system, which enabled the car to have a constant 'ride height' even over uneven terrain--many people have described riding in the DS as a 'magic carpet ride'. It was initially offered with the hydralique/Citromatic semi-automatic transmission [a combination of the manual transmission when changing gears, and the automated process of gear switching]. Later, a four and five-speed manual transmission was introduced along with a 3-speed automatic transmission. The DS D20 in the picture was powered by a 1985cc six-cylinder engine, enabling it to reach a top speed of 169 km/h and an acceleration of 14.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It is a large executive car: it was 4.87 m long and weighed 1300 kg.

The specimen here is currently the only one registered in Singapore and according to a blog I read, the owner had bought it in 1999 when it appeared on an advertisement. It still had its original number plate at that time, and the fact that it is not red-and yellow suggests the effort by him to keep it on our roads. I had no idea that one of the 'most beautiful cars of all time' actually existed here and I hope the owner continues to maintain it for future generations to see! 

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