Motoring Trailblazers - Citroën DS

Sun 27th Oct 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Citroën DS
Let’s talk about one of the most famous cars ever produced, a vehicle which in a 1999 poll, recognising the world’s most influential auto designs, was voted third and was named as the most beautiful car of all time by Classic & Sports Car magazine - the DS had brains and beauty.

We have a collaboration between Italian sculptor Flaminio Bertoni and French engineer André Lefèbvre to thank for this masterpiece. Bertoni’s influence at Citroën stretched back all the way to the early 1930s, and the DS was perhaps his last great work. In partnership with Lefèbvre, the pair helped develop the French company to be recognised as one of most innovative automobile companies in the 20th century.

Launched in 1955, the DS was an aerodynamic dream, a futuristic eye-catcher, but most importantly provided some of the most cutting-edge technology seen in motoring, setting new standards in ride quality, handling and braking. 

The DS was the world’s first mass production car to feature disc brakes, it also had power steering, semi-automatic transmission and incorporated a fibreglass roof, which helped lower the centre of gravity. But perhaps the DS’s most groundbreaking came from a third man, Paul Magès, who revolutionised motor engineering with his pioneering self-levelling automobile suspension. Later known as hydro-pneumatic suspension, this system replaced the traditional steel springs and resulted in a driving experience which was like no other at the time.

Here was a car which would be permanently etched into the psyche of the French nation, described by philosopher Roland Barthes as though ‘fallen from the sky’ it was marketed in America with the line ‘It takes a special person to drive a special car’. 

A success from the very start, the DS took 80,000 deposits in its first 10 days after being exhibited at the Paris Motor Show, a record only bettered in 2016 by the Tesla Model 3.

The Citroën DS was produced from 1955 to 1974, but its legacy is eternal and tribute is paid by the French company’s spin-off company, which is named for the innovative marque.