The Citroen DS

The most beautiful car ever produced or a pile of over-complex automotive awfulness

In a world of similar looking cars built with similar technologies for similar road conditions, designing one car that stands out from the crowd is an achievement. For one company to have produced three such vehicles during its lifetime illustrates a particular form of corporate genius (or madness). Citroen’s Traction and 2CV are extraordinary enough. But the Citroen DS is something else entirely.

Launched in 1955 the DS redefined some of the basic principles of cars in a way that left products from other manufacturers looking positively Neanderthal in comparison. Hydropneumatic suspension, powered steering, powered clutch, self-levelling headlights, are just some of the technical innovations it introduced. And then there’s the style – aerodynamic, sweeping, head-turning, unique.

That said, even confirmed DS lovers will admit that owners of early cars suffered rather more than they would have done with a less idiosyncratic company. Citroen’s great technical leap forward left many of their dealers and mechanics scratching their heads when it came to maintaining and caring for the cars. Engine power, ventilation, heating, visibility and electrics were not strong points either. History aside, and practicality to the fore, it’s probably worth discounting the DS19 versions and concentrating on the DS20, 21 and 23 models if you’re seriously thinking of owning one.

There has probably never been a single car that has generated such extreme reaction. Some think the DS the most beautiful car ever produced. Others think that it’s a pile of over-complex automotive awfulness. It’s a question you’ll never be able to answer satisfactorily until you get behind the wheel of one. If you’re not completely fazed by innovative features such as the dash-mounted gear lever, the single spoke steering wheel, and the brake button you may well have found your driving Nirvana. Individuals of the world step forward.

Photos of the Citroen DS provided by

For more information on the Citroen DS:

  • DS links Citroën World
  • Citroen D Series at Citroenet
  • Citroën Battle
  • DS on the ROAD!
  • Directional headlights in motion
  • DS district CitCity
  • Citroën DS photo pool on Flickr
  • La D.S. by Orozco
  • 1965 Citroën DS TV commercial
  • TopGear road test of Citroën DS
  • Informative fan-site detailing the history and model evolution of the DS/ID
  • IMCDb, Citroën DS in movies

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