Citroen DS by Malcolm Bobbitt – Book Review
By Richard Barnett
Almost any 1950s through to 1980’s French street scene will feature a Citroen DS. If ever there was a car fully immersed in its homeland’s culture, this would surely be the most significant.
While Italy had its Fiat 500, Germany the VW Beetle and Britain the Mini, France went more than one better with the 2CV, Traction Avant and that model’s successor, the DS. All came from Citroen, which, as a company, seemed to understand just what French buyers wanted. And if people from other nations liked it too, that was a bonus.
Author Malcolm Bobbitt has done a sterling job with this revised and updated edition, but what always impresses is the author’s writing style: crisp, to the point, and not ashamed to look not only at how the DS came about, but French culture, politics and the nation’s past, all of which seemed to come together in the DS.
The car begins in the war with initial designs on the board during 1939. Looking more like a re-worked Traction Avant rather than the completely fresh design that eventually makes it into the showrooms and the Gallic collective heart. By the late 1940s those lines have changed, and the proposed design is nicknamed ‘The Hippopotamus’.
“Hard to put down”
Into the early 1950s the design is far more like what eventually goes into production, but last minute changes resulting from a new model being launched by Ford lead to the DS’ rear indicators being located at the top of the rear window. It’s a styling trait that remains throughout the car’s production run.
Never before was a French car launched to such acclaim: Unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in October 1955, but for would-be buyers immediate ownership wouldn’t happen as production began in January 1956 – by the end of the year just over 9600 cars had been built.
Bobbitt documents the DS’ history beautifully and unlike many motoring titles, it’s hard to put down. Especially interesting is the comparison of the DS with its rivals, along with a good look at its competition history.
Here is a wonderful book, let down only by poor image reproduction and an inappropriate typeface.
‘Citroen DS – Revised and Updated’ by Malcolm Bobbit is published by Veloce, £32.50. ISBN: 9781787111387