In the latest in a series of articles, we're shining the spotlight on some of the most iconic classic cars of all time, tracing their history and exploring what makes them so legendary.
In this edition, we're looking at just why the Citroen DS is among the most important cars of all time – and a sought-after classic.
If you are in the market for one yourself, check out our cars for sale.
A long time coming
Quite incredibly, the DS was 18 years in secret development and it went public at the Paris Motor Show in October 1955. The reaction was instant, with 743 orders taken for the car within 15 minutes. By the end of the first day, 12,000 had been ordered.
And onlookers at the time saw that the DS was going to be an innovator, with journalists describing it as ‘pushing the envelope’ when it came to ride and handling.
It quickly came to be seen as a symbol of French ingenuity.
A real innovator
The DS pioneered a number of new technologies. Chief among them was its use of hydraulics, used normally for brakes and power steering. But the DS used them for the suspension, clutch and transmission as well.
The suspension was innovative in its self-levelling capabilities, leading the car to have both sharp handling and excellent ride quality, compared by some to a magic carpet.
The next innovation came for the 1968 model year, when a restyle also saw directional headlights, which turned with the steering wheel to give better lighting up of the road around bends. They were also self-levelling in line with the suspension.
The DS was also the first mass production car to have disc brakes.
A popular car in popular culture
One of the DS’ many notably moments came in 1962, when the French president, Charles de Gaulle, credited his survival of an assassination attempt near Paris to the car.
Ambushed by a gunman, de Gaulle said that the car, which was unarmoured, had saved his life – it was peppered with bullets and had punctured tyres, but was still able to escape the scene at full speed.
The car was also popular with French taxi drivers and owners have included Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, Pope John XXIII and actor Jeff Bridges.
It even went rallying
The DS doesn’t exactly scream ‘motorsport’ when you look at it, but it enjoyed success on the rally circuit. Thanks to its innovative handling setup, it excelled on rough rally surfaces and won many rally events, including the Monte Carlo Rally in 1959 and 1966.
Even towards the end of its life it was still competitive – it beat more than 70 other cars to win the 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally.
A long life
During its 20-year life Citroen sold nearly 1.5 million examples of the DS, more than 1.3 million of which were built at its plant in Paris. And today they are getting seriously valuable to classic car collectors.
Rare examples, such as the convertible, fetch well into six figures. Citroen spotted the marketing potential of what has become an iconic brand – bringing the DS moniker back a few years ago as its standalone luxury brand.