Since the first Model A rolled out of its Quai de Javel factory in 1919, Citroen has embodied a sense of creativity, style, and innovation that is quite unlike any other automobile manufacturer in history. Andre Citroen is sometimes described as “Europe’s Henry Ford” for his creation of the first mass-produced automobile in France. However, in reality, Citroen was far more of an innovator than his rather pragmatic American counterpart. The spirit of the Avant-Garde continued within Citroen well past the death of Le Patron in 1935.
One of the company’s most significant achievements came with the introduction of the DS. This revolutionary, other-worldly automobile shocked the public, the press, and Citroen’s competitors when it was unveiled at the 1955 Paris Salon. Citroen risked its very existence on a design that was so far beyond what had been seen in a mass-produced car. Thankfully, all worries were put to rest when 743 orders were taken in the first hour of the show! A further 12,000 orders were made in the first day of the Salon alone.
The DS (or Déesse; a clever wordplay on the French word for “goddess”) was designed by Italian sculptor Flaminio Bertoni and French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre. Cleverly engineered, the car was built around a high-pressure hydraulic system that controlled the height adjustable suspension, power steering, braking, and the semi-automatic transmission. Subtle engineering touches included the tapering wheel track which reduced understeer, and a fiberglass roof to lower the center of gravity. Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of the DS was that all of this sophisticated technology and style was packed into a mid-priced family sedan. Over 1.5 million were built, spanning twenty years and a wide variety of body styles.
While the DS was a family car, that fact did not stop certain buyers from desiring unique sporting and luxury variants. One of France’s most prestigious coachbuilders, Henri Chapron, was the first to create an open-topped, two-door Decapotable version of the DS. The first few were converted by Chapron using privately purchased cars, but Citroen quickly recognized the potential for a production version, and partnered with Chapron for the officially sanctioned Cabriolet Usine. The extensive conversion work began with specially prepared DS platforms delivered from Javel to the Chapron works. There, the platforms were reinforced and new coachwork crafted from the cowl back. The doors were lengthened by four inches, and a new tail section swept gracefully back, topped with a fiberglass boot lid. The tail lights were reworked and decorative strips added along the flanks. Finish work and quality were up to the typically high standards of Chapron. Considerable cost was added to the base price, making the Cabriolet Usine a highly desirable and prestigious motorcar. A total of 1,365 factory-sanctioned examples were produced through 1971, though individual commissions continued through Chapron as late as 1978.
We are delighted to offer this lovely DS21 Pallas Decapotable by Chapron; one of just 40 Usine Cabriolets built in 1970. Bearing Carrossier Number 9386, this is a genuine example, certified by Noelle Chapron. According to documents supplied by the coachbuilder, this car was originally delivered to Geneva on June 26, 1970, finished in the attractive shade of Metallic Sand over a black leather interior and black fabric hood. It appears to have remained in Switzerland for the majority of its life, recently in the care of noted Swiss collector Mr. Claude Imhoof. It includes original German-language handbooks and older Swiss registration documents.
Today, this DS presents in beautiful condition throughout, appearing mostly original except for a high-quality respray in the factory shade. Typically for Chapron, the quality of the coachwork is outstanding, with doors that shut with vault-like solidity and precision. The paintwork is attractive and glossy, and the body fitment is exemplary. Stainless steel bumpers and sill trims are in fine condition, and the chrome body fittings appear to be excellent original items.
Chapron used only the highest quality materials throughout their process, which is reflected in this car’s beautifully preserved original interior. Black leather seats present in excellent condition, showing only light and attractive patina on the seating surfaces. The original factory dash is in good condition, with factory equipped instruments and controls. The interior is of course, sublimely comfortable: With the car floating on its cushion-like hydropneumatic suspension.
For 1970, the DS21 was equipped with the 2,175 cc inline four, mated to a 5-speed hydraulically assisted gearbox which was operated via a column-mounted lever. This example is fitted with the optional Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection which was newly offered in 1970. The four-cylinder engine makes a very respectable 139 horsepower; plenty to whisk the DS along with minimal effort. The engine presents is in tidy, original condition, and it runs very well, returning respectable performance. The LHM hydraulics function as they should, and appear to have been serviced recently.
This rare and desirable DS21 Decapotable has been cherished for many years by a noted Citroen enthusiast, and it remains in fine order throughout. The DS has famously been named by journalists and designers as one of the most influential and beautiful cars of the Twentieth Century. Its groundbreaking design redefined traditional ideas of comfort and style, while the masterful work of Henri Chapron serves to further enhance the beauty of Le Déesse.