From the moment the first motorcar 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, the reality was that Citroen was far more willing to push the boundaries of technology 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 in 1955. This revolutionary, other-worldly automobile shocked the public, the press, and Citroen’s competitors when it was unveiled at the 1955 Paris Salon. 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. Citroen risked its very existence on a design that was so far beyond what had been seen in a mass-produced car, and some felt there was no way the general public would embrace such a futuristic and complex family car. Thankfully, all worries were put to rest when 743 orders were taken in the first hour of the car’s debut in Paris! A further 12,000 orders were made on the first day of the Salon alone. All told, over 1.5 million were built, spanning twenty years and a wide array of trim levels and factory and coachbuilt body styles.
We are delighted to offer this outstanding 1969 DS21 Pallas saloon. This model features the restyled front end which had been initiated by Flaminio Bertoni and finalized after his death by Robert Opron for the 1967 model year. This stunning DS was delivered in 1969 via the newly established Citroen dealer in Beverly Hills, California. The car was specially ordered by the director of Citroen USA, Rene France, to serve as his personal demonstrator. As such, the car is equipped with many unique and rare features. In June of 1969, after three months of use, France sold the DS21 to television and Disney actor Ken Berry (F-Troop, Herbie Rides Again). The most recent owner, a dedicated marque enthusiast, purchased the car from a French Citroen mechanic, and he spared little expense to ensure this car looks, functions, and performs at its very best.
A truly exceptional example, this DS is one of the best we have had the pleasure to offer. The cosmetic condition is excellent, in its original color of Brun Encore with a contrasting special-order tallow-tan vinyl roof giving the car an understated, elegant presence. It is recognized as a US specification example by its fixed headlights that do without the glass covers of the European models. The bumpers show some moderate hazing and polish marks in the finish but remain straight and attractive. As recently as May of 2018, some exterior rubber trim parts were replaced including side window felts and scrapers and the body panels were adjusted to achieve the best fit.
Luxury takes on a new definition when seated in a Citroen DS, particularly with this example’s optional leather upholstery and higher grade materials used exclusively in the Pallas models. Subject to an interior restoration in 2017, the car was treated to new seat upholstery, carpets, headlining, and door panels. The quality is outstanding and the seats exhibit some very light creasing which is inviting and appealing. Switchgear and controls are excellent, and a set of fashionable Gradulux accessory venetian blinds are fitted in the rear window.
In mechanical terms, this DS truly shines. Over $50,000 was lavished upon it in by the most recent owner to ensure it performs as good as or better than new. Records show the 2175 c.c. inline four received a full rebuild beginning in 2013, by marque experts PWK-Import-Export of San Clarion, California. The work included new Mahle cylinder liners, new pistons, and a refurbished cam. In addition to the engine rebuild, a replacement Citromatic-Drive gearbox was fitted along with a stronger DS23 clutch and a high-volume hydraulic pump. The suspension was comprehensively serviced with new spheres all around, the power steering system rebuilt, and the centrifugal regulator for the shifter rebuilt. Tidy and well-detailed, the engine bay is reflective of the quality of the work performed and the attention to detail given to this car.
Once accustomed to the unique nature of the Citromatic-Drive transmission and the hydraulic control systems, the DS is a revelation in terms of opulence and ride comfort. This Deesse starts easily and runs exceptionally well. This DS is indeed one of the best performing examples we’ve had the pleasure to offer. Few manufacturers in history had dared to approach Citroen’s astounding creativity when they created “The Goddess,” and we will likely never see another car like it. This magnificent DS21 Pallas has enjoyed a charmed life in the hands of a series of uncompromising enthusiasts. It is one of the finest available today, sure to please even the most discerning enthusiast.