Much as it had with the Traction Avant in the 1930s, Citroen shocked the world yet again when it introduced the revolutionary DS to the public at the Paris Auto Salon in 1955. In creating the DS, Citroen management pushed the engineering team and designers to think outside of standard conventions and turn the automobile industry on its head. With the extensive development required, they risked the very existence of the company. When it appeared in Paris for the first time, the world was taken aback at what Citroen created. At a time when a typical American upscale family car had a separate frame and leaf spring rear suspension, Citroen’s front-wheel-drive sedan featured monocoque construction, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. But the pièce de résistance lay in the central high-pressure hydraulic system that controlled the power steering, disc brakes, and damping for the hydropneumatic suspension. Also available was a brilliant semi-automatic gearbox that utilized an automatic, hydraulically controlled clutch. Encapsulating all of that technical wizardry was a space-age body designed by sculptor Flaminio Bertoni and aeronautical engineer Andre Lefebvre. The shape was like nothing seen before or since. So incredible was the design that the famed aesthete Roland Barthes described it as having “fallen from the sky.” Attendees of the Paris show responded with fervor, placing twelve thousand deposits on the first day alone.
For all of its technical and aesthetic brio, the DS was not intended as a one-off show car or a limited production halo car reserved for a few wealthy buyers. In practice, it was quite the opposite as the DS was a mid-priced family car for general consumption and produced in surprisingly large numbers. Citroen produced more than 1.4 million examples in the car’s incredible twenty-year run. Throughout production, Citroen continued to refine the car’s styling and mechanical specification. The many variants of the DS including the standard sedan, the luxurious Pallas, the stripped down and simplified ID, and the cavernous Safari wagon, along with many coachbuilt variations. The Citroen DS is a regular addition to lists naming the most beautiful or most significant cars of the 20th century, and one drive is enough to appreciate why the DS stands as France’s most celebrated car, a beautiful blend of art, engineering, and Avant-Garde thinking.
Featured here is a highly desirable European market 1967 DS19 Pallas. The 1967 model year was the final year for the original open-headlamp Bertoni design before the refreshed Robert Opron design was introduced. It was also the first year that Citroen utilized the new mineral-based LHM fluid for the hydraulic system. This was a significant development as the previous LHS “red fluid” was hygroscopic, causing corrosion issues within the hydraulic system. The new LHM fluid eliminated this issue and vastly improved reliability and service intervals. The US DOT was slow to approve the new fluid for the American market, so the combination of the early front-end design with improved hydraulics was only available on European-market cars. Only offered for one year, DS connoisseurs consider these 1967 Euro models the best of the breed.
This marvelous DS Pallas spent many years in California in the hands of a dedicated marque enthusiast. According to the previous owner, his family owned nothing but Citroens his whole life. He lovingly maintained this car in excellent condition, before selling it the most recent owner, another Citroen aficionado in the Southeast USA. He had been searching for several years for a well-sorted 1967 Euro model, and found this to be a truly outstanding example. In the time since he purchased it, he performed basic maintenance and a hydraulic system service and just enjoyed the car regularly, even driving it to work daily. He has owned several examples through the years and reported this car to be his favorite.
This fabulous DS is a beautifully preserved and original car save for one respray in the factory color of Gris Palladium. The paintwork is exquisite, with deep gloss and remarkably straight panels. Accessories include desirable Marchal fog lamps, rear window Venetian blinds, and a period aftermarket hood grab handle. The stainless trim is straight and in very good condition, with some light polish marks visible in the finish. It rides on proper cream-colored steel wheels with full stainless steel wheel covers and Vredestein Sprint Classic radial tires. A few minor scratches are found on the windscreen, while the rest of the glass is excellent and appears original.
Serving as a beautiful complement to the metallic gray paint, the natural tan-colored leather is a hallmark of the high-spec Pallas trim. Few motoring experiences compare to the feeling of sinking into the big chairs in a DS, and the interior of this car is in outstanding condition, with the supple leather showing some light creasing and a minor scuff or two consistent with age and use. Carpets are in fine order, with thick, soft foam underlayment that adds to the uniquely plush driving experience of the DS Pallas. The headlining, switchgear and interior fittings present in fine original condition, while a modern aftermarket radio is the only non-factory fitment.
The DY-series four-cylinder engine is in excellent running order. It starts from cold on the choke with ease, and the hydraulic system raises the car quickly and evenly. Shifting the 4-speed Hydraulique gearbox is an absolute joy. With just a lift of the throttle and a flick of the finger, the car changes gears without the use of a clutch pedal. Coupled with the power steering and brakes that require the lightest touch of the “mushroom” brake pedal, the experience is effortless and wholly unique to the Citroen DS. The engine bay is clean and well-maintained, while underneath, the solid original floor pans still have their factory-applied undercoat.
This is a marvelous example of Citroen’s legendary DS in a highly desirable configuration. It is extremely well-sorted and not only looks gorgeous, but it drives superbly. Lovingly cared for by a series of dedicated enthusiasts, this car is ready for regular enjoyment and is certain to bring many miles of joy to its next custodian.