Introduction to the 1955-1975 Citroen DS and ID

Arrival of the 1956 Citroen ID
The ID19 Station Wagon was introduced in October 1958, and was often called Safari.
The ID19 Station Wagon was introduced in October 1958, and was often called Safari.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Citroen wasted no time in introducing Goddess variations. A companion sedan, the 1956 Citroen ID, or the ID19, arrived in late 1956 (1957 in the U.S.) to replace the Traction, which went out of production entirely the next year.

At $2,595, the ID -- Idee Depouille, or "idea despoiled" -- cost $900 less than a DS because it lacked the hydraulic gearchange and standard power steering, and was somewhat less luxurious. Still, that was about the price of a Pontiac Star Chief sedan.

In 1957 came DS and ID station wagons in Familiale, Commerciale, and even ambulance versions. All were called "Safari" -- with no apologies to Pontiac's sporty wagon -- as Citroen was then coming to dominate the East African Safari rally.

In 1961, noted Parisian coachbuilder Henri Chapron began selling custom-crafted D-Series convertibles (which sold for about $5,600 in the U.S., $100 more than a Cadillac Sixty-Two ragtop).

The D quickly established itself as not only Citroen's flagship, but France's most prestigious car. In spite of its daunting complexity (novice mechanics were advised to take a tranquilizer before lifting the hood for the first time), it settled down to be a reliable, likable, and above all a successful machine.

This 1958 ID Deluxe, or Luxe, featured bucket seats, a 66-horsepower DS engine, little hubcaps, and painted headlight rims.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

In its early years, however, the D looked much faster than it was, for the old-style four-cylinder engines were never very powerful, and driving the high-pressure hydraulics only sapped their strength even more. The inaugural DS19 had a top speed of just 87 mph and took all of 22 seconds to reach 60 mph from rest.

Britain's The Autocar magazine, which was not then known for being rude about any car, stated that "the method of gear change and its use does not appear to justify the added complication." Surprisingly, the entry-level ID19, with a mere 66 horsepower at first, was no slower, for which its conventional four-on-the-column gearchange can surely take credit.

But customers seemed happy to put up with such lethargy. No matter how underpowered they thought the engines might be, they were delighted with the big Cit's distinctive appearance, amazing ride and handling, its spaciousness, high seat comfort, and -- despite a well-known tendency to easy, early rusting -- the car's sheer class.

Moreover, what the D lacked in acceleration was more than made up for in stamina, and the car distinguished itself in competition right away. A DS19 won its class in the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally, and an ID won outright in 1959, when 12 other cars finished the grueling event to give Citroen the Manufacturer's Cup.

Many other victories followed, including an overall first in the Liege-Sofia-Liege "Marathon de la Route" rally in 1961. The 3,400-mile loop included 90 hours of uninterrupted flat-out driving, and of 85 cars entered, only eight survived -- three of them Citroens, including the winner.

Citroen followed up by capturing this event again in 1962. That same year, Pauli Toivonen was proclaimed the Scandinavian rally champion because of his numerous victories in a DS19, and the following year the DS was the outright winner in Finland's Snow Rally.

A DS21 competes in a rally, a form of racing in which the DS established an excellent rally.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Many changes to the 1965-1975 Citroen DS and ID took place in order for the cars to compete in the marketplace. Continue on to the next page to learn more about these changes.

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