Just as it had done 21 years previously with the revolutionary 'Traction Avant', Citroën stunned the world again in 1955 with the launch of the strikingly styled 'DS'. Beneath the shark-like newcomer's aerodynamically efficient, low-drag bodyshell there was all-independent, self-levelling, hydro-pneumatic suspension plus power-operated brakes, clutch, and steering.
The project had been initiated in the 1930s by the company's managing director, Pierre-Jules Boulanger, and would be brought to fruition by designers André Lefebvre, previously with Voisin and Renault, and Flaminio Bertoni, who had worked on the styling of the pre-war Traction Avant. Part of Boulanger's brief had been that the proposed 'VGD' (Voiture de Grand Diffusion or Mass Market Car) should be capable of affording a comfortable ride over sub-standard rural roads while remaining stable at sustained high speeds on the Autoroutes. The solution to these seemingly incompatible requirements was the famous hydro-pneumatic suspension, suggested by Citroën engineer Paul Mages. No European car would match the DS's ride quality for several years, the fundamental soundness of Citroën's ahead-of-its-time hydro-pneumatic suspension being demonstrated by its survival in top-of-the-range models until very recently.
In September 1965 the DS's original 1,911cc, overhead-valve, long-stroke engine – inherited from the Traction Avant - was replaced by a short-stroke 1,985cc unit, also available in 2,175cc and 2,347cc versions, while other DS developments included swivelling headlights, fuel injection, and a five-speed manual gearbox. Other models offered alongside the original DS were the ID (a simplified, cheaper version), the cavernous Safari estate and the two-door Décapotable (convertible), the latter boasting coachwork by Henri Chapron. Right-hand drive versions were assembled in England at Citroën's Slough factory up 1966, whereupon manufacture of all RHD models reverted to France. By the time production ceased in April 1975, more than 1.3 million of these wonderfully idiosyncratic cars had been built.
This DS23 has the powerful 2.3-litre engine and the desirable five-speed manual gearbox. The history file contains MoT certificates dating back to 1983 and sundry invoices for work done going back to early 1990s when the car was owned by the Reverend Peter Brown of Staines. The Citroën subsequently belonged to a Mr Clifford and there are also invoices on file for work done during his ownership. Permanently exported from the UK in 2009, where it was registered as 'SKX 469M', the car is currently registered in the Republic of Ireland.
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