Menu PagesHome Page
CitroŽn D Series
CitroŽn ID-19 Specs
CitroŽn Car Club NSW
My CitroŽn ID-19
My CitroŽn Xantia
CitroŽn D.S. and Xantia Cars
CitroŽn's 1959 DS models in their Paris showroom
About this Page
I have been interested in CitroŽns since the mid 60's. At this time a Tasmanian uncle drive a 1963 ID-19 to survey the Murchison Highway. After waiting a quarter of a century, I finally bought a 1959 ID-19 sedan. I now suspect CitroŽn ownership may be something of a family thing. Up until three years ago my daily use car was a 1995 CitroŽn Xantia.
In 1938 CitroŽn president Pierre Boulanger perceived
the need of a replacement for the pre war Traction Avant (Front Wheel
Drive) models. Two VGD - Vehicle ŗ Grand Diffusion - (general
production vehicle) models were envisioned, one being a four cylinder
VGD-120 capable of 120 km/hr, and the other being a six cylinder VGD-135
capable of 135 km/hr. The vehicles were to be released in Jan. 1940,
but WW II intervened to stop development of what was to become the DS.
Andrť Lefebvre, an engineer from the aircraft company Voisin, was recruited in 1942. He had experience in the development of an aerodynamic car for the 1923 Grand Prix de Tours. The radical body shape of the D series cars is a credit to designer Flaminio Bertoni's drawings and Lefebvre's use of a wind tunnel. The car has a low air drag co-efficient (Cx = 0.35), now only equalled by a modern car.
The CitroŽn DS model of 1955
Paul Mages ('the professor') joined the company in 1942 and proposed an oleo suspension system derived from a Lockheed aircraft suspension strut. Post war suspension development was carried out on a Traction Avant with the rear suspension modified for self levelling. Mages re-engineered the strut into a 12 cm sphere incorporating a diaphragm that enclosed a hemispherical volume of pressurised nitrogen gas.
This enabled both springs and shock absorbers in one unit, giving compliant long linear travel suspension. At startup a motor driven pump pressurises the bottom half of the spheres with hydraulic fluid, and the car rises up to normal ride height. The height can also be set by a lever in the cabin.
CitroŽn DS in 1960 Portugese Rally - proving that godesses can fly
In 1951 the flat six cylinder motor, developed from the two cylinder 2CV motor, was dropped. Economic circumstances dictated exclusive use of the four cylinder motor from the pre-war Traction Avant. This was modified with a hemi cylinder head for increased power, giving the car a top speed of 145 kM/h (90 mph). By 1952 DS prototypes in camouflage were being test driven through the forests surrounding Paris.
The DS-19 was released at the 1955 Paris Motor Show to incredible response, and introduced radial ply tyres plus a progressive crumple rate chassis to the motoring public. In 1957 the ID-19, with simplified hydraulics and softer suspension, was released for the unsealed roads of rural France. Later D series models incorporated larger engines (1984, 2175 and 2347cc), four headlights and modern interiors.
The cars have proven themselves in rallies (eg. London to Sydney Car Marathon - see photos - and the Paris Dakar Rally) and racing (Bathurst 500's). Several models have featured in several films and TV series (remember Patrick McGoohans car in TV's 1960's 'Dangerman'). The safari (wagon) models were favoured as ambulances due to their superb ride qualities and interior space.
The luxury DS Pallas sedans soon found use as consular vehicles. President de Gaulle - an avid CitroŽn enthusiast - avoided an ambush in October 1961 when travelling in one across Paris. The incident became the basis for the film 'The Day of the Jackal'. His presidential limousine was a 6.53 metre lengthened DS. The ultimate expression of the D series were the cabriolets by body builder Chapron in the 60's, and the prototypes for the 1970 Maserati V6 engined SM coupť.
Production of the DS ceased in 1975 with a total of 1,330,755 vehicles produced. And why the name 'Godess'? It's a French play on words. When Pierre Boulanger decided to design the D series cars, after the A, B and C series, he used the initials D.S. to denote the D Series (ie the DS-19, DS-21, DS-23). In French this is pronounced as Dei - Esse, meaning literally 'Godess'.
In the early days CitroŽn named their production series by letters, this car being of the D Series (after the A, B and C). DS is pronounced as 'Dei-Esse' in French, which translates to 'God-ess' in English. The ID model is from the French 'Idee Desiree' - 'Desirable Idea' in English ie. the simplified model. The Dutch call the car 'Shark' due to the shape of the bonnet with the under-bumper air inlet. That would make an Australian shark a Grey Nurse.
I had been interested in CitroŽns since buying a red Corgi model DS sedan whilst at primary school in the mid 1960's. I still have the car. An uncle in Tasmania also had a 1963 ID-19 which he drove around South-west Tasmania to build roads such as the Murchison Highway. I now suspect CitroŽn ownership may be something of a family thing. After waiting a quarter of a century, because of more pressing economic realities, I finally bought one.
After rebuilding the car, I was approached by another club member to take a test drive, and pick up some cakes on the way. The cake shop turned out to be in the famed Acland Street of St Kilda, Melbourne. Overall fuel economy was 8.36 litres/100kM (33.6mpg), including extended expressway speed running on the Hume Highway. It is the most fatigue free trip I have ever done to Melbourne.
The CitroŽn Car Club of NSW organises several annual events. At the club Christmas party I criticised the fuel calculations in the Observation Run, to be told by the planner 'If you think you can do better, do it yourself...'. I have now planned the runs since 1995. Contestants have to answer fifty cryptic questions whilst navigating the remote roads of the near-Sydney region. Outings are family oriented, with travel through scenic country ending at a picnic spot. The next run is now being planned.
The Cit-In is an annual Easter get-together of about one hundred CitroŽns from across Australia, hosted sequentially by each state. Travelling to and from the event is an experience in itself - If not for the Cit-Ins I would not have visited Gayndah QLD '96) (paddle wheeler on the river), Renmark SA '97 (wineries), Shepparton VIC '99 (gliding at Tocumwal) and Jindabyne NSW '00 (climbing Mt Koscziusko plus a return trip via Wilsons Promontery). 2001 was at Tanunda SA, and 2002 was in Richmond TAS.
Raids are CitroŽn rallies using mainly the small 602cc engined 2CV's. Participants worldwide (Germans, Dutch, English, French, Americans) either import or borrow cars and converge on a different country each year. They drive off the beaten track for a month eg. up to the top of Finland, across Slovenia, or the famed crossing of the Sahara. The present Australian one goes from Alice Springs to Mt Isa, Karumba, Chillagoe, Cairns, Cape York, Weipa, Cooktown and ending at Trinity Beach.
In August 2000 Shannons car insurance organised the selection of 'Car of the Century' through the Classic, Vintage and Veterin Touring Motor Club of Australia. The contenders came down to VW Beetle, Ford model T, Porsche 911, Mini and the Citroen DS. The Model T was eventually chosen, with the Beetle coming second and the DS coming third. My ID-19 represented the oldest DS Citroen in the display, and I got to drive one lap around the race course with the other cars. The ID-19 had better brakes than the Porsches. I have fond memories and a small medallion to commemorate this.
The car was built and converted to right hand drive in France. It was originally sold by Bill Buckle Motors of Sydney in 1959 (note the dealers badge on the rear bumper bar). It was later serviced by Reynolds Bros Garage of Dandaloo Street, Narromine - there is still a small remnant of a service sticker on the windscreen. After years of use in the outback the car was stored with a 1958 ID-19 in a Nyngan shed. The Nyngan flood in 1989 destroyed the 1958 car, but spared this one.
Next we hear of the car in a report by our club president that he had
heard of two old D series car stored in a shed at Nyngan. Before an
expedition was mounted to recover the vehicles, another member had transported
both vehicles to Gosford. He spent two years partially rebuilding the
good vehicle, using some parts from the 1958 car. The car was used as
regular day to day transport, and as a family transport for an extensive
ID-19 at Canberra Cit-In - from a photo by Trevor Astle
After several years use, the original engine of 430.000 miles began blowing smoke. It was time for a rebuild, which I entrusted to European Autocare at South Penrith. Several months and several thousands of dollars later, the car re-emerged with a rebuilt engine plus overhauled brakes and hydraulics. The engine had been completely stripped, with the block water jacket cleaned by acid etching and refilling of the corroded sections.
New valves, pistons and cylinder liners were ordered from France, and fitted to a rebuilt head with hardened valve seats to take unleaded fuel. A harmonic balancer for was added to the engine, with an inspection port built into the firewall. Extra strengthening of the car was done, making it suitable for raiding, by bracketing the under-engine cross member and by adding two ribs between the front seats and the firewall.
The gearbox was showing signs of wear, and was replaced with a rebuilt four speed synchromesh from a later ID-19. Substantial noise deadening insulation has been added to the firewall and under the bonnet, making this one of the quietest D series cars.
I was in a dilemma when trying to replace the original Michelin X series 400X165 radials, as the price was quoted at $480.00 each. This was solved by Circle Track Wheels at Seven Hills altering the wheel rims to fit a modern 15" diameter 6" wide 380X205 tyre. After the battery failed I had trouble finding a 6 volt battery. Replacement came not from a car, but a fork lift. The deep cycle 19 plate battery fits in the battery compartment perfectly, and started the car quickly after a freezing night parked outside at Perisher Valley.
Replacement of the starter motor was a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and to understand how everything on the engine bay was attached - refer below! It is possible for a non mechanical person to work on a supposedly 'complex' car.
In 2001, due to a small redundancy windfall, I finally bought a 1995 CitroŽn Xantia for $12,000. This car had 112,000 kM on the clock when I bought it, and now has 301,000 kM. The biggest expense is the replacement of the brake pads and rotors, but what magnificent brakes! This is the only car I have owned that brakes really well. The car also has advanced safety and performance features including a variable height oleo-pneumatic suspension, a high pressure 4 wheel disk braking system incorporating ABS, drivers Airbag, passive four wheel steering and an integral roll cage.
CitroŽn Xantia 1995 Image
The car is comfortable, safe and fast. The only incident I had with the car is when the front suspension struts failed, and crumpled the bonnet. Apparently they need to be replaced every 10 years due to fatigue. The modern Peugeots also suffer the same problem. The replacement cost for the struts compared with the costs of changing shock absorbers in a normal car. The muffler and alternator are still the original, so that reduces the cost of ownership in some small degree. I have appeared at a couple of Cit-Ins with this car, and it has been to Tasmania for the Richmond Cit-In.
The fuel efficiency of the Xantia is 9.5 litres/100 kM on the daily trip to Richmond. Here are some fuel efficiency figures for the Xantia on two trips. The first is a weeks travel to work from Mt Druitt to work at Richmond plus a return trip to Newcastle. The second is a trip from Sydney to Newcastle, Taree and back, beginning and ending with a weeks travel to work. All trips were driven briskly at appropriate legal speeds.
At 320,000 kM the car has now been sold, for scrap value. The new owner is another member of the CitroŽn Car Club, who is restoring it to a near original condition.