The Citroën DS was launched in 1955 in Paris. The last Goddess rolled off the production lines in 1977 after the sale of some 1.5 million vehicles. One look at the vehicle and it comes as no suprise that one of its designers came from the Aviation industry and another was a sculptor.
The Déesse is sleek and sits low on the ground. Large windows, highly polished bodywork,plenty of chrome trim and a huge range of colours give a glamourous finish and the moulded,sculpted form is futuristic and a little alien.
The bonnet slopes from the windscreen to the front bumper in a graceful sweep giving the appearance of a noble patrician nose. The headlights take two forms both of which give the Déesse its unmistakeable profile: on models until the late 60's, headlights sit proud of the bonnet and are only slightly recessed into moulded 'arms' (rather like the Porsche 911 and its predecessor the VW Beetle). Later models are more aerodynamic and the headlights and foglamps are recessed into the sloping bonnet giving it the iconic shark-like appearance it is so well known for.
The wheels are spaced at the very extremities of the vehicle giving a longer uninterrupted line at the base of the chassis and the rear wheels are 60% hidden when the car is stationary where the chassis rests low. The boot of the car slopes more sharply and drops lower than the bonnet giving a satisfying balance.
The interior is hugely spacious with generous leg room thanks to the ultra long nose.
The dash board is functional and futuristic; but the triumph is the elegant steering wheel with its single spoke through which all the controls can be reached.
There are some iconic designs which evoke a lifestyle, personalities and places. The Déesse conjures up Dior's New Look, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant on the Grande Corniche, catseye sunglasses, winkle pickers, sweater girls and how we had 'never had it so good'.
The car is luxurious, glamourous, just a touch ostentatious and was like nothing anybody had seen before. Its lines sensuous; its low-slung posture surging forward and upward at the same time like an aeroplane, perhaps more like the cat, ready to pounce. Its animal qualities are intriguing but slightly sinister, the futuristic alien form making it all the more seductive. The unique hydropneumatic suspension gives it an eerie, organic animation; as if it breathes.
The Déesse is unquestionably an urban and urbane car. It is more Faubourg St Honore than 5th Avenue or Sloan Street. More Audrey Hepburn than Marilyn Monroe or Diana Dors. French style over American flash and British pragmatism.
It was chosen by De Gaulle as the official Ministry car and it even saved his life as it sped away from assassins thanks to its hydropneumatic suspension. It has starred in countless films and its adoption by the gendarmerie gives it both status and an air of danger. It suggests espionage and mystery and although it came in every colour of the rainbow, it belongs to black.
Other cars seem clumsy in comparison. Crude angles and forms characterized the models reproduced by virtually every other manufacturer. They resist the ground and their lines seem to pull away from it. Like Corbusier's buildings floating above the ground on their pilotis, they defy gravity seeming almost unfit for purpose. The Déesse on the other hand, embraces gravity, anchored to the road, hugging the ground.
The Déesse was one of the true post war symbols of optimism; like the Festival of Britain, it looked only to the future for its inspiration.
It was a luxury item with an expensive finish yet it was also used by French farmers and to tow caravans. It was perceived as a democratic family car but when ministerial fleets of black Déesses streamed down the Champs Elysees the tone was sombre, slightly sinister and rather sexy. Although not as enduring as Hitler's 'volkswagen' or 'car of the people', not as youthful and flashy as the T-Bird, in the style stakes, the Déesse easily earns her title of Goddess.
Citroen UK - Citroen's British Website
Autohistories - An enthusiast's site
BBC - BBC article relating to 50th Anniversary
|Author:||Isabel Wrench||Date:||March 2007|