by Arian Smits, images by Doug Breithaupt
As promised in the Citroen History in the September issue of 'Tales of toy cars', here is the story of a beautiful car. In 1955 one of the most sensational cars ever was introduced. It was the Citroen DS19.
This car had an aerodynamic body like a spacecraft. The technical features stunned everyone. It had self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension. A hydraulic system powered the disk brakes, the steering and a semi-automatic gearbox. Remember this is 1955 and people still had to get used to electric razors. But the DS19 was over-complicated and expensive so in 1957 a cheaper and technically less complicated car was introduced, the ID19. It had the DS body and suspension while the rest of the techniques where conventional. In 1958 the Break (station wagon) was introduced on the base of the ID. Citroen got this idea by looking closely at the Chevy 57 Nomad.
If the DS already expensive, the DS convertible, build from 1961, was even more pricey. It cost twice that of the most expensive DS. Not many were sold and the cars are rare. Today they are still the most expensive cars from the Citroen D-series and at price that is easily four times that of a DS.
A minor facelift came in 1963 that did not change the line of the body much. In 1967 however, a more drastic change was introduced that led to an even more shark-like body. It was the year that the four headlights where placed behind a streamlined glass cover. The American cars did not have these glass covers because the law did not allow that, so the four lights where placed in a streamlined base that had the same shape as the European glass covers. (The disappearance of the glass cover was also visible on the Jaguar E-type and Alfa Romeo spiders)
The's 1900cc engine moved up to 2347cc for the DS23 in the early 70s. The car was then capable of doing 118 mph, fitting the DS style and image. The only point of criticism was now solved by the 23 because the power of the car had been previously considered insufficient.
In 1974 the CX was introduced and it had the tough job of replacing the DS. After 20 years the end was near. In 1975 the last DS models where build, (with exception of the really last DS, a convertible made out of new spare parts in 1978 on a 1973 base). It was still a modern car because the body was still exceptional and the techniques where updated regularly.
DS's have been build in large numbers in France, Belgium and England (LHD). There have also been some assembled in South Africa and Australia. In total there have been close to 1.5 million cars build and that is an exceptional amount for such a big and expensive car. It was popular all over the world even in the difficult American market (some 20.000 were shipped across the Atlantic). But in France, the car was really popular. Of those 1.5 million build, 1.3 million were sold in France. It is the most Gallic car ever seen on the roads and that stands today.
From such a excellent car there must be some models and in fact some
nice ones have been done in 1:64 scale.
One of the best examples is the only one still available today. It is the American Johnny Lightning DS from ' Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The body is nicely done and it has correct wheels. This is not a toy but a collectors car.
The oldest model is the one from Matchbox. This is a car from the first 1-75 range that mostly included working equipment and British based passenger cars! (image is not shown)
A Husky model is also one from the early DS. This break had been available as a wagon with a boat on top and as an ambulance in civil and military versions. Later this car became available as a Corgi Junior, in a larger version.
The later DS can be seen on the already mentioned JL example and on the
little wagon from Bestbox/Efsi. This car has an opening rear hatch and was
also available as a police car and as an ambulance. ( In France a lot of
the ambulances where DS based).
Majorette - DS21
Majorette - DS Ambulance
The famous brand of Majorette started it's well known known line of cars with 21 vehicles, that of course included a DS model with its second nose. The third face brought us a lot of models because the 1/64 scale was now becoming very popular. Majorette quickly changed its moulds to the sharknose model. This model, just like its predecessor, features suspension, opening trunk and a bonnet that covers a nice little chromed engine with a spare tire. Majorette also included a DS ambulance made by the French body constructor Currus. This car has the best DS front of al the models. The lines are very difficult to reproduce but Majorette succeeded very well. Its clear headlights, the little blue plastic flags and the opening tailgate makes this car one of the best Majorettes ever done.
Faller in its Hitcar line gave us a DS made for the plastic speed tracks
with its smooth running wheels and light body.
The convertible has not been done by any maker in around 1/64. The somewhat smaller 1/86 diecast Lonestar "Tuf-Tots" included a third nose DS convertible with driver and a covered convertible without. (These cars are not mentioned in the list as they are smaller then the rest of the castings).
Norev - DS21
The other famous French firm of Norev produced a nice DS21 model that is quite rare today. The model is very simple like the other early mini-jet models. (Doug a connection to the Norev page can be made) The base and the interior are one casting. The only luxuriousness are the opening front doors.
Polistil of Italy had two DS models. A good lined one and a fantasy example that looked like it had come from a cartoon. Zylmex made a DS19 coupe model that is very poor in lines and quality.
The last model that needs attention is the quality mould from Siku. This car introduced in 1968 was still in production when the real car was gone for over 6 years. The model is rather nicely done and the quality is like we know it from Siku. The first cars had clear plastic headlight lenses and before Siku changed its number system to the 1000 super series (1975) the DS lost these lights and they became a part of the baseplate.