Over sixty years ago, Citroën discovered that you can only go so far in stripping a vehicle of its amenities.
During most of its existence the car has presented itself in countless shapes, sizes, capabilities, not to mention levels of price, performance and equipment. Todays subject however belongs to that rare class of decontented cars, true strippers not to be confused with the usual sparsely equipped entry level models aimed at fleet buyers, taxi companies and buyers for whom price and economy are absolutely predominant selection criteria.
The 1955 DS19 was an unprecedented showstopper, and although it suffered a range of quality and especially reliability issues in its early years, it did Citroën a world of good image-wise. As far as sales were concerned however, after the initially high amount of orders by the affluent and Avant Garde started to level off the French firm was confronted with a problem.
In 1956, if you could not afford a DS19, or did not want one, your only choice – should you want to stay within the Citroën family – were the dated (in looks and execution, but not in concept) Traction or the 2cv. Neither were viable alternatives to the DS19 so it was inevitable that some customers started to look elsewhere.
To counter this the ID19, a simplified and less well furnished DS19, was introduced in late 1956. Apart from the lower equipment levels, less powerful engine and simpler interior (and exterior) trim, one very important difference compared to the DS19 was that the hydraulics of the ID19 were limited to suspension only. Thus it had no power steering, no power brakes and a conventional manual gearbox.
The ID19 would prove to be a success: it transpired that many drivers, especially old Traction hands, preferred this to the DS19 with its highly unorthodox button brake pedal and at times slow to react and temperamental hydraulically controlled gearbox. Less complexity also meant increased reliability.
There still remained a problem however: the ID19 may have been less expensive than the DS19, but it was still considerably more costly than the Traction 11 Normale which was to be discontinued in mid-1957.
Citroën therefore decided to take the unusual step of taking the already light on amenities ID19 and radically strip it down to the bare bones with the goal of lowering its price. Something similar had been done before by Ford of France with its Vedette Abeille and – in the USA- by Studebaker with the Champion Scotsman. But those cars already roamed the low price market segment to begin with; neither the DS19 or ID19 were considered cheap cars. So, likely unique in automotive history, the ID19 Normale was presented at the Paris motor show in October of 1957.
The ID19 Normale still mostly looked like an ID19, or a DS19 for that matter. Its heart however was now pure Traction: in order to kill two birds with one stone Citroën replaced the engine in the ID19 with the old 11D powerplant.
Sales of the Traction had dropped for the last few years of its existence and there remained a stock of several hundred brand new 11D engines at the Quai de Javel upon the Traction’s discontinuation in July 1957. The engines in the DS19 and ID19 were also based on the Traction unit but they at least had modernised cylinder heads.
In addition there were over twenty other decontenting actions, the most important of which were: a front bench instead of two separate seats, a steel bonnet (devoid of any insulation material) instead of an aluminium item, no heater, no clock, only one sunvisor, no headliner, a smaller fuel reservoir (50 instead of 60 liters) and no floor covering apart from grey rubber mats. To top it off there was also no choice of colour: black with a medium blue cloth interior was the only combination offered.
The ID19 Normale would not prove very adroit at luring Traction owners or penny-pinching executive car buyers to the showrooms. At the end of 1958 – the first full year of availability – just 304 were sold; the next year was even worse with just 75 cars made.
Citroën production records of the era are sometimes contradictory or unclear – there is no consensus when exactly the ID19 Normale was discontinued. Most sources say at the end of 1959 but a few quote 1961. Be that as it may, it is unlikely that much more than 450 ID19 Normales ever left the Quai de Javel facilities – leading to the inevitable conclusion that the ID19 Normale really took austerity a step too far. At least it reduced the stock of leftover 11D engines….
One more thought is that the ID19 Normale likely made the regular ID19 look more attractive – and not just akin to a cheapened DS19 anymore – and in that sense indirectly helped improve the latter’s sales. As so few ID Normales were sold there are very few survivors known today, making this bare-bones ID considerably rarer than the DS Décapotable but not nearly as valuable – at least not in the monetary sense of the word.