Variations on a Theme

Presenting three lesser known varieties of Citroën’s svelte autoroute express

Image via the author.

CX Haute Protection

When thinking about an armoured passenger car, the picture that comes to mind for most Europeans is likely a large black car with the famous three-pointed star on its bonnet and for those across the Atlantic, one bearing the Cadillac crest. However, in the long wheelbase CX Prestige, Citroën was of the opinion that they could Continue reading “Variations on a Theme”

Creative Dissonance

Citroen reveals its big idea.

2021 Citroen C5 X. (c) uk-media.citroen.com

It ought to be obvious really; that incredibly fertile period of Citroën design overseen by the recently departed Robert Opron and presided over by CEO, Pierre Bercot was merely a blip; a marvellously inventive, optimistic and futuristic one, but a blip nonetheless. One where high speed travel in supreme comfort was to Continue reading “Creative Dissonance”

Pampas Troika

Not everything is what it seems at first glance: Citroën 2cv derivatives from the fertile South American lowlands.

IES America. Image: (c) Etienne Musslin

Founded in 1959, Citroën Argentina S.A. initially assembled vehicles with parts imported from France. The A-series Citroëns produced at the plant located in a southeast barrio of Buenos Aires named Barracas were mostly identical to their French sisters although the 602cc engined version was renamed 3cv, and featured a fifth door hatch which the European 2cv would only receive many years later.

The A-series models made in Barracas were the 2cv, the 3cv and 3cv in the fourgonette (van) version. Starting in 1964, Citroën Argentina began to manufacture the 425cc engine for the 2cv themselves. In 1969 production was expanded with the Ami 8, followed by the Méhari in 1974; production of the GS being contemplated but never materialised because of the large investment required.

As the end of the decade neared, the changed political and economic situation due to the national reorganisation process (known as proceso) under junta leader Jorge Videla made Citroën decide to Continue reading “Pampas Troika”

New Frontier (Part Twelve)

America is waiting.

1972 SM in US market spec. Image Favcars

Unquestionably, a considerable measure of the SM’s commercial prospects rested upon its reception in the United States. Having envisaged selling the car in the US market from the outset, Pierre Bercot correctly viewed the American market as being pivotal to the business case of the SM – the projection being to sell 50% of production there.[1]

With the SM, Citroën seemed ready to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Twelve)”

New Frontier (Part Eleven)

Politics dominates at Quai André Citroën. 

Image: citroen-sm.uk

As early examples of the SM began to appear on Europe’s roads, the political fallout to its advent took another, even more high profile scalp with the June 1970 announcement of the impending retirement of Monsieur le Président, Pierre Bercot. And while it was characterised as a scheduled act, the timing was nonetheless, to say the least, interesting.

Because while it would appear that Bercot had won the day over his deputy and fierce critic’s opposition, it is equally possible that Claude Alain Sarre’s unilateral decision to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Eleven)”

Family Breadwinner (Part Two)

The Citroën Visa might have offended some Quai de Javel purists, but it still espoused enough of the marque’s unique character to be well regarded and fondly remembered.

1978 Visa Club. Image: parts-specs.nl

The 1976 Citroën LN was unambiguously a stop-gap car, engineered quickly and expediently to give beleaguered Citroën dealers something new to sell. But Peugeot realised that Citroën also needed a proper supermini-sized contender to replace the ageing Dyane and Ami, and again looked to the 104 platform, this time the five-door version. Prior to their takeover, Citroën had been working on its own replacement (initially in conjunction with Fiat), codenamed Model Y (1). The Peugeot takeover ended that programme however, and the project, renamed Model VD, would now Continue reading “Family Breadwinner (Part Two)”

New Frontier – (Part Ten)

Press and punter have their say.

(c) citroen-sm-uk.com

Otherworldly, at least as celestial an apparition as Roland Barthes’ depiction of its DS 19 forebear, the appearance of the new Citroën poleaxed visitors at its debut. Because in the Spring of 1970, nothing spoke of the now quite like an SM, although the Pininfarina Modulo, also shown at that year’s Geneva salon potentially ran it a close second.

The motorshow also presented Citroën’s public relations with their first tangible opportunity to gauge the public’s reaction to the new Quai de Javel flagship, but more to the point, to elicit the impressions of those who might be minded to Continue reading “New Frontier – (Part Ten)”

Family Breadwinner (Part One)

Although eclipsed by the hugely successful 205, the 104 was a highly competent design that served Peugeot and its sister companies well for sixteen-years.

Peugeot 104. Image: autodata1

Mention Peugeot Supermini in the company of car enthusiasts of a certain maturity and their minds will immediately turn to the 1983 205, the delightfully attractive, practical and sweet-handling car that, for many, was the definitive 1980’s B-segment hatchback. In 1.6 and 1.9 GTi form, it was also the definitive hot hatch. What is not as readily recalled, however, is the success of its largely forgotten predecessor, the 1972 Peugeot 104 and its PSA siblings.

Prior to the launch of the 104, Peugeot design was the very epitome of sober conservatism, with understated but well-engineered saloons and estates, and attractive but unflashy coupés and convertibles. The company had ventured into transverse engines and front-wheel-drive with the 204 and 304 siblings, but their conservative exterior appearance belied the engineering innovation within. The 104 would be the company’s smallest model and the first two-box design that was not an estate, but what was becoming known as a Supermini.

Except that, like the Fiat 127 that preceded it by a year, it was not a true Supermini in that it had a conventional boot-lid instead of a hatchback(1). Peugeot was, allegedly, concerned about the impact a hatchback 104 might have on sales of the existing 204 estate, hence the decision to Continue reading “Family Breadwinner (Part One)”

F is for Failure

There’s little new in the world.

An artist’s render of the upper-level version of Projet F. (c) citroenet.org.uk

The news earlier this week that JLR cancelled its Jaguar XJ programme, believed to have been close to production-readiness was greeted with varying degrees of dismay by the commentator and enthusiast community. Many questioned the financial logic of taking such drastic action so late in the developmental programme, suggesting that such profligacy was madness.

Whether folly or expediency, it was certainly not unique, BLMC rather notably electing to cancel the Rover P8 programme at huge expense in 1971, for example. However, perhaps the most glaring and possibly the most financially damaging instance was that of Citroën, when in April 1967, President, Pierre Bercot took the decision to Continue reading “F is for Failure”

New Frontier – (Part Nine)

High drama amid the champagne flutes at Geneva.

Geneva 1970, the SM makes its debut. (c) sm.uk

Spring 1970, and for months now the prospect of a new high performance Citroën flagship has become something of an open secret amid the motor-press. A concerted proving programme by Citroën engineers has been completed, although the chosen name is something of a late in the day affair. Nevertheless, and regardless of what Monsieur le Président is said to have originally wanted, the SM is ready to take its bow.

A prerequisite of the 1968 PARDEVI alliance with FIAT Auto was the creation of a new Citroën SA holding company, a development which saw Pierre Bercot Continue reading “New Frontier – (Part Nine)”

New Frontier – (Part Eight)

La Fluidité.

Image: autoevolution

While there may have been some disagreement as to the conceptual nature of Citroën’s 1970 flagship, the matter of its appearance seems to have been more assured. Certainly, there are comparatively few observers who could cogently argue that the SM’s styling was not a success – indeed it remains probably the car’s defining feature – still a futurist marvel, despite a half-century having elapsed since its introduction.

Within Citroën’s Bureau d’Études the Style Centre was hidden away in an unkempt and dingy section of the Rue de Théàtre facility. Overseen by longstanding Citroën design chief, Flaminio Bertoni, he alongside his small team of fellow designers and put upon artisans would Continue reading “New Frontier – (Part Eight)”

The Definition of Obsession? 10 years with a Citroën C6 (Part 4).

In this final part, I take stock of the experience of living with the C6 over the last decade.

Striking, and distinctive, if not lovely (source: author’s photo)

There is no getting away from the fact that the C6 has been less reliable and more expensive to maintain than it ought to have been. Most of the problems occurred between 60,000 and 100,000 miles, irritatingly after the warranty had expired. Whether it was the car’s weight overwhelming in particular the various suspension components is a matter of speculation, and one which was often vigorously contested on C6 Owner’s fora.[1]

On average, I estimate I have spent around £1,200 a year keeping the C6 in decent fettle, including a couple of visits to a bodyshop to sort out some corrosion spots, a bit of paint blooming on a wing (caused by a poor respray whilst the car’s paintwork was still under warranty), and the time when some scallywag (if that is the correct term) dropped a brick on the bonnet whilst it was parked in a street, leaving it there so that it – and the damage it had caused – could not be missed.

Give the car a nice wash and polish and it looks quite superb – Robert himself wondered if I’d Continue reading “The Definition of Obsession? 10 years with a Citroën C6 (Part 4).”

The Definition of Obsession? 10 Years With A Citroën C6. (Part 3)

In this episode, a catalogue of parts failures almost culminates in the final curtain for the our correspondent’s C6… that was now over five years ago.

Distinctive? Yes. Beautiful? Not really. (Source – Author’s photo).

The suspension has been the main area of issues with the C6. Drop-links at the rear, bearings at the front, lower wishbones at the front, stub-axles as well as the two struts have all been replaced. In addition, the car has had a total of four new ABS sensors over time, which, when they go on the blink, cause havoc with the electronic handbrake and the SatNav as well as the ABS system itself.

Another sensor which controlled the fore-aft levelling of the car also ceased to function, meaning that, when I returned to the parked car, the front was jacked up, the rear on its bump-stops – the nose pointing skywards at about 40°. Finally, an emergency replacement of a tyre led to a split hydraulic fluid tank as the technician did not Continue reading “The Definition of Obsession? 10 Years With A Citroën C6. (Part 3)”

Best Indentations

Time to put down that chisel. 

Parking knocks come as standard. Image: MOTOR1

It’s probably sentimentality, but despite decades of disappointment I still maintain a vague attachment to what is by now only a platonic ideal of Automobiles Citroën. At least that’s the only reasonable rationale for why my interest is invariably piqued by the announcement of any freshly minted car bearing the double chevron. Equally without variance however is what I feel about what is routinely presented.

The newly fashioned Citroen C4 is only the very latest of a long and wobbly line of underwhelming visions from Vélizy; a car which replaces without doubt one of the dreariest vehicles ever to bear that fabled emblem, although in the latter case, it was probably the other way round – the emblem (just about) bearing the car.

This being so, it was either a case of overcompensation on the part of Citroen’s design team, or more likely a misguided directive to Continue reading “Best Indentations”

New Frontier (Part Seven)

Every car, no matter how well wrought has an Achilles heel. 

1970 Citroen SM. Image: daunatclassique

Like most aspects of historical record, the story behind the development of Maserati’s 2760 cc V6 engine for the SM is dependent upon whose account one believes, but its bespoke basis has by now been largely placed beyond doubt.

A primary stipulation from Quai Andre Citroën was for a compact and lightweight unit, physically no larger than their own in-line four. With the 114-series V6, the architectural layout chosen by Maserati technical director, Giulio Alfieri allowed these strictures to be met. However, this brought forth a number of structural and operational compromises – one in particular proving something of an expensive error.

Owing to the 90° included angle between cylinder banks, such engines were prone to uneven firing intervals and a lack of smoothness at certain engine speeds. The fitment of engine-driven contra-rotating balance shafts would have alleviated this, but was ruled out on cost and weight grounds. It was therefore decided to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Seven)”

Objects you Cannot Polish

The 2001 Citroën C5 was a spacious, comfortable and practical large car. It was also unforgivably frumpy looking. DTW tries to muster some enthusiasm to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its birth.

2001 Citroen C5. (c) autoevolution

The early 21st Century was a lean time for Citroën design. The company’s glory days of the DS, SM and GS were a distant memory. The sensible men in grey suits at Peugeot, which had owned Citroën since 1975, had repositioned the company as a purveyor of automotive white goods; sensible value-for-money appliances like the 1996 Saxo and 1997 Xsara, whose most attractive features were the deep discounts and cheap finance deals used to Continue reading “Objects you Cannot Polish”

The Definition of Obsession? 10 years with a Citroën C6 (part 2)

In this episode of one man’s near life-sentence with a large Citroën, he describes some of the more stressful experiences of C6 ownership.

OK, from this photo, I can see why people think it might be a shade of black, not brown (source: the author)

The day I collected the C6 probably should have scared me off… but it didn’t, somehow. I picked it up on a Saturday morning, very early as agreed so that I would not be in the way of the sales guys getting stuck into the punters on their peak sales day. I stopped off on the way home to collect my son from football training. Naturally, he was curious to experience the C6’s trick suspension, so, whilst still in the car park, I started the engine, let it settle and then pressed the button to raise the suspension.

No cigars for guessing what happened next. The car rose to its top setting… and there it stuck. It being new to me, and having heard and read so much about the complexity/ potential unreliability of the oleopneumatic system, all confidence in the car fled from my body and soul, like a bad bout of psychological diarrhoea.

I limped the car to my nearest dealer (yes – the one which also sold and serviced my previous Legacy) and left it with them to Continue reading “The Definition of Obsession? 10 years with a Citroën C6 (part 2)”

Disappointing Sequel (Part One)

DTW assesses the progress and current state of DS Automobiles after a decade on the market.

DS Automobiles latest opus. Image: dailyrevs

The launch of the Citroën DS 19 in 1955 was unarguably one of the seminal events in the history of the automobile. In its conception, design and engineering, the DS was at least a decade ahead of any competitor and left observers slack-jawed in amazement at Citroën’s audacity in bringing such a revolutionary car to market.

The DS 19 was first and foremost an engineering-led design. Its hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension gave it a peerless combination of superb ride quality and sharp handling. Its dramatically streamlined and aerodynamic body was highly functional, allowing it to Continue reading “Disappointing Sequel (Part One)”

The Definition of Obsession? 10 years with a Citroën C6 (part 1)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

In case you were thinking … the ‘plate was a Christmas present from my family (source – author’s photo)

On deciding that I would put something on record to mark a decade of C6 ownership via this most informative and thoughtful of automotive websites, the above quote involuntarily entered my mind and won’t now take its leave.

Maybe it’s because it reflects the roller-coaster ride of the experience? Maybe it’s because the quote also relates to the French Revolution in as much as the C6 was Citroën’s final attempt to Continue reading “The Definition of Obsession? 10 years with a Citroën C6 (part 1)”

New Frontier (Part Six)

We dive beneath the skin.

Image: influx

Irrespective of whether Citroën’s Bureau d’Études was acting in concert or as alleged, in a contrary and fragmentary fashion, there were a number of engineering imperatives which for them would prove sacrosanct. The first of these and perhaps foremost was the mode through which drive forces would be transmitted.

The second and if anything, just as much a prerequisite would be the use of Citroën’s centralised engine-driven, high-pressure hydraulics for damping, steering, braking, levelling and attitude control. This highly innovative and technically ambitious oleo-pneumatic system was developed by Paul Magès and first employed for the rear suspension of the 1954 15 h model, prior to it being rolled out in fully fledged form in 1955’s DS 19.

Assisting Magès on Projet S was Hubert Alléra, who had amongst his other palmarès, designed the hydraulically actuated gearchange for the DS. Suspension-wise, the SM didn’t depart radically from existing practice, in fact a great deal of DS thinking (and hardware) was almost literally carried over; largely for cost reasons, but also because in the opinion of Jacques Né, not only were they strong enough to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Six)”

The Eloquence of Life

“He who has not seen the road, at dawn, between its two rows of trees, all fresh, all alive, does not know what hope is.”

All images: The author

This phrase, translated from French by Georges Bernanos is but one of several accompanying the evocative images in the beautiful and highly sought-after Citroën DS Décapotable brochure. These poem fragments are also virtually the only words to be found in the booklet, which represented a hitherto unseen and fresh way of publicizing a car, thanks to the combined creative genius of artistic manager Robert Delpire and photographer William Klein.

The DS, convertible or otherwise, was of course not just any car (and Citroën not just any carmaker) so the fact that the stars aligned so perfectly to Continue reading “The Eloquence of Life”

New Frontier (Part Five)

My friends all drive Citroën’s… Oh Lord won’t you buy me a … Porsche? 

Image: lautomobileancienne

After all this, they have created an enormous car; I wanted a Porsche.” These are the words of none other than Citroën President, Pierre Bercot, spoken at the time to delegate-Maserati administrator, Guy Malleret.[1] Quite some statement to have made; one which flies in the face of virtually every known document of the SM’s gestation. After all, the commonly held version of the SM’s creation saga is that Projet S was schemed almost entirely to Monsieur Bercot’s specification.

Jacques Fleury was the Citroën director responsible for factories, production and acquisitions. Amongst his responsibilities therefore was the Maserati factory in Modena and by consequence, the SM engine. According to his account, the prototype Maserati unit, having been tried in a DS saloon was deemed not only too powerful for the chassis, but that any resulting DS flagship model would have to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Five)”

Creativité, Rationalité, Pragmatisme

A trio of Citroën oddities in this take on that famous French creed – Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

1982 Citroen BX Coupé prototype

Seasoned Citroën fans are no doubt aware that Citroën toyed with the idea of a BX Coupé but never allowed it to reach the production stage; a full size mockup, looking somewhat like a mix of BX and Renault 11 3-door hatchback has survived and can be viewed at the Citroën Conservatoire.

There was however another, far more ambitious BX-derived Coupé in development for a time, also styled by carrozzeria Bertone. This project was initiated early in 1982, some months before the introduction of the BX hatchback at that year’s Paris Motor Show. Surviving documents reveal that this coupé was intended for a higher marketing segment and was also to Continue reading “Creativité, Rationalité, Pragmatisme”

New Frontier (Part Four)

What prompted Citroën’s buyout of Maserati?

Maserati’s Viale Ciro Menotti works during the early 1960s. Image: norskmaseratiklubb.no

By 1967, Pierre Bercot had secured an engine supply deal with Maserati for Citroën’s forthcoming Projet S. Yet within a year, not only would he have taken over the Modenese atelier in its entirety, but inked a far more wide-ranging deal with FIAT Auto in Turin. But was the Citroën-Maserati takeover a symbiotic coming together, or simply Monsieur le President’s Victor Kiam[1] moment?

Having traditionally confined the lion’s share of their sales effort domestically and within Europe, the pull of the US market became too lucrative for Maserati to ignore. However, by the mid-’60s, the regulatory environment in the US was becoming increasingly hostile, with stringent crash testing mandates and emissions regulations, which for such a tiny outfit would ladle enormous costs upon an already stretched enterprise. By mid-decade, Maserati’s owners were already seeking a means to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Four)”

New Frontier (Part Three)

Citroën didn’t have an engine worthy of their nascent 1970 flagship, but it wasn’t for the want of trying.

Image: The author

The highly unusual structure and operation of Citroën’s Bureau d’Études may have created a number of technical masterpieces, but it equally resulted in a number of serious operational drawbacks; perhaps the most serious being the lack of a cohesive singularity of purpose. Not only did the nominal Rue de Théàtre headquarters lack an effective figurehead (notably so in Lefèbvre’s wake), but the bureau itself was apparently scattered across a number of locations around Paris, each very much in effect its own personal fiefdom.

Of these, perhaps the least regarded represented the double chevron’s longest standing and most glaring weakness – engine development. This department, led by Italian former Fiat racing engine designer, Walter Becchia, seemed a largely forgotten outpost; the last meaningful programme to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Three)”

New Frontier (Part Two)

Just as Citroëns were not like other cars, Automobiles Citroën itself was unlike any other car company – especially in conceptual engineering terms. 

Image: racingcars-wikidot

It might be convenient from a narrative perspective to suggest that the SM came about as part of a carefully considered product plan, but that would not only be inaccurate but also misleading. In fact, the model came into being almost by accident or at least osmosis; primarily at the behest of company president, Pierre Bercot, but at a more fundamental level in response to another man’s determination to prove a principle.

Few carmakers operated quite like Automobiles Citroën, not only during the tenure of the company’s eponymous founder and chief architect, but equally in the years that followed the carmaker’s initial cashflow crisis, collapse, and takeover by Michelin in 1934. Michelin had placed Pierre-Jules Boulanger as company President, under whom existed an environment which permitted Citroën engineers a great deal of freedom to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part Two)”

Joyeux Anniversaire, Majesté

As Citroën’s Grand Tourisme with the Italian heart celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year, we peruse the few brochures printed during its brief tenure at the summit of the French firm’s hierarchy.

All Images: The author.

The ambitious SM of 1970 took the Citroën brand into a hitherto unexplored market segment. Instead of Peugeot, Rover, Renault and Lancia – to name a few – now it entered an arena occupied by names such as Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Jensen and BMW. Still, the initial reception was overwhelmingly favourable – the SM placing third in that year’s European Car of the Year contest (the GS won that year), and voted Motor Trend Car of the Year in the American market in 1972.

The vast majority of road tests worldwide resulted in positive to rave reviews, in most cases accompanied by a few provisos concerning the SM’s comparatively leisurely acceleration and the very direct DIRAVI power steering with variable assistance – although it was usually stated that most drivers would not want to Continue reading “Joyeux Anniversaire, Majesté”

New Frontier (Part One)

Over a series of articles, we examine yesterday’s vision of the future – the incomparable Citroën SM.

(c) stubs-auto.fr

Observing events through a half-century old prism can make for a faulty tool; contemporary visions of the future appearing to modern eyes, slightly naïve and somewhat inaccurate. Not necessarily a consequence of inexperience or ill-thought execution; certainly not in this particular case, it is as likely to pivot around the manner in which socio-economic factors, and customer tastes evolve, to say nothing of the relentless march of time itself.

Has any carmaker done more to Continue reading “New Frontier (Part One)”

Blues for Ceaușescu

Quai de Javel’s final act, or simply its slightly underpolished Craiovian cousin? We examine the Oltcit. 

Oltcit Club. (c) autobible.euro.cz

Given its geographical location, it probably wasn’t all that surprising that once-independent Romania would end up as part of Russia’s collection of Warsaw Pact satellites once the post world war II dust settled.

By the early 1970s, Romania’s communist government was led by Nicolae Ceaușescu. Outwardly an internationalist, acting with considerable independence from Moscow, the Romanian leader seemed intent on building up the country’s soft power, influence and economic strength on the international stage. However, for those inside the country, he was simply another self-obsessed, exploitative and repressive dictator.

As part of Ceaușescu’s plan to Continue reading “Blues for Ceaușescu”

So You Think You Can Race?

Racing CXs in the desert. What could possibly go wrong?

(c) Monamicitroen

Frequently, one can witness famous people on TV performing acts of a nature for which they profoundly lack the talent, relevant image or physical capability. A programme such as Dancing with the stars (or its local equivalent) is an example, as are those occasions where politicians, in a bid to appear ‘with it’, allow themselves be tempted to Continue reading “So You Think You Can Race?”

The Old Normal

Over sixty years ago, Citroën discovered that you can only go so far in stripping a vehicle of its amenities.

Citroen ID Normale. (c) Marco Lagarde

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 Continue reading “The Old Normal”

Paradigm Shift

Citroen introduces its first “Non-Conformist Mobility Object“. Well, its first in decades. Is this a glimpse into the future?

(c) noolyo

Despite being embroiled in perhaps the largest and most complicated merger/acquisition in automotive history, Groupe PSA, under the current leadership of Carlos Tavares, appear to be one of the few European automakers who are taking what at least appear to be the decisions that matter. And as the worst of the current C-19 wave recedes for much of Europe at least, it’s becoming increasingly apparent what those are likely to be.

One can of course argue the toss over the value or logic in PSA merging with Fiat-Chrysler (and yes, we all know the basic rationale), there is little doubt that such a move will in the fullness of time, prove either to have been a masterstroke of suitably epic proportions, or the petard upon which Mr. Tavares will eventually Continue reading “Paradigm Shift”

Suspended Animation

Time for a suspension of disbelief.

(c) Peugeot.com and Ikonoto.com

Hydropneumatic. Whenever this word is mentioned among those with even a fleeting interest in cars, the word Citroën usually follows. And with good reason; this much praised suspension system was an indispensable factor in cementing the double chevron’s reputation for ride comfort and Avant Garde engineering.

It is a little known fact however that competitor Peugeot (in those days known, in contrast to Citroën, for conventional and proven engineering) would nearly Continue reading “Suspended Animation”

Non-Conformist (Part Two)

Concluding our brief overview of Citroën’s epochal GS.

(c) citroenvie

In 1970, the European motor press voted the GS its car of the year. The award, Automobiles Citroën’s first ever European Car of the Year award, was formally presented in February 1971 to Pierre Bercot’s successor as Director General, Raymond Ravenel in the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam.

Hailing 1971 as “the year of the GS”, Ravenel told assembled journalists and dignitaries, “The public was quick to Continue reading “Non-Conformist (Part Two)”

Non-Conformist (Part One)

The future arrived in 1970. It was called GS.

(c) citroenorigins

Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 Franco-Italian feature film, The Conformist is billed as a cinematic masterpiece. Set during the 1930s fascist-era Italy, its themes of politics, betrayal, and psycho-sexual guilt, framed within Vittorio Storaro’s lavish cinematography remain as provocative today as they were when first screened in cinemas half a century ago.

As the 1960s gave way, France had witnessed a stark moment of unease in the Spring of 1968 when the conformism of French society was violently challenged in the streets of Paris by a younger generation, determined to Continue reading “Non-Conformist (Part One)”

The Storms Of Swanlinbar

This DS flagship is aimed at the Audi A4. At this rate, DS will be offering C-D class cars to compete with Audi’s A2 and BMWs 2-series.

DS 9. Worth an Audi A4, apparently. Source: Autocar.

DS are saying that “prestige” will have been reached when the DS9 can compete with not the A6, E-Class or 5-series but the Audi A4. That is quite a marked drop in expectations, n’est ce pas? If we are prepared to take it upon ourselves to gather all our strength and try honestly to Continue reading “The Storms Of Swanlinbar”

When Life Gives You Lemons – Make Limoncello

Skipping around the Italian coastline – it’s well for some. Sometimes.

A 2016 Citroen C1 in some white space. Not the Amalfi coast: (c) autoevolution

For Europeans, the idea of driving the Amalfi coastline on Italy’s South-Western flank is akin perhaps to driving West on Sunset Boulevard – suffused with impossibly romantic imagery culled from literature, music and film. At the very least, it would afford one’s passengers, if not the driver, with some rather memorable vistas – and in the right car, under the right conditions, a nice suntan.

Of course, in such a fantasy scenario, one would choose to Continue reading “When Life Gives You Lemons – Make Limoncello”

“I Dreamed I Moved Among The Elysian Fields”

Have the car rental Gods smiled upon our Canary Island correspondent? 

All images by the author

When we make our annual January pilgrimage to Tenerife, I still enjoy a moment of childish excitement as we approach the airport car hire desk, wondering what prize the ‘or similar’ lottery will award us on this occasion. Usually it’s disappointingly familiar VW Group fare such as a Polo or Ibiza, but this time it was the exotically titled Citroën C-Elysée, a name so graceful and poetic that you have to Continue reading ““I Dreamed I Moved Among The Elysian Fields””

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000

Three pointed stars and chevrons are mutually exclusive. Or are they?

(c) mercedes-benz-passion

A Mercedes that could have been a Citroën? Surely, DTW’s acting editor has taken leave of his senses. But please bear with me. Because while this vehicle is every inch a product of Stuttgart-Sindelfingen, could there be enough double chevron goodness sprinkled over this concept for it to form part of this unique to DTW series of chevronesque curiosities?

The background to the Auto 2000 lay in a late-1970s initiative laid down by the German government to Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1981 Mercedes Auto 2000”

Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)

We conclude our Global tour of Méhari-derivatives.

(c) PT Alun

FAF, Portugal 

The acronym FAF stands for “Facile A Fabriquer – Facile A Financer” (Easy to build, easy to fund). FAF was Citroën’s official response to the Baby Brousse that predated it. The aim was to have a range of vehicles based on the “A” platform intended for assembly in developing countries with limited -or no- resources and experience in producing cars.

The first FAFs were produced in 1973 in Portugal but later, factories were opened in Guinée Bissau, Central African Republic, Senegal and Indonesia. There were six available bodystyles: a Saloon, 3-door Estate, Van, Pick Up, 4×4, and a Runabaout in Méhari fashion. The 4×4 version was purchased by the Portuguese army and saw action in the Angolan civil war. Continue reading “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)”

Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (1)

Citröen’s Méhari was a far more fecund species than one might have imagined. We plot the mutations. 

Original of the species. (c) avengers in time

From the mid-seventies until sometime in the following decade, I spent most summer holidays with my family at my uncle’s second home in Les Marines de Cogolin near St. Tropez. Being in my early teens at the time, amongst the things I always looked forward to -apart from the usual French Riviera attractions – was getting to ride along to get groceries and bread in the Citroën Méhari they had at their disposal for local errands.

I can still Continue reading “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (1)”

Le roi est mort, vive le roi!

The proud, if patchy tradition of the French grand tourisme didn’t quite end with the Citroën SM. 

The French relationship to automotive luxury is similar to how Germans deal with fine food. Just as those stemming from east of the river Rhine tend to be more willing to spend a fortune on engine lubricants, rather than extra virgin olive oil, their more occidental counterparts usually gain more pleasure from visiting a fine auberge on a regular basis than a car showroom or garage. How he or she gets to said auberge is a secondary concern, too.

Yet, just as there are Germans who care deeply about fine food (Fritz Eichbauer being a particularly striking example of this), the French aren’t totally immune to the charms of decadent motoring either, as the erstwhile success of proud names like Bugatti or Facel proved. It was only some time after the war, and due in large part to stringent domestic luxury taxation, that the French GT found itself on the wane. Continue reading “Le roi est mort, vive le roi!”

Flirting With Distinction

We look back at the car that started the whole Distinctive Series debacle – was it really ten years ago?

So much going on to so little effect. (c) dieselstation

This is twice as much as what we aimed for, the DS line is a huge success,” Citroën’s Frederic Banzet told Automotive News in 2011. And for a time at least, it did appear as though Groupe PSA had pulled off a marketing masterstroke, with DS3 sales at one point accounting for a quarter of the volume for the entire C3 range.

It wasn’t as if the DS3 was necessarily a bad idea. The market for small upmarket  B-segment hatchbacks had been dominated by BMW’s MINI brand and certainly, there was a decent slice of that market to be had – with the right product. PSA’s difficulty was twofold: the lack of a competitive platform and more fundamentally its fundamental neglect of the Citroën name, which had been allowed, if not actively shoehorned into a low-transaction price, value-led cul-de-sac. Continue reading “Flirting With Distinction”

Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake

If cars really can be viewed as Art, where does this leave the 1999 Citroën Xsara Picasso? 

(c) auto-abc.eu

Here at Driven to Write, we are fond of celebrating the worthy, the left of field and the more outlying inhabitants of our vehicular rich pageant. However, nobody in possession of the requisite technical or visual discernment would willingly choose to scribe a hymn of praise for the Citroën Xsara Picasso (to lend it its full name) – a motor vehicle which could perhaps only lay claim to the quality of mercy.

There have been many phases to the double chevron’s creative trajectory over the 100 years of its existence, and it would not be especially uncharitable to Continue reading “Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake”

Nib of the Matter

A close shave with the lesser-spotted Citroen Saxo-BIC® edition.

(c) BIC

In 1944, two Frenchmen, Marcel Bich and Édouard Buffard set up a business in Clichy to produce writing instruments. In the post-war era, the company prospered and having adapted László Biró’s original design for a ballpoint pen, Bich introduced the mass-produced BIC Cristal in December 1950, quickly becoming a stationary cupboard essential. Such was its impact, commercial success and design influence that in 2001 a BIC Cristal pen was added to the permanent collection of the Department of Architecture and Design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

In 1973 the company introduced a range of disposable lighters, while two years later BIC launched the one-piece razor. Three staple products; perfect realisations of product design, made in their millions every year, reliable, ubiquitous and disposable. Yet each were masterpieces in their own right, eminently fit for their purpose, used and thoughtlessly discarded by millions around the world every day. Continue reading “Nib of the Matter”

Tin Machine, Tin Machine, Take Me Anywhere

It has been thirty years since the Citroen launched the XM, on this day in 1989. On sale for 11 years and out of production for nearly twice as long, that makes it a real antique, doesn’t it.

1990 Citroen XM V6

(There are now people around who may never have seen an XM in motion, anyone born after 1999, I suppose.)

It is something of a pleasant coincidence (for me) that the self-titled album by Tin Machine came out just one day before Citroen announced the CX´s replacement. If Tin Machine was David Bowie’s way of getting back to what he most wanted to do, the XM presented another step towards watering down Citroenisme.

In the long game of a professional musician at Bowie’s level, Tin Machine was a necessary experiment, a form of throwing paint around and casting off unwanted rules. It was a step toward something else. For Citroen, the XM was claimed to Continue reading “Tin Machine, Tin Machine, Take Me Anywhere”

Vintage Road Test: 1976 Citroen CX Safari

In what appears to be a transcript from an article (“Another New Car From Citroen!”) in the Northampton Mercury (4 June, 1976) Archie Vicar considers the new Citroen CX Safari.

1976 Citroen CX Safari: source

(The original photos were taken by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to extreme fading of the original items stock photos have been used.)

Having driven the saloon version of Citroen’s oddball new CX recently, I approached the new estate with mixed feelings: anxiety, irritation and concern. On the plus side, a tour in France is always accompanied by some excellent chance to Continue reading “Vintage Road Test: 1976 Citroen CX Safari”

A Letter In Your Writing Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Dead

A yellow Cactus in an underground setting sets your correspondent off into futile reveries of austerity motoring.

Hello Yello. (c) Driven to Write

Towards the latter part of the 1980s, I can recall taking the view that Citroën was missing an opportunity to (in)directly replace the 2CV by introducing a pared-back version of the Visa, powered by the 602cc flat twin and featuring perhaps a full length sunroof. It wouldn’t have been the same as the beloved tin snail of course, but might have extended the life of the concept beyond the point where collision and emissions regulations killed-off the Deuche or any chance of a more sympathetically developed successor.

Now in reality there was probably little real appetite, either within PSA or indeed amongst the buying public at the time to Continue reading “A Letter In Your Writing Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Dead”

Simple Soul

We pay tribute to a diminutive giant.

(c) classicandsportscar

What can there possibly be left to say about the Citroën 2CV? Should we simply rehash its backstory, acknowledge its long commercial career, mention the cars it sired, and allude to its afterlife once production ceased? Surely this alone will not do. The problem with approaching cars which have attained the status of holy relics, is finding a means to Continue reading “Simple Soul”

The Language of the Future

How does one market a singularity? Maybe along lines such as these…

(c) DTW

“How can a lover describe his beloved? How may a mystic communicate his vision? How does a mother describe her child? We are faced with the same inadequacy of language when we try to tell you of the superlative qualities of the Citroën D.S 19. There just isn’t a language of the future – so how is one to Continue reading “The Language of the Future”