Hollywood Hydraulics

When my buddy, Hamish, isn’t traveling around the country promoting his new movie at film festivals, he can be found developing incredible calf muscles while walking around his neighborhood in the Hollywood hills. That city with a sign is home to many eclectic residents, including this rare refugee from gay paree.

This Citroën DS21 Series Three hails from the Paris region of France, and although its paint is more tomato soup than Bordeaux red, it would still not look out of place tucked in next to a curb-side café. Introduced as the successor to the long-lived Traction Avant, the DS (19 & 21) proved to be lightyears ahead in both styling and technology, maybe too far ahead for many here in the States. Powered by a series of inline fours of modest displacement, culminating in the 2,347-cc pushrod four powering this, what looks like a ’71 or ’72, the DS served as the company’s brand leader until the debut of the derivative SM.

Inside this particular DS you’ll note Citroën’s clever single spoke steering wheel, as well as the current owner’s clever use of black duct tape to keep the driver’s seat from swallowing its occupant whole. That tower under the dash is in reality the extension of the firewall necessitated by placement of the engine, which is longitudinally mounted aft of the front axle line, making the DS a mid-engined car.

That motor drove both the front wheels and a high pressure hydraulic pump which itself drove the suspension, brakes, steering and clutch. The result is that Citroëns drive like no other car, and the hydropneumatic suspension provides a ride that is like traveling down a Slip-N-Slide that’s been lain across a series of ocean swells. More than one passenger has lost their lunch because of that. The brakes are equally unique, and the recommended stopping procedure in a Citroën is to hold your foot just above the mushroom-shaped brake pedal and think stop.

Up front, one notable change in the later DS 21 cars sold in the U.S. was the removal of both the glassed over headlights and the steerable lamps, both mandated by DOT regulations of the time. The vinyl roof this car sports is a rare sight, and covers over what is normally a brushed steel C-pillar. As the Southern California sun wreaks havoc on these kind of roof treatments, its possible that this DS has spent a good deal of its life in a garage somewhere, although its 93,000-plus miles shown on the odo indicates it does get around.

This Citroën is in a condition typical of how you find these cars today. They are cherished by a few, but many of their owners either don’t want to keep them pristine, or have too much money sunk into just keeping the consumables replaced with regularity, as parts for the cars are on the pricy side. That being said, there exists, at least in the LA region, a healthy cadre of U.S. Citroën enthusiasts, ready to help you spend your money, if you’re so inclined.

Thanks for the pictures go to Hamish McCollester. Check out the trailer for his new movie, Jason’s Big Problem!

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  1. fede Avatar

    a desgin that's 55 years old (1955) still looks futuristic next to a 10 year old car. that was some wild styling for the time, and a proof that citroen used to be unique.
    maybe it didn't show, but i love the ds.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      The future loves these things.
      <img src="http://www.wonderworksweb.com/ftpfolder/Photo/pictures/image608.jpg&quot; width=500>
      Well, Hill Valley circa 2015 does, anyway.

  2. engineerd Avatar

    As a mechanical engineer I find these old Citroens, and most old cars in general, very interesting. I mean, the major advances in automobiles in the last 20 years have been primarily computer-based. ABS, traction control, stability control, cylinder deactivation, etc. are all techological advancements, but none of them are mechanical. Even direct injection isn't much of a mechanical issue as it was a materials and control issue.
    However, you look back more than 20 years and you have Citroen with their hydropneumatic suspension, early mechanical fuel injection systems, turbocharging, even what we consider something mundane — like power steering — was a mechanical leap in technology not that long ago.

  3. dukeisduke Avatar

    Thumbs up for the imaginative use of duct tape.

  4. joshuman Avatar

    Ate Up With Motor has a very nice post about the DS. I highly recommend reading it. http://ateupwithmotor.com/family-cars/114-deesse-
    <img src="http://ateupwithmotor.com/images/stories/cars/1958_Citroen_DS19_brochure.jpg&quot; width=350">
    The DS is on the short list of a car I would like to own one day. The exterior design is just so fantastic I cannot help but walk all the way around it every time I see one. Sure, there are plenty of nightmares involved with those hydraulics and it certainly is not a go-fast vehicle but there is a remedy for that too: http://jalopnik.com/390057/hot-rod-citroen-ds-pac

  5. Van Sarockin Avatar

    This looks very nice for a driver, given the parts supply issues. I hope it doesn't give your pal any problems, and I hope his film is successful, but doesn't lead to an ego issue like his leading man has to contend with.

  6. dr zero Avatar

    Drove past a DS/ID last Saturday, trying to pull out of a side street into the main road I was on. Made my day and the drive out west much more pleasant.

  7. dmilligan Avatar

    It still looks like the Aztek’s grandad,

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