It’s Friday night (here), and from where I’m sitting the past looks a little more appealing than the present, automotively speaking. So lets leave today simmering on the back burner, and dive into the rusty fridge to rifle through yesterday’s dubious cold cuts. And as it happens, what we’ll find is full of meaty goodness. Welcome to The Carchive.
These posts from the past have been a little sporadic lately – we nibbled a little taste of Japan last Wednesday and haven’t been back to the larder since. Today, we’re hitting 1967 France for a look at the Citroen ID19. It also feels doubly appropriate after looking at interesting steering wheels the other day.
There’s writing in these images, and you can read it if you click it up
“The modern motorist is hard to please. He wants to drive fast without risking his life, tackle heavy traffic in towns and park without shattering his nerves and ruining his health and to own an elegant and comfortable car without exceeding his budget.”
What a sentence. What a brochure.
The ’68 was the first of Citroens’s ID/DS range to feature the swooping front end treatment that made this such a spectacular looking car. In fact, I doubt that any car from any period of motoring has ever looked more ahead of its time. Not even the NSU RO80.
And, remarkably, even the brochure is tricky to pin down to a certain point in history. You could almost believe that the ID19 was a new, minimalist concept in 21st century car design.
“There is no comparison between Citroen’s hydropneumatic suspension and any other suspension system”
There’s no doubt about it, Citroen overachieved massively throughout the 21st century. The Traction Avant had massive advantages over its contemporaries and was kept in production for 23 years – exposing the world to mass produced unibody cars with front wheel drive and independent suspension for the first time. Then came the DS (and ID), the less pioneering but no less spectacular CX and the pointy, floaty XM. Oh, and the 2CV, which was no more mechanically complex than cutlery and could be rebodied by simply folding a single piece of tinfoil to fit.
And, when other companies were struggling to produce cars that could corner predictably without recourse to a granite-firm ride, Citroen had devised its own pressurized hydraulic system that gave its biggest car a combination of poise and opulence that more expensive cars couldn’t match. It even proved durable if properly maintained.
“At 100mph or 50mph, the car is exceptionally quiet.”
It’s worth considering here that the ID19 was the least expensive model in the ID/DS range at that point. Okay, by ’67 it wasn’t quite as much of an entry-level model as it had been – pre-facelift there had been a ‘Normale’ model that was substantially more basic – but a 100mph top speed was good going for a European sedan of the ’60s.
And one whose 1.9-litre engine developed just 83bhp. Keeping costs down, the ID did without power steering, but the ’68 model year did have high-pressure brakes that were linked to the suspension hydraulics. They could prove tricky to use before you got used to them, but they were damned effective.
“The metal framework which supports the various body components is welded to a rigid girder chassis designed according to the the principle of greater strength strength from hollow members which is used in aircraft construction.”
The ID/DS was a stunning piece of engineering. Following on from the unitary construction of its predecessor, its structure was strong enough to take the majority of forces acting against the car, so the surface panels were largely cosmetic. The roof panel, incidentally, was made from fibreglass, which helped to lower the centre of gravity. Nobody else in the world was thinking quite like this.
“There is something quite different about it. Comfort, safety, the pleasure of driving, performance: Once you have tried it you will never be able to give it up”
There’s a strong argument for the Citroen DS to be recognised among the very finest cars ever built, and I suggest that the ID, the most affordable variant, is the best of all. Whatever, for a company to have offered a car like this is a hell of a thing to have on its CV.
It makes it all the more disappointing that DS, a brand now separate from Citroen, offers a comparatively uninspiring range of cars, which include a pretty ancient ex-Citroen hatchback and, inevitably, an SUV. It seems that embracing the innovation of the past isn’t key to ensuring sales success today. It also looks as if more people see DS as a new brand than one steeped in heritage. After a market absence of forty years or so, the link between now and then seems tenuous at best unless it comes up with something as truly revolutionary as the car you see here.
And then, why not rebrand the rest of Citroen’s offerings as ID models? In an age where personality and individuality is celebrated, that name (or those initials) is more resonant now than ever before.
(All images are of original publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of PSA Group. This is one of my very favourite brochures, you might already have guessed)