V.I.S.I.T: Citroën DS20

 DS1

Camping holidays are great. The pitter patter of endless, torrential rain on nylon, the soothing drip, drip of a leak that just refuses to be traced, and the repeated trips to the bathroom from that BBQ burger that looked absolutely fine.

One thing I particularly enjoy when pitching up at the campsite is, of course, looking at the cars. Of course, this particular campsite was in Henley-On-Thames, meaning that the majority of tents were probably erected by butlers, and my car would be by far the oldest on site. But no, not this time. As it happens, the first car I saw was the very last I expected to see.

Using a 40 year old Citroën for camping holidays? This guy is officially Doing It Right.

Picture the scene, if you will. Nine o’clock in the evening, the last of the sun’s rays slowly dissipating leaving a rain-dirty sky. The clouds are leaden, their undersides bathed in the eerie amber of a thousand distant streetlights. All is silent on the campsite; tiredness and hunger has brought the last of the kids in from their play, while grown-ups laugh from under their shelter, killing a last beer or five.

The near-silence is broken by a crunching of tyre on gravel and a pair of yellow, cross-eyed beams scan the campsite, highlighting webs of guy-lines that feebly anchor tents which still sway disobediently in the pulsing evening breeze. The crackling of displaced stones subsides when the wheels touch damp grass.  The beams make direct contact with your eyes, then swing away leaving temporarily scorched retinas but finally enabling you to make out a long, sleek silhouette.

Immediately identifiable, it’s a Citroën DS, a late one with the faired-in headlamps. It swings round in a broad arc, highlighting rear lamps that don’t seem to shine with even brightness, and then draws to a halt some hundred yards away. I wait for a door to open, and then for a bright light, white steam and a ghostly apparition who has been driving forwards in time over the last four decades to come from within, but no. Instead, out step a happy, giggling family of two kids and a Dad.

That was how I first saw the Citroën.

DS2

Next day, after brushing my teeth, I strolled over towards the DS and found the owner sitting next to it, enjoying the fleeting signs of sunshine that graced us with their presence over the weekend. I said hello, asked if I could photograph the car, and set to work.

DS3

It’s beautiful, it really is. Of course, we all know the DS, we all know that it’s a wonderful thing to behold, but somehow in the flesh it seems even more other-worldly and alien. This is a car from four decades ago, one that three generations of successor have been and gone in replacing it. And here it is, being used as a daily driver, carrying camping paraphernalia and gubbins. Awesome. And more awesome when the owner is as approachable as this one.

DS4

Running a DS as a daily driver, it would seem, isn’t as much of a perennial nightmare as you might expect. Classic Citroën specialists charge less for routine maintenance than many main agents do, and there’s the bonus that the Classic guys are enthusiasts, too, and likely have years of experience and instinct to call upon.

DS5

And driving it? This is the DS20, not the bigger-engined and sometimes fuel-injected DS23, so not nearly as peppy. Overtaking takes some forethought but, thanks to the slippery shape, cruising at extra-legal speeds is easily done.

DS6

I’m looking forward to three and a half decades time when somebody turns up at the campsite with a Citroën C6, and if I’m there I promise to take photos of whatever recovery truck it’s sitting on the back of.

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14 responses to “V.I.S.I.T: Citroën DS20”

  1. nanoop Avatar

    They are great cars for long distance trips: both front and back seats are spacious, the engine is pretty robust (more like a tractor, though), a reasonable trunk (admitted: awkward access), and the ride is /so/ comfy: crossing railroad tracks will cause some knocking sound, true, but only a pillow-esque plunge in the suspension after quite a while (say, a second or two).. dreamy.

  2. duurtlang_ Avatar

    During nice days I see these cruising all the time. Easily the most common 4+ decade old car I see on the road. Probably the second most common 3+ decade old car I see (after the Merc W123, but that's a cockroach and a road tax loophole misuser here in the Netherlands)

    1. wunno sev Avatar

      i want to live where you live!
      i've seen two in the USA, ever.

      1. duurtlang_ Avatar

        It has its advantages. However, I think the 1950s-1970s DS is slightly more common on our roads than the Ford Mustang of all generations. Certainly more common than those other US muscle cars like the Camaro and that other one I forgot the name off. Are you willing to give that up?

  3. longrooffan Avatar

    Excellent Find! and, as always an Excellent Write Up. Reminds me of 72 DS21 my dad once owned and I was lucky enough to Hoon around in when this olelongrooffan was a mere teenage boy. Thanks for the memory of pop and his car.

  4. Paul E Avatar

    Three words to describe this car: Ooooo. La. La.

  5. racer139 Avatar

    Id like to daily a ds. If you all are interested head over to the toob of u and search cold war motors he does some interesting things with some cool old cars including an old ds wagon. I think its right up the hooniverse's alley. enjoy.

  6. I_Borgward Avatar

    That's a sweet, sweet ride. Old cars are great fun to take on camping trips!
    I'm intrigued by the registration plate. That's a pretty low number! I understand that registration numbers can be transferred by their owners to another car, is that what's going on here?

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Not this time, I just edited the plate for anonymity out of courtesy to the owner.

      1. ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq Avatar

        Do you know what the CC sticker signifies Chris? I'm stumped and curious.

        1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

          You know, I hadn't even noticed it and am equally curious. Answers to the usual address please!

          1. AlexiusG55 Avatar

            Corps consulaire I think?

      2. I_Borgward Avatar

        Of course! I forgot my plate photo posting protocol, though I hadn't anticipated a partial edit. Fooled me (admittedly not difficult to do).
        Also waiting for info on CC sticker.

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