Tuesday, May 25, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Citroën DS21

After a few months, it's finally time to feature another French car. And I've had the good fortune to find one of the more important French cars, a Citroën DS.
San Francisco is a haven for French autos, bought by eccentric and supposedly cultured individuals who wanted something sexy, something different. They were often bought to make a statement. This fellow in the Lower Haight makes his statement with a 1970 Citroën DS21.

Often called "Goddess" for the pronunciation of its name ("déesse"), the DS is often said to be one of the most beautiful cars ever created. I beg to differ, but that's just me I guess. I never liked the DS, mainly because its proportions are strange. In my opinion, it has some very interesting details, but as a whole nothing really works.
That's not meant to diminish this car's impact on automotive history. For a car introduced in 1955, the DS was remarkably advanced. Its Bertoni-designed aerodynamic body was lightyears ahead of most cars on the country's roads, and even in 1970 its shape still set it apart from the large, boxy American cars. One of the most noteworthy features of the DS was a hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension for amazingly smooth ride quality. These things were rallied back in the day, and they handle well, but they are not fast. The DS is powered by a small four-cylinder which routes its limited power through a semi-automatic gearbox to the front wheels.
Nearly 1.5 million DSs were sold worldwide, but only 38,000 made it to the United States. It was unpopular because, while marketed as a luxury car, it lacked many of the luxury features American buyers expected - even in the 1950s. This 1970 model is the most popular model year, and one of several that I know to reside in San Francisco. However, it is the only one I've been able to locate and photograph.

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