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Best Kept Secret: The Mysterious Story of the Creation of the First DS 19


The brand hid for years the development of the DS 19 (DS)

Nowadays it is difficult to know the projects of the manufacture of the new models, although some details are always filtered when I start the industrial process. Beyond that almost a hundred years ago, communications were more complex, DS managed to keep the production of their new car a secret for 17 years, including the Second World War in that period.

Development of the first DS began in 1938, under the leadership of the same team that had commissioned the Traction Avant, but with a new general management at the helm of the company. In 1935, The new owners of the brand entrusted Pierre-Jules Boulanger with the direction of the company and the challenge of carrying out the dreams of the founder.

The new management implemented numerous changes: less advertising and much more discretion, to the point that the keyword, from then on, would be “secret”. The “maison du mystère” (house of mystery) as the French firm was renamed, closed all its doors, bought a large fenced-in lot where the prototypes could be tested and even prohibited the exchange of information between the different teams.

Its production exceeded the Second World War (DS)
Its production exceeded the Second World War (DS)

The Center for Projects (which included the design department headed by Flaminio Bertoni) was regrouped in Paris, in the center, on rue du Théâtre. Everything was so secretive that even the technicians themselves had access restrictions to some of the labs.

Development of the DS continued for no less than seventeen years, where they were able to conduct tests in secret. Despite the war, everything continued, always in secret, far from Paris, on the La Ferté-Vidame track and in its surroundings.

Everything was studied on the bench, tested in laboratories and on some camouflaged prototypes. The development was carried out at the Ferté, but only one man knew the DS 19 thoroughly: André Lefebvre, the chief engineer. For the rest of the engineers, the model they were designing and building was a mystery.

One person knew all the details of the DS 19 during its production (DS)
One person knew all the details of the DS 19 during its production (DS)

Finally, the first twenty DS 19s, necessary for the presentation and for the road tests, were built, by hand, by the engineers themselves who began to get to know “their” product. At Quai de Javel, one of the French firm’s best-known factories, part of the warehouse was closed and emptied and a guard was installed at the door so that no one could enter.

That was the moment where the technicians who had developed it were able, for the first time, to know and see the complete car. This whole process lasted about 17 years, a time that today would be unreasonable for the production of a new generation.

The details of the iconic DS 19

The 1955 Paris Motor Show was where Citroën presented its new DS 19, a vehicle that broke with the design tradition of the moment and it managed to get about 12 thousand purchase requests in its first day of life.

It had great technological innovations when it was released (DS)
It had great technological innovations when it was released (DS)

Its revolutionary design, carried out by Flaminio Bertoni who worked at Citroën for several decades, lasted for the almost 20 years that it was in production. Only, in 1968, there were some small changes to the front end to improve its drag coefficient and incorporate a new technology: the directional headlights. These modifications were made by Robert Opron, a French designer who was supervised by Bertoni.

The Citroën DS was mutating in different versions but everything kept that quite particular aesthetic. Thus, the original four-door model was joined by a five-door, a coupe and a family variant.

Beyond its design, The DS 19 boasted unique ride comfort both in town and on the road. This characteristic was due to its hydropneumatic suspension with automatic height corrector. This system was based on the replacement of the traditional damping springs by spheres, whose upper part contains a nitrogen gas, which ensured the flexibility of the suspension.

Throughout his life he had slight changes in his design (DS)
Throughout his life he had slight changes in his design (DS)

As for its mechanics, in all its years of life it equipped four-cylinder engines that changed the displacement as the versions passed. Thus, it had units with 1.9 liter impellers and others went up to 2.3 liters. Another innovation that iIncorporated was the hydraulic gearbox that was actuated by a lever located at the top of the steering column that allowed to pass the four speeds and the reverse gear with short movements.

The last thing to highlight from their tech arsenal were the disc brakes that were standard, something that until then had only been seen in the vehicles that participated in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.

DS and its definitive separation from the Citroën line

In 2010, the DS brand returned to the market. The comeback was through the creation of a Citroën division that sought a premium market, offering more luxurious models with more innovative designs.

The DS 7 is an emblem of the new generation of its models (DS)
The DS 7 is an emblem of the new generation of its models (DS)

Based on the platform of its popular brother, the C3, the Citroën DS 3 was the first to hit the market. Over the years, the family of this new division grew with the arrival of the DS 4, DS 5 and the convertible and sports options of the DS 3.

In 2013, DS totaled more than 120,000 units sold. Two years later, when the final separation arrived, the luxury brand of the French group had already exceeded the barrier of 500,000 vehicles sold worldwide.

Designed for a clientele that seeks maximum personal expression and is eager for new technologies, the second generation of DS models seek to enhance their refinement and cutting-edge technology. With the DS 7 Crossback and DS 3 Crossback SUVs, and the arrival of the new DS 4, The French luxury brand will have, in all its models, an electrified version with the E-Tense signature.

The DS 4 is one of the brand's latest releases (DS)
The DS 4 is one of the brand’s latest releases (DS)

With a large share of the Chinese market, DS is present in 38 countries, where I create an exclusive distribution network, which already has 400 DS Stores and DS Salons around the world.

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