Greek Tragedy: 1973 Citroën DS20 Pallas

By Nathan Avots-Smith

According to an adage that I may or may not be making up right now, one should never buy a cheap exotic car. At $5,065 in 1972, the last year it was available in the U.S., the Citroën DS may not have been priced quite like an exotic, but even after 18 years on the market, this ’73 DS20 Pallas had enough exotic technology and engineering that the adage applies, so I’m leery of the current (and only) $500 bid on this Kalamata, Greece-based French flyer. It’s got one-family ownership history—great!—but also flood damage—not great! Could buying this goddess be the start of a heroic epic, or just another Greek tragedy? If you want to find out, you can find it on eBay, with the reserve not yet met and just a couple of days left.

It’s well known that the DS was nicknamed “the Goddess” by the French, thanks to the similarity between its name and the word Déesse; what may not be as well known to those of us who are rusty on our Greek mythology is that the top DS trim level, Pallas, is, appropriately enough in this case, named for a Greek goddess, the daughter of Triton. This goddess has fallen on hard times; although the engine is said to still run, it has been idled due to a mysterious noise from the transmission that originated after a flood last year. Yes, a flood; it is claimed that the underside of the car had been “winterized” and was not damaged, and that no other lasting damage has been found, but I’m not entirely convinced.

I’m a little suspicious of the white markings on the seat upholstery, for example, in the absence of any non-mold-related explanations. The cloth is acknowledged to be non-original; most, but not all, Pallas-grade interiors were leather. There is also some rust mentioned in the trunk, a common DS malady that might have afflicted this car before the flood, and at least a fair amount of surface rust and bubbling, if not actual rot, on the trunklid and doors.

Underhood we find a 1985-cc inline four mounted midship—yes, it’s behind the front axle—producing just under 100 horsepower. If the combo of the small engine (there were 2.1 and 2.3-liter versions available in 1973 as well) and luxury trim strikes you as odd, remember that annual taxes on vehicles in Greece increase sharply for engines that displace over 2 liters. Although the transmission’s worrisome noise has prevented this car from being driven, it has been started, and one-family ownership means that the odometer reading of 40,762 KM is accurately represented as 240,762 (about 150,000 miles). The honesty is appreciated!

The candor of this seller is refreshing all around, so I wish I could be more optimistic of the fate of this fallen goddess. Such a potentially low price for such an iconic car is tempting (as long as you ignore the transportation costs if you’re not in Europe), but the nightmarish complexity of the DS means I’m backing away. What about you—would you help this sad Citroën return to the peaks of Mt. Olympus once more?

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Comments

  1. angliagt

    Buy it – What could go wrong?

    3+

  2. MM

    A few squirts of windex will do the trick!

    3+

    • Myron Vernis

      …said Mr. Portokalis. Love it!

      2+

  3. John T

    Since it is already in Europe, Sell it back to a buyer in France where it belongs and let an expert deal with it!

    1+

  4. Jean Lecointe

    This is definitely not a PALLAS.
    Still intersting atthis price

    2+

  5. jw454

    “This vehicle has been in our family since the day it was purchased”. Was that yesterday? LOL I get a kick out of statements like that… could mean anything between yesterday and forty four years ago.
    OK… I’m sorry… I won’t do it any more.

    5+

  6. Rex Kahrs

    Here’s another adage that should apply to this fried Frenchie:

    “Once you own a French car, nothing worse can happen to you”.

    8+

    • Tom Hall

      Laugh of the day right there

      1+

  7. glenn

    From what I have read PSA is brining back the DS models soon. Peugeot and Citroen are coming. Basically they are already here since nissans are renaults with a new badge lol

    0

    • SubGothius

      DS has already been relaunched in Europe, first as a premium sub-brand of Citroen, then more recently separated further as a standalone premium marque of its own, though the logo remains an interesting recombination of the Citroen double-chevron theme:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DS_Automobiles

      2+

  8. charlie

    DS certainly implied Goddess, as the cheaper model, the ID, implied “Idea”. When they ran, like Maserati Bi tubo’s, and the pre-Ford Jags, they were extraordinarily fine cars, but, when they had problems, the problems were severe, and it was hard, and is even more hard today, to find someone to work on them.

    1+

    • glenn

      ds used to stand for Deux Cheveux two doors

      0

      • SubGothius

        You’re thinking of 2CV. The DS designation started with the earliest models of these D-series luxury Citroens that replaced the Traction Avant.

        0

      • Derek

        Deux chevaux translates as two horses and would be dc, not ds. Two doors would be dp…

        0

      • Derek

        …and Deux Cheveux would be two hairs, wouldn’t it?

        0

  9. glenn

    mike brewer has alot to account for in his descriptions lol

    0

  10. Paul B

    You would die a slow agonizing emotional and financial death trying to get this particular car back to any kind of running order. It’s a mess. Parts car maybe.

    1+

  11. Bill McCoskey

    Have owned 2 too many ID and DS cars [owned 2 of them]. Wonderful when running well, nightmare when not. Mostly not. This is a parts car. Not worth the cost of transporting out of Greece.

    While the Pallas models here in the USA usually came with leather interiors, not in Europe, that interior is typical for the ID or DS Citroen cars. Europeans have always preferred fabric in closed cars, leather in the open cars.

    And as an aside, Years ago I had a Jaguar Mark 10 sedan, with the special order & higher cost vinyl interior instead of leather!

    1+

  12. Wayne

    Lets see, the green fluid goes here. The red fluid goes there. engine oil goes over there. It is leaking what? Where does that go?
    Not for me thanks! Been there, done that. Used the t-shirt to mop up the mess.

    1+

    • Derek

      Either green or red, but not both… D.

      0

  13. Alex

    Buy and restore it completely, under 1k dollars is a bargain.

    0

  14. Mitch Ross

    The bodyshop outside Mexico City where my Crown Victoria is being restored has a ’56 ID 19 getting restored and he is a decade in with no end in sight. He asked if I knw anywhere in the US to get parts from. No was all I said.

    1+

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