Citroen DS19 Desert Find


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Robert M. stumbled upon this 1966 Citroen DS19 here on Reno’s craigslist and thought it might be of interest to some of our readers. We have featured a number of these quirky French cars, but one of the problems DS owners here in the States face is a lack of parts. If you have the money and courage, it looks complete enough to restore, but chances are this one will be best used as a parts car to keep other Citroens on the road. Thanks Robert for the tip!


When the DS was introduced in 1955, it was one of the most advanced cars on the market. In the automotive world, advanced typically means one thing, complicated and that’s exactly what the DS was. Citroen’s design used hydraulic systems just about anywhere they could, such as the suspension, clutch, and transmission. Repairing these systems can be a nightmare for the inexperienced and replacement parts can be pricey. When the hydraulics are working properly though, they work beautifully and give the DS a great balance of handling and ride comfort.


The seller’s asking price of $2,500 might be a tad high for a parts car, but if all the mechanical systems are intact, it might be worth making an offer. While metal and paint can handle the desert heat, high pressure hydraulic hoses tend to not do as well. We wouldn’t count on many of the houses being salvageable, but we would assume most of the other important bits are fine. While we would love to see this one back on the road, it would be better to see it parted out to save other cars rather than let the whole thing go to waste. If you know about a great find we would love to see it!

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  1. Frank

    The panels all look great though, and thanks to the internet it’s easier (ish) to track down parts. I’d restore this, not pull it apart. What a find!

    Like 1
  2. Mark E

    If the seller would part with BOTH cars for $2500 I would think it would make a good supply of parts for a Citroen collector…or two! ^_^

    Like 1
  3. paul

    Trailer hitches on normal cars are stressful on everything & cars this complicated scare me.

    Like 0
  4. Ken Nelson

    There are NO high pressure hydraulic hoses on these cars – only steel lines. The rear flex hoses to the rear brakes use standard flex hoses which can be adapted from any standard DOT 3 brake hose with various fittings. All the really high pressure lines are either 1/4 in. OD. steel brake lines, or 3/16 in. ones, and the desert heat doesn’t touch them – just rust but all can be made up easily with replacement steel lines from any discount auto shop. You might have to splice new line sections to the special Citroen line nuts, but Swagelock high strength steel compression couplers work just fine or they can be silver-soldered or brazed. This car can be put back on the road probably fairly easily by someone who knows what they’re doing. Worst part to service on these early series cars – 1956-1965 – are the front “mousetrap” disc brake calipers – just helped a friend free up the fronts on a wagon he bought, and had to make rollable – showed him my new trick for popping the pads out without tearing the whole car apart. Once you’ve mastered the front calipers, all else is pretty simple – just listen to Jay Leno who has a later model of the DS – believe he said it right – the hydraulics are just plumbing, only at a bit higher pressure. So if you have common sense and can think a bit, they’re like most cars – same types of problems when they’re this old and neglected, but many of the seals can be gotten from a good hydraulics shop – standard Orings. Oh, this car is a ’65, not a ’66 – it has the early single bolt wheels with the oddball 165 – 400 mm tires – special Michelins – since Michelin owned the company after 1935. The ’66 models went to 5 bolt, 15 in. wheel rims, a 5 main bearing engine with an actual oil filter, and a more robust transmission and far simpler front disc calipers. If this engine isn’t frozen, I’d bet it could be made to run in an hour. And even if it’s frozen, it can be blown loose by using a Citroen suspension pump filled with engine oil and pumped into a closed cylinder to break it loose. Once loose and rotatable, pull head, polish out barrels in situ with a scotchbrite wheel on a drill, vacuum out the crud, cycle pistons up & down with WD in the cyls, wipe off lower cyl corrosion pulled up, new head gasket and she’ll run. Fixed one ’62 wagon sitting 13 yrs, frozen, blew it loose, cleaned cyls from top, regasketed, made 1500 mile round trip at 75 mph smooth as glass and very little oil burned. Never touched the bottom end. The rust gap on the trunk bottom is an easy flat sheet metal & mig weld repair. No compound curves in the structural chassis, meaning any sheet metal shop can make repair panels. And once you’ve gone thru one DS, you basically know them all over the 20 yr run.

    Like 2
    • JoshAuthor

      Thanks for all the great info Ken! It sounds like you know your Citroens.

      Like 0
    • Al

      400 tires were common on many French cars. Panhards used them. 400s are still available from Michelin in 125 (130) [2CV], 135 (138) [3CV], 145 (142) [Panhard Dyna], 155 (150) [Panhard, ID rear], 165 (162) [DS rear, 7, 11CV] and 185 [DSfront, ID Break all, 15CV] X sizes. Old Lotus and Alfa cars used 400s. Vredestein is making 17R400s for H vans to be sold thru the Dutch H van club. Perhaps there are some old 400 mm tire H van owners in the USA who will be glad to hear this. Wonder if Vredestein will USDOT certify the tires? I saw that a huge load of Michelin XAs tires had to be returned to Europe because they did not have the DOT marking on the sidewall. We have Chinese trash tires coming in by the shipload and owners of antique cars can’t get tires because they don’t read “DOT” on the sidewall.

      Like 0
  5. The Grammar Police

    Author, please note that “intact” is the word you should use, not “in tack”.

    Like 0
    • Jesse JesseStaff

      Thanks! All fixed.

      Like 0
  6. Jim-Bob

    I see a great opportunity here. These cars were very prone to rust, and rust is hugely time consuming and pricey to repair. If you had a very rusty but functional DS, then this is a great opportunity to re-shell it in a fairly cost-effective manner. Even if you don’t, it may be worth a trip through French E-Bay to see what is available. Reproduction parts do exist (as was shown in the Wheeler Dealers episode with a 70’s DS), so it is far from impossible. You would just have to do an honest assesment of what is there and see how much could be salvaged. I imagine the engine could be saved since it is a fairly simple unit (dating to the Traction Avant if memory serves), but it would likely require a carb rebuild and basic tune up parts (among other things) before it could be started. If I was a guessing man (and I am!) I would guess that it was sidelined for something simple since parts would have been difficult to come by for a French car in the desert when it was just an old, used temperamental car.

    I usually prefer very simple, basic cars but for a DS I would make an exception. I have never even seen one in person but, like Tatras, I just simply love them for irrational reasons.

    Like 1
  7. Ken Nelson

    There are several large US-based Citroen groups, and the chat lines can connect enthusiasts and their spare parts easily. Parts are often not needed – in many cases, all that’s needed is to take things apart, clean them up, free up stuck bearings, and put them back together with the proper lubricant. Nearly all the ball bearings in the cars can be found as low cost standards thru a good bearing supply house. New brake pads are available on Ebay – most body parts didn’t change for 20 yrs – doors, glass, seats, hydraulics. Only body change occurred in ’68 when quad lights were introduced, which necessitated a narrower hood and different front bumper. And quad front ends can easily be swapped onto single headlight cars and vice versa. I still don’t understand the term “carb rebuild” – all that’s necessary is to take them apart, clean them and reassemble after blowing out all the passages. There’s only one gasket between top & bowl, and it really never has to be replaced if it isn’t damaged. The accelerator pump diaphragm seems to last forever. The Webers just don’t wear out – only the butterfly shaft pivots on the simple Solexes – rebush them. l have seen very rusty chassis completely rebuilt many times with nothing more than a sheet metal shear, pop rivets and a bending brake. With a cheap mig the whole chassis can be made stronger than new just by replacing rusted areas with new, slightly thicker metal. Door bottoms can be rebuilt by renewing the bottoms up to the character line crease – a perfect hiding line for a spot weld joint. There is no other car that’s easier to disassemble – you can drive a DS chassis without ANY body parts, including the roof. The Pontiac Fiero basically copied the DS chassis design. This car deserves to be put back on the road – it’s very complete compared to many I’ve seen. They’re often sidelined due to a single hydraulic leak, which is often very simple to fix. Rust pinholes in the high pressure hydraulic lines can be silver-soldered shut and hold the pressure. It’s far easier to find parts thru US club members than having to look on, altho that works too quite well from my experience when looking for much harder to find Panhard parts.
    From the looks of this car, I’d say the rust is minimal and it could be safely driven as-is. Critical area is where the rear hydraulic suspension cylinder is held to the trunk wall – this bracket takes high forces, and if badly rusty can push itself into the trunk, but even this can be fixed with a bit of cutting/welding by someone who understands simple structures. And the metal in most areas of the chassis is less than 2 mm thick – more like 1 mm – easily button-welded with mig. It would be a shame to part out this car.

    Like 1
  8. Grant

    An early car like this is pretty simple as citroen’s DS go. All repairs to DS systems are pretty simple to undertake with a little common sense and CLEAN HANDS!!! Disassembly is generally easy, but parts should be kept strictly in the order they came out, and put together again in the same order, especially when it comes to the hydraulic pumps. Pipes are pipes and can be replaced since they are all metal. The only plastic pipes are the overflow return pipes which are plastic and do with age become brittle, but replacement Teflon-like piping is available, and they are all push fit since they are not under pressure.
    Generally working on these cars, is a question of patience, in that to actually get to the parts requiring work can be time consuming indeed!! Early cars with brake fluid hydraulics are more problematic, brake fluid being hygroscopic, rusting pipes from within. Any DS that is complete should if possible be kept that way, unless REALLY RUSTY. Beautiful cars with sooo much character!!! Love them all!!!

    Like 1
    • Al

      The translucent white plastic pipes are of Rilsan or Nylon 11. It’s sorta “green,” being made from castor beans. Regular Nylon 6 or 6/6 is just fine for replacement.
      LHS2 (“brake fluid”) cars have the hydraulic system rubber parts, like sphere diaphragms, in like new condition but the metal parts are corroded. The big problem with them is that every time the car “got up,” the fluid level in the reservoir went down, sucking in fresh moisture-laded air. The large surface area of the fluid did a good job absorbing the water. If the car sat for years without being started, no additional air was sucked into the reservoir, so it wasn’t as bad as a car that was run all the time but the fluid never or rarely changed.
      The older cars didn’t have hoses to the rear brakes. They had swivels, which can be un-riveted and the O-rings replaced. Ethylene Propylene or Silicone in LHS2 systems, not Buna-Nitrile, which is used in LHM systems.
      Because the DOT couldn’t understand that the automobile manufacturer knew what is best for their cars, or that oil is still oil even if it is dyed green instead of red, LHM was delayed for USA cars until 1969. So here in the USA you may find a ’68 USA model with LHS2 (“brake fluid”) or a privately imported ’68 non-USA car with LHM. And just to confuse things, many LHM car owners used ATF or Aircraft Hydraulic Fluid MIL-H-5606 “Red Oil,” both of which are red. ATF has friction modifiers for the clutches and bands of automatic transmissions. Not good for the Citroën LHM hydraulic systems. MIL-H-5606 is a little “thinner” (lower viscosity index) but works pretty well even in the “Citromatic” semi-automatic shifting and clutch system. LHM is always preferred in green fluid cars. The Red Oil is for old, worn-out cars that the owner doesn’t want to spend any more on than absolutely necessary.
      The factory Rilsan tubes have little squared bulges at the ends to prevent their being popped out by sudden pressure pulses that can occur in some tubes if air gets into the system. You can use clamps if you want. The Citroën type strap clamps are compact. My roll and the plier got away from me in a burglary.

      Like 0
  9. Mads Henriksen

    An epic find! I hope someone brings it back on the road to remind every new car driver that their new modern cars are not really modern at all – just new…

    Like 1
  10. jean lecointe

    How happy I am to find these Citroen enthousiasts. All they say is true, except that the change to 5 bolts on the wheels occured in 1967 with the use of the mineral geen hydraulic fluid. The mineral fluid cannot be mixed with the early synthetic fluid. Don’t make the mistake to replace the hydraulic fluid with silicon fluid.
    All parts can be found in France through Jean Blondeau in Montreuil close to Paris.
    Good luck to the restorer, keep us informed

    Like 1
    • Eric

      Citroen changed to 5 stud wheels and shortstroke engine in modelyear 1966. In modelyear 1967 they changed from LHS (red fluid) to LHM ( green fluid). Nowadays virtually all parts can be obtained new or revised in Europe by a number of well known specialists in Holland, Germany and France.

      Like 1
  11. jean lecointe

    I did not look at Craiglist photos, doing so I can tell that this car is no DS but ID, that means that but the suspension and brakes are operated through high pressure hydraulics. That would make the restoration mush simplier. The only option available with hydraulics is the power steering

    Like 1
  12. Corne Jansen can Rensburg

    Judging by the dash this may well be earlier than 66 and this is an ID not a DS, just a cheaper alternative to the ID. My friend has got a 1958 ID and the dash looks exactly the same (DS of this era had a sloping dash, dip dash to enthusiasts) This car is totally salvageable, if I lived in America I would buy the car no questions asked. I am in South Africa unfortunately. To work on these cars are not horrifying it is relatively straight forward, just use common sense. Parts in America no problem though. and a few others. I hope someone safe this car, they can go on forever, I know I have 5

    Like 0
    • Al

      I bought a new tinted windshield made in South Africa. At one time D kits were assembled and finished in South Africa. Maybe you can find a good D in SA.

      Like 0
  13. Liam

    What a great find! This car is far too good to break for parts, this is a real easy restoration in comparison to so many other abandoned yet savable cars that seem to be coming out of every barn and bush at the moment. There are some good comments above from some people who clearly know these cars well, and as mentioned, if there should be any hoses that need replacing, in the absence of genuine replacement parts, there are many specialist shops out there who can make up any hoses, to any specification, I have had to get some made myself for projects over the years and it is usually an easy and uncomplicated process. The contact mentioned above by Jean Lecointe for parts in Paris should be invaluable, and with the classic car industry never being so popular worldwide as it is these days, there are no shortage of places to get parts for most classic cars given a little time, patience and a bit of research, you can usually find what you are looking for. Good luck to whoever buys this great project, had I not been in the UK and having more than my own fair share of barn and bush finds to get through at the moment, I would certainly have been interested in that Citreon myself.

    Like 0
  14. Alan

    I’ve always found the shape/style of these cars to be intriguing. Considering that they don’t have the highest power outputs and are not at all truck-like, I’m wondering what this towed when it was put to that duty. A small camper, perhaps? As @ paul mentions, towing adds a lot of stress to specific parts. This could have been parked because of a transmission issue, which would certainly raise the cost to get it rolling down the road again.

    IT seems as though @ Ken Nelson could answer a mystery which has always been in my mind about the Citroen: How do you change the rear tires? Does the whole fender come off?

    Like 0
    • jean lecointe

      Hi Alan, You guessed right, the whole rear fender can be removed by unscrewing one nut and pulling the fender backwards.

      Like 0
      • Al

        Make sure you use grease on the screw threads so it will come loose the next time. The rear tires throw water and slop from the road right on the sheet-metal nut the screw threads into. I prefer boat trailer “marine” wheel bearing grease as it is more water resistant than regular. If you twist too hard on the screw the bracket on the wheelhousing wall will twist.
        AeroKroil, Kano Labs, Nashville, Tn., is the best stuff I have ever found for getting stuck threads loose. Better than Liquid Wrench (kerosene-water emulsion) or WD40, which is really a Water Displacer.

        Like 0
  15. Gene

    There are sources for Citroen parts here in the states. Western Hemisphere is one that I use for my CXA Prestige 2500. Also eBay France is a good source. The only big problem with this DS is that it is brake fluid hydraulics. That can be converted to LHM. The brake fluid cars tend to have corroded hydraulics. Any DS is worth saving. Once restored you will have one of the best riding cars you have ever ridden in. And of course you will own one of the hallmark cars of automotive design.

    Like 0
  16. braktrcr

    I see this thing running accross the Bonneville Salt Flats… but that’s just me

    Like 0
  17. kevin mcintosh

    Its not only this Citroenthat are hard to get parts forit appears to me its all citroens you have companys in France that supply parts like Deppinato who has parts but not all i had a 1926 B12 Citroen roadster which was the opposition to the T model Ford in that time you can get just about anything for a T model but you try buying parts for a citroen nearly impossible good luck kevin

    Like 0
  18. Raynald P.

    Nice find but badly rusted. It’s older than 1966. Probably a ’64, judging by the (original?) color, wheels and wiper position. And yes, it’s an ID, not a DS.

    Like 0
  19. Peter Brookes-Tee

    Brilliant information. There are many totally restored examples of most of the models here in the UK. I remember the first time I drove one when serving in the army in Kenya in 1962-1964, the high pressure braking system took some getting used to! You are correct in that the floor pan was strong enough to be used without any body panels at all; it was a favourite with film and TV units out there on the rough terrain giving the camera crews a superbly smooth ride at speed. One seat for the driver and the camera operator hanging on!

    Like 0
    • Al

      The body panels other than the roof just hung there. They added no strength or stiffness. The D and SM were platform frame cars. The roof on the D and the welded-on body panels on the SM added stiffness. A D driven without the roof bolted on shakes.
      The CX was totally different. Originally with the D engine mounted sidewinder, they had separate body-frame construction. Sort of. The body was just like a unibody car but the usual front and rear subframes common to unibody cars were connected together into one big underframe by two large flat hollow tubes. Unlike typical separate body-frame cars all the strength and stiffness was in the body.

      Like 0
  20. Ric Parrish

    That’s no parts car, that body is totally straight. I was from Iowa, back in the 70’s they were rusted out. Kind of cool with their elaborate hydraulics. Remember, don’t get fooled by bad paint, you can see through it to the metal.

    Like 0
  21. Ken Nelson

    Corne Jansen you’re right – thinking back my first car was a ’59 ID identical to this car except for the front bumper – this car is most likely a ’62, as I believe a more stylish swept-curvature dash came into use on all the cars around ’63. This dash is all metal except for the nylon bezel or surround on the instrument cluster and steering pod cover – those parts are nearly unobtainium these days as UV and heat often wrecks them.
    Gene, I grew up with the brake fluid LHS cars, and learned that if you just change the brake fluid out every year or two, corrosion of the aluminum parts internally isn’t a problem, but the rear brake cylinders being steel will corrode and stick the pistons if the cars aren’t used regularly and the pistons/cylinders aren’t coated with moly-disulfide anti seize paste and the dust boots also coated inside to keep the piston ends from rusting (or thick silicone grease used on hydraulic seals as an anti-corrosion agent).
    The hydraulics on all these cars can be restored just by disassembling the brakes or whatever is stuck, freeing things up, cleaning out corrosion and putting them together with nothing more than a few Orings and rubber tube seals available from McMaster-Carr and most hydraulic shops for a few bucks – the seals are NOT exotic. For LHS cars specify ethylene propylene rubber – NOT nitrile or neoprene (for LHM only). I get any seals I need from MMC or Ace Seals in so. San Jose – dirt cheap – they’re just Orings. MMC had endless rubber tubing for the steel line seals for a buck a foot. Any DOT3 corroded cylinders can often be saved by honing them with a Flex-hone driven by a drill – these do a great job, and I’ve even found I can reseal rear LHS/LHM brake cylinders which are leaking due to worn Orings. If for some reason I can’t find the metric Orings, or am in a crisis situation needing to drive the car, if I carefully roll the rear piston Orings out of their groove, wrap 4 turns of teflon tape over the groove, roll the Oring back over the tape so it snaps into the groove then razor-trim off the excess tape, I’ve given the old Oring good sealing compression against the cylinder and it’ll seal for a couple years more. As for the front Mousetrap disc calipers, I’ve learned all sorts of tricks over 50 yrs of these cars on how to first remove the calipers without destroying things, then disassemble them and restore them with nothing more than two new Orings available nearly anywhere, a couple of drilled holes, throwing some parts away and installing a new set of pads after a bit of cleaning. This and a few other simple touches make the calipers very reliable, and much easier to work on if that becomes necessary, and they’re incredibly good brakes when properly overhauled. Now I prefer the early cars for their greater smoothness of the suspension and lower engine rpm (longer stroke) at 80 mph.
    As for parts availability, anyone interested in these cars should immediately join a club, get on the many chat lines, and obtain an original or copy of the factory manuals put out by the British – some cars were assembled in Slough UK. These manuals are not only works of art, every drawing in them is to scale – I’ve blown up the cross-sectional views to full-size to use for making different tools and even finding a way to convert single bolt rims to 15 inchers for modern tires. The manuals are absolutely the best ever printed – you can teach yourself the whole car just by studying the drawings as to how they go together and come apart.
    As for parts for VERY early cars like that B12 Kevin, I found a B14 block at Depanoto about 4 yrs ago, and they had an acre of early parts – not all in great condition, but they also carried brand new pistons. I was able to get a complete set of rods, crank, alum. crankcase and other parts off fairly inexpensively. Shipping the 40 lb. block did cost $400 though!
    Alan, you answered your own question on the rear tire removal, but that tow hitch is darn useful on a D – As long as you’re careful shifting into 1st with these early series cars, you avoid the problem of knocking a tooth off 1st gear due to lack of synchro, but not so long ago I towed my first R16 Renault on its own wheels from near San Luis Obispo Ca to San Jose behind my ’61 ID wagon by using only 2nd gear and up – I just had to be damn careful to get over the hills without running out of power and having to start from a dead stop without 1st! Made it just fine, hauling the R16 at 70 mph in spite of the wagon only having about 75 hp! I’ve towed dead DSs, boats, trailers behind my D cars without straining the gearboxes. Heck, I’ve towed dead Panhards and other cars on my 950 lb. dolly behind my ’67 DS convertible at 75 mph many times. Sure they’re slow up hills, but do the job. They haul all sorts of caravans all over Europe.
    For parts & help, there’s Brad Nauss in PA, Dave Burnham in NY, and Dale Martin in Midland Mich., Lon Price in Santa Cruz Ca., Wally Eschrich in Redlands Ca., Steve Hammond in the LA area. Lots of people across the country if you just look.

    Like 0
    • Al

      Best to shift any manual into 1st at 1/2 mph just before coming to a complete stop. I towed a dead SAAB 96 from Maryland to Tennessee. Got better mileage dragging the SAAB than my buddy got driving the other 96 Monte Carlo oil injection along with me. That was with my DSpecial 21 (engine from junked DS21). Also I towed a dead Panhard PL17 from Ohio.
      Used my ID21FH (station wagon w/Citromatic) to tow my car trailer with another D on it. Towed cargo trailers with various loads. Never any problems.

      Like 0
  22. Jim Lee

    My Dad owned a 72 DS that he bought in St. Louis from Ed Debrach motors I think. My folks lived Halltown, MO in the Ozarks. Once the car broke down in Poplar Bluff and my brother and I took the farm truck to bring it home. I remember the suspension had settled and didn’t know how to raise it to get it on the trailer. I think we ended up getting a wrecker to lift the rear end and he backed the wrecker up putting the car on the trailer and we hauled it to Kansas City to the mechanic. It wasn’t a fun trip. I drove it home from kc when it was fixed. My dad didn’t let anyone else drive that car. It drove like a dream. My dad eventually sponsored a boat person was a Citroen mechanic in Saigon. My folks set him up in business and he kept Dad’s Citoen running.

    Like 0
  23. Vasil

    This citroen when came out in 1955 was not ahead of the others but a hole galaxy ahead, just like buying a LCD TV in That time :)
    This car is not for parts, can be on the road in no time.

    Like 0
  24. marco de knikker

    I have bought the ID 1964 three weeks ago in sacramento, he is now en route to Europe Netherlands where he will be fully restored to factory specifications in my workshop. (

    Like 0
    • Jamie Palmer JamieStaff

      Congratulations, Marco! Post some pictures once it gets there!

      Like 0
  25. marco de knikker


    When you use this link
    you can see pictures from the citroen after finishing the restoration.
    And by restaration you can use the photo galery button for a overvieuw from the restoration.

    Like 0

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