French Luxury: 1971 Citroën DS21 Project

 

Citroën has always been a leader in technological advances, with their DS luxury line taking credit for a good chunk of those advances. Here was a car that gave its owners clutchless shifting, adaptive headlights, inboard brakes, and an innovative adjustable suspension system, all in one practical and beautiful body. The DS was actually named the most beautiful car of all time according to a panel of famous designers assembled by Classic & Sports Car Magazine. Now you have the opportunity to own something more beautiful than an E-Type, special thanks to Gunter Kramer for letting us know about this one. You can find it here on craigslist.

Jay Leno does a good in-depth video on his 1971 DS. This is a far cry from Leno’s. It looks really rough at first glance, but this is Barn Finds, after all. We specialize in cars found in barns. The closer you look at the included pictures, it doesn’t look too bad. It’s obviously not a show car, but inside looks complete. All the bits are there, the headliner is decent, the plastic is free of cracks. There are some tears on the seats, but that can be fixed with a needle and some thread. Most of what makes this car look rough is the thick layer of dust, accumulated after sitting for fifteen years.

Crucially, and especially with a French car, your problems won’t be so much with the interior, but with the mechanicals. The seller does not include any images or information about the engine, transmission, brakes, electronics, or the complicated suspension system. For those who don’t know, Citroën is famous for their hydropneumatic adjustable suspension system. I won’t go in-depth here, but it is a fascinating piece of kit. Here’s a good write-up on it. The caveat with hydraulics powering everything is that if one leak happens, your whole car is screwed. Mercedes-Benz 600 owners know this all too well.

Since the car’s been sitting for fifteen years, I’d be willing to bet the suspension needs a refresher, the engine could probably stand to be looked over, and you’ll probably need new rubber bits like tires and belts. Admittedly, parts will probably be difficult to find in the United States, but if your only bit of rust is on the trunk lid, you’ll have a good base for a project you can tinker with. This will never replace your trusty Toyota Corolla, but this is sure to turn heads as a fun second car you can go get ice cream with once in a while and go to your local Cars & Coffee when it decides it wants to run.

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    It’s located in Deep Creek,Washington,near Spokane.
    I seem to remember this car was for sale a while back.Some-
    one went & looked at it,but passed on it.

    Like 2
  2. Valentine

    “The most beautiful car of all time” you say? This wasn’t even the most beautiful car in the time it took to read the ad. That honor goes to some flat-fender Jeeps in the “SELL YOUR CAR” link on the upper RH side of the page.

    They nailed the front end, though. Shame about everything behind the windshield.

  3. Phil

    The Citroen DS21 is a wonderful car to drive. I can’t say it’s pretty, but some people like the look. It’s also not real powerful. These will run almost forever though. The achilles heel for them is rust. Rust can easily destroy the value of one of these wonderful cars, and make it nearly impossible to fix. Hopefully any rust on this one is limited.

    Like 1
  4. alphasud Member

    This was featured on BarnFinds a while back. I went to look at it after the weather turned warmer but decided I didn’t need to take on the project. Car is definitely worth saving but will need everything. I wasn’t able to get under the car but from the inside the floors felt solid. I figured it would be around by the time I wanted to bring it back.

    Like 2
  5. Ken Nelson Member

    Most people don’t look below the surface of these Citroens, and most don’t know what they’re lookin_ at mechanically. When Citroen introduced the DS19 at the Oct. ’55 Paris auto show, it blew the world’s minds. At the end of the first day of the show, 12,000 orders for this spaceship of a car were placed, and by the show’s end, Citroen had 80,000 orders – they’d sold out probably 4 yrs or more of production. That record I learned recently was not passed until 2016, when Tesla took more orders when they introduced a new model, so the DS19 held the record for 61 years.

    The DS style doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it’s one of the best when it comes to aerodynamic efficiency. In 1967 a wind tunnel study done at Northwestern Univ. in Evanston, Ill, showed that the DS19 4 door sedan was slicker in the wind than a Porsche 911. When I was drivin my first one, a ’59 ID19 cheapo model – no power steerin or power brakes, 4 on the tree and only the superb suspension – from Salt Lake to school in Claremont Ca. in the early ’60s – 750 miles in 12-13 hrs strai_ht thru, with its massive 70 hp 4
    pot hemi motor, it would take its time, but keep movin_ up to cruise all day at 90 mph on the flat, and would do 27-30 mpJ. And the fantastically comfortable seats and visibility kept me relaxed the whole trip. Someone should put this one back on the road. Parts are not a problem – there are suppliers here that can provide nearly everythin_. I’ve been drivin_ them for 58 yrs and still have several.

    Like 12
    • Alex

      Hello, Ken
      Is there any way I can contact you?

      • Ken Nelson Member

        Alex, ask BF how you can contact me – I tried to send you a messa_e but seems they blocked it. I don’t know why they do that = since we’re just tryin_ to help each other out with unfamiliar vehicles – hope you can _et thru.

      • Ken Nelson Member

        Alex, contact Citroenvie, which is the national club newsketter,
        The editor, George Dyke, knows me and can put you in touch with you. I’ll send him a note with your name and hopefully that’ll work. Have you tried going thru BF? If you contacted them, what was the respose? Heck, all we’re trying to do is help each other out with cars that are not that well known, and for which there aren’t a lot of shops around that know what they need and how to do it.

    • alphasud Member

      I looked into parts as well. Definitely needs to be saved. I want to own one someday. Drove a couple SM’s when I worked at the Saab dealer. I worked on all kinds of cars. Would love a SM but I think I would be just as happy with the DS. This one is an automatic so that increases the skill level to get one of these going again.

      • Dik Stukkien

        Hi alphasud, this is NOT an automatic. It has a 4 shift hydraulic gearbox with an automatic clutch. You need to shift the gears by hand yourself, but you can do it with your little finger

      • alphasud Member

        I thought for 73 the US market got an automatic?

  6. angliagt angliagt Member

    While driving our ’67 MGB GT in Crescent City,CA,
    I was behind a DS.I stopped the lady,& asked her if she
    knew she had a flat.She said “No”.I changed it for her.
    Turns out that she bought a Ford van from a friend
    of mine.Small world.

    Like 1
    • Ken Nelson Member

      The commenter with the An_lia who said the lady didn’t know she had a flat on her Citroen – that’s not uncommon. The suspension is so smooth that unless a rear tire is makin_ a lot of noise, most people would not detect the flat. I’ve blown several old tires on my DSs at speeds of 70 mph, and all one hears is a lot of noise due to rubber flappin_on the fender. Zero effect on control and very little on ride feel! I even had a severely rusted LF wheel break apart on me 40 yrs back, and all I heard was a lot of noise and saw the hubcap shootin_ ahead of me on I-95 on the way to Baltimore. The outer rim departed first, then the Michelin X tire, and the car was absolutely steady on the road, pulled over and had the tire replaced in 10 mins with the built-in jackin_ and one center bolt wheels on the early cars. Just incredibly safe these cars!

      Like 3
  7. Ken Nelson Member

    Re BF’s comment about the Mercedes 600, here’s what I just posted re the C&D article:

    Havin_ put Jacques Littlefield’s ’65 Mercedes 600 back on the road about 6 yrs back, its hydraulic system is simpler than a Citroen DS’s, and not very sophisticated. As for the so-called “expensive” parts of the car, I found its parts ridiculously overpriced. For example, the article mentions that the 4 window driver’s door control switch is around $12,000. However, it doesn’t need to be replaced at all. When Littlefield’s door switch started leakin- so bad that he couldn’t drive the car for the 3 yrs he’d owned it, i was able to fix it for about $6.00 in seals from a Redwood City Ca. hydraulics shop, and maybe 2 hrs labor. As Jacques was payin_ me a cheap $60/hr, his bill for that job was just over $120. The most expensive part I had to replace was the hydraulic pressure accumulator under the radiator. It stores pressure for window/doorlatch/rear seat/trunklid operation when the motor is off. Bosch wanted $7000 for that part. I replaced it with one custom-pressurized from Parker Hydraulics for $950 and maybe 3 hrs labor. So overall I saved Jacques around $10-15K to make his car useable once more without leaks. With 58 yrs experience maintainin_ & restorin_ Citroens of all types, the Merc was a piece of cake. And even with the air suspension, the Merc doesn’t ride as well as a DS – just my not humble opinion.

    Like 6
  8. Robert Pellow

    When these cars first came out in 1955 they looked weird. Nowadays most of today’s cars look like they derived their looks from these Citroens. None of them look like 1955 Fords or Chevys. I love them and owned a couple of ID over the years. Rust was the big problem.

    Like 2
  9. Richard

    I was a parts runner while in HS in 70’s for a local independent shop. They specialized in Citroens. We had a DS and SM for picking up parts. Great cars for the open highway. The suspension was incredible and the faster you went the lower the car seemed to be. It floated. The unique one spoke steering wheel and column shift was “different”. The shop used to go through gallons of hydraulic fluid which wasn’t cheap back then.

  10. Dik Stukkien

    I had 6 of these beasts of cars. When the car came out in 1955, I was just 11 y.o. And I was fallen in love for it. So my first one was in 1964.I learned to fix the cars myself and I can assure you, they are easy, at least compared to modern cars. The hydraulic problems only were with the old red hydro oil, the later green did not attract water. With all those cars, I had minimal problems with the hydraulics. I also had GS and CX, same story.
    In that time I drove around 80000 km a year and we did not have max speed in that time. It was no problem to cruise 10 hours on topspeed of 180km/h, as topspeed was max cruisespeed.

    Like 1
  11. Al

    My dad briefly owned a 1967 Citroën DS21, which I agree was an awesome car as many have pointed out. I agree it should be saved.

    The only thing I never liked was the steering wheel attachment as seen above in the second photo. This is the attachment I referred to in BF Mar 23, 2021.
    “You have forgotten the Citroen, the steering wheel attachment looks a lot
    like a tongue hanging out.

    Actually I think it wanted to puke in your lap.

    Only drivers of Citroen’s never got a DUI’s.”

    On the other hand my father-in-law had a 1959 DS21, which he drove all over North America with and sold it after 751,000 miles. I guess you can say. it was “durable”.

    Like 3
  12. Araknid78

    Located in Deep Creek, WA

  13. Steve Douglas

    Love that crazy steering wheel tho’

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