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French Barn Find: 1971 Citroen DS21

French cars have never sold particularly well in the U.S. Renault may have been the most successful because of its connection to American Motors at one time. Peugeot has come and gone and is supposedly coming back in 2023. And then there was the Citroën, whose cars always had quirky styling for most American tastes. This 1971 Citroën DS-21 (the 21 stands for its 2175 cc engine) is under wraps in Deep Creek, Washington and available here on craigslist for $5,000. Priced too rich perhaps to be a parts car, a total restoration would be in order, but at what cost?

The Citroën DS was a front-engine, front-wheel-drive luxury car built by French company Citroën from 1955-75 in a variety for body styles, including a sedan like the seller’s car. The vehicle’s claim to fame abroad was for its aerodynamic styling and innovative technology for its era. While 38,000 copies made it to the U.S., Citroën built more than 1.4 million DS models overall during its life cycle. While they were sold in the U.S. from 1956-72, buyers had very specific tastes in automobiles. Sales were not helped by a small dealer network and generally inadequate supply of parts. And it was priced at about what someone could buy a more conventional Buick Electra 225 for. The DS-21, with its 2175 cc engine producing 109 hp, was introduced in 1965.

This 1971 DS-21 appears to have staked a claim under a carport years ago. The car only has 32,000 miles on it and there is no mention if it runs or if the seller has even tried to start it in recent memory. The only rust that is acknowledged is said to be in the trunk lid and – because the vehicle is captive in a confined space – the photos don’t reveal anything but sections of the car. The interior will need some degree of refurbishing, with the front seats at a minimum. This was considered a luxury automobile by French standards. I’m not familiar with how easy or hard it is to find parts for these scarce machines in the U.S. Thanks to David Raezer for this tip!

I would think you’d have to have a love affair going with these cars to bring this one home. The good news is that Hagerty says these are worth up to $70,000 when jam-up. So could a restoration be achieved for under the $65,000 spread or maybe the buyer should just settle for a nice driver, which would be closer to $20,000 in resale value. Because we don’t see the car in its totality, here’s a photo of what one of these looks like when it great shape. Thanks to Wikipedia for the photo and also for the background information on these unusual cars.


  1. alphasud Member

    Many years ago when I was still working as a Saab/ Alfa tech at the dealer I local businessman bought out a collectors stash of Citroen cars and parts. That is where my first acquaintance with Citroen happened. Working on Saab cars helped me have an open mind to different engineering principles. When I was asked to drive in a Citroen SM and perform a state inspection I think I left a smudge mark on the inside of the windshield with my head the first time I applied the brakes. Citroen uses central hydraulics to control brake assist, steering, and right height. There are no coil springs so when these systems malfunction the cars will rest on suspension stops. The steering is self centering on this model. Think it’s called DIRVI and the brake pedal is not a pedal but a rubber button on the floor. Early automatics were semi- automatic meaning you had to still shift into different ranges.
    Restoring one is a real financial challenge. All the load spheres (I think there are 5) need to be rebuilt in addition to rebuilding and resealing all the various hydraulic components. Would I own one and mechanically rebuild one? If I had the funds back when I was a young tech I would not but as a old technician I would. They are remarkable cars with several innovative firsts. Rolls and Bentley bought the rights to use their hydraulics and during the Maserati/ Citroen partnership we got the Merak which is another cool car in its own right.

    Like 9
    • Howard A Member

      The only car I know that can be driven on 3 wheels,,fantastic cars, just too far out there for Americans. “One spoke steering wheel? No thanks”,, :)

      Like 3
      • RayT Member

        I don’t know about driving one on three wheels, Howard A (I remember hearing that, but don’t remember if anyone actually tried it), but I do know from experience you can drive one on three inflated tires and a flat without knowing it. My passengers didn’t know, either….

        Which brings up jacking. That’s another area where the Cit’s hydraulic system shines. Raise the suspension to its highest setting, insert brace into jack point, lower suspension, and both wheels on the flat’s side of the car are in the air.

        I’m with alphasud: I’d like to go through all the hydraulics and have a nice Cit. When in good order, there is no other car like them. This particular example, however, is not nice. Among other things, the rot on the rear deck lid makes me feel certain there is structural rust underneath, and that, not the hydraulics, would keep me away.

        $5K? Does Beverly Hills Car Club have a branch in Deep Creek, WA?

        Like 3
      • HARM R SMIT

        Steering wheel was designed to curve away on impact. Holding the steering wheel gives no indication of flex or uncertainty.

    • Derek

      Spheres for most Citroens can be had from Pleiades (in England).

  2. Jonathan Dennis Jonathan D Staff

    I’m a Saab enthusiast so like alphasud above that has helped me appreciate the unconventional nature of old Citroens. I’ve wanted a DS since I was a kid and finally realized the dream earlier this year when I bought a ‘72 DS21 Pallas as a 40th birthday present to myself.

    I was lucky to find a running/driving enthusiast-owned one with some moderate cosmetic/rust issues for not a whole lot more than the the owner is asking for the example above. In my time searching they all seem to either be $5k non-running basket cases or nice ones for $20k and up. I flew up and drove mine home a thousand miles from Connecticut to Kentucky with nearly no issues. It was an incredibly comfortable drive for a nearly 50-year-old car.

    I’m taking my time and making mine into a good driver. I’ve replaced the exhaust (a new system was included with the car) and am also addressing some of the cosmetic issues including the rust. At some point mine was retrofitted with the glass-covered European headlights with high beams that turn with the steering. Parts are surprisingly available although many have to be ordered from Europe; I just placed my second order with a supplier in the UK.

    With all this being said, I would be extremely hesitant to get the one above as it’s been sitting for a while and these cars are known to rust. Also, who knows what condition the hydropneumatic system is in? Like mine, this one has the hydraulically-operated semi-automatic which is added complexity to an already complex system.

    Like I said, I feel fortunate that I was able to get such a good deal on a running/driving one. It’s a real thrill to literally own an example of my dream car.

    Like 7
  3. Phlathead Phil

    I ONLY have ONE question concerning this car: Does the interior have the heavy smell of Garlic?

    • Dlegeai

      ….smell of “Gallic” rather…..🤣

      Like 2
      • luke arnott Member

        Or Gitanes?

        Like 2
  4. Daymo

    These can indeed drive on just three wheels. As can the CX and Xantia that followed. Another benefit of height adjustable suspension is that my disabled mother finds it much easier getting in and out when on the high setting in my old Xantia!

    Like 1
  5. MikeH

    Can it drive on three wheels?? Here’s Proof:

  6. Dan mccarville

    I have had several Citroen D’s, when you get one sorted they ate very dependable and a joy to drive.


    Yep it drives on three wheels. Three different hydrolic height positions. Internal engine braking system. Self leveling under heavy loads and braking. A single bolt removes a fender. Frame less glass windows. Safety single spoke steering wheel. Turning headlights that respond in the direction you are heading. Comfort plus. A car that has been depicted in more movies than I can name. ( Blade runner) Prone to rust in rear lid. Fantastic vehicle with loads of character. Parts are available and not as complex as everyone makes out. Use factory recommended hydrolic oils only.

    Like 2

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