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Rare 1972 Citroen DS Wagon Barn Find

When Citroen removed the covers from its DS model at the 1955 Paris Motor Show, the motoring press and buying public issued a collective gasp. The DS was unlike anything the automotive world had ever seen, with groundbreaking aerodynamics. It proved to be a worldwide sales smash, although that success did not extend to North America. Today, they rate as a quirky classic with a dedicated following. Our feature car is a 1972 DS Station Wagon that has spent many years parked in this barn. It needs plenty of TLC to return to our roads, but the buyer should be commencing the process with a rock-solid foundation. Located in Bainbridge, New York, you will find the Citroen listed for sale here on eBay. Solid bidding has pushed the price to $5,200 in a No Reserve auction.

This Citroen belonged to a doctor who purchased the vehicle in the early 1970s. It isn’t clear whether he was its first owner, but it served as his daily driver for years. There is no indication of when he parked it in this barn, but I suspect the timeframe can be measured in decades. At the ripe old age of eighty-eight, the doctor has decided to part with his farm. Therefore, the Wagon needs to find a new home beyond the walls of this barn. Under the heavy layer of dust is a two-tone color combination of Dark and Silver Blue paint. Determining the health of the paint is difficult, but the buyer will have the satisfaction of sloshing away the dust to determine what hides beneath. The panels look pretty straight, with no appreciable bruises or marks. The best slice of news is that this DS seems to be rust-free. There are no visible external problems, while the seller says the floors feel solid. The glass and trim appear to be intact, although their condition is difficult to confirm due to the dust. If this classic proves rust-free, it will serve as an excellent foundation for a restoration project.

As with the rest of the vehicle, the supplied interior shots are pretty limited. It is upholstered in brown vinyl, and while there are a few imperfections, it may prove serviceable with a dose of TLC. A couple of tears are visible in the driver’s seat, but blind patches could address these. The carpet looks pretty worn and dirty, meaning the buyer may need to spend some time and money locating and purchasing a new carpet set. The dash seems okay, and apart from the carpet, I wouldn’t spend a dime before cleaning everything thoroughly. This process may reveal that most of the trim and plastic is acceptable for a vehicle of this type and age. The company marketed the DS as a luxury European offering, but the equipment levels weren’t on a par with domestic models. There was no option for power windows or power locks, considered essentials in cars of that type from the early 1970s. However, this DS scores factory air conditioning and an AM/FM radio, placing it a cut above the rest.

The seller supplies no engine photos, but we know that the DS features a 2,175cc four-cylinder engine that ends its 113hp to the front wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. That power figure may promise lively performance, but the Wagon’s weight of more than 3,100lbs takes away some of its potential. A ¼ mile ET of 19.1 seconds was unlikely to break records in 1972, although its ability to hit 110mph came courtesy of its radical and futuristic aerodynamic styling. However, it wasn’t the outright performance that was the Citroen’s strong suit. Innovative self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension endowed the DS with a level of ride refinement never before seen in a production car. It allowed the DS to negotiate harsh road conditions easily and helped explain its success on the world rally stage. The mechanical health of this Wagon is unclear, although years of inactivity will almost certainly mean that it will need plenty of attention to return to a roadworthy state. While some mechanical components shouldn’t present a massive challenge for a competent enthusiast, items like the suspension will require the attention of a specialist to ensure that it operates safely and reliably.

While Citroen sold more than 1.4 million examples of the DS worldwide during its production run, the car never hit the mark in the United States. Imported between 1956 and 1972, only around 38,000 found willing buyers. How many survive today is unclear, but eager enthusiasts tend to grab them readily when they break cover. While the bidding on this 1972 DS Station Wagon has not been intense, it has still been healthy. This classic is only days away from a new home, and I hope that the new owner successfully returns it to active duty. Have you ever driven or owned a DS? If so, did you enjoy the experience?

Comments

  1. Ken Nelson Member

    This car does not have AC – think the lister looked at those under dash vent levers and assumed AC when they’re just the normal vent levers for interior vs windshield defrost, and hot/cold. All AC systems were installed by dealiers or Coolaire, after arrival in the US. A true AC system will have a large add-on underdash duct crosscar with moveable vents and control rotary knobs. Only way to know for sure is get the hood open and look for a compressor.

    Considering how crusty with rust the turnsignal lever is – on LH side of steering wheel, it most likely indicates that the engine is frozen from sitting, and if the engine cannot be turned by the handcrank, any buyer should never try to use the starter to turn the engine over, as sticking valves will be hit by the high crowned pistons and bent. Ask me how I know! First thing to do would be to pull plugs, fill cyls with high penetration solvent and let marinate for at least a week. Plus immediately pull the rocker cover. You’ll very likely see RUST everywhere on the valvetrain, rockers, everything but the alum head.

    RE rust: The monocoque 1 to 2 mm thick box section chassis must be checked all over, along with floorpans under the carpets, for structural rust damage. And as these cars are flush with the ground in most cases of long storage, even jacking them up can be a challenge – just getting a low profile jack under a structural area capable of taking the load can be difficult and damaging to a partially rusty chassis. Anyone buying this car who has never owned a DS would do well to bring along a knowledgeable friend who has lived with these cars for awhile. Hopefully they will know where and how to get a jack under the safest lifting points, which are not obvious. Someone should save this wagon – they’re the most amazing loadcarrier ever built.
    This is 60 yrs of experience talking, and involved right now in resuscitating a ’64 break which has sat only 15 yrs in the very dry SF bay area but has revealed very crusty valvetrain and stuck valves which have prevented engine rotation. Will be cleaning and lubing valvetrain shortly, in effort to save engine.

    Like 22
    • alphasud Member

      Good points Ken. When I looked at a 73 DS locally I knew it would be a challenge lifting and moving the car which was just as you described flat on the dirt floor of a barn almost sunken into the ground. Car was solid but the timing wasn’t right. Still kick myself for not buying it. Drove out a couple months ago to see if he still had it. A DS is on my short list to own but I decided that I need to buy a running driving car over a barn find. The DS Wagons are cool and more sought after but I also like the sedan.

      Like 5
      • Ken Nelson Member

        Keep in touch alphasud – if I can resurrect this ’64 ID19 wagon, it’s a solid car, and these early ones are quieter and actually ride better than cars post ’65. Their long stroke, lower rpm engines are quieter and their nitrogen springs have better damping than the later series cars – the DS21s. I can suggest to seller that they use BF for posting, as it’ll still need a lot of cleanup and reupholstering. I don’t have room for it and already have 4 breaks of my own.

        Like 3
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    There was a mechanic who opened a shop in Fortuna,CA.
    who had one of these.They’re so weird that they’re cool.I aleays
    enjoyed seeing it occasionly on the road.Unfortumatly,he ended
    up moving back to Sacramento.

    Like 1
  3. Gregory Lane Member

    Outside of the work involved getting it back on the road, A DS wagon is amazing. I had a 72 like this one when I was an antique dealer. Self leveling means you can put tons of stuff in the cargo area and the car rides flat. I once put a set of 8 dining chairs in one with the seat down. Cool feature is the license plate pivots down with the hatch open, so the plate is visible. Dave Burnham is in the Albany area, one of the handful best Citroen mechanics in the country.

    Like 4
  4. Matt G

    Hah. Funnily I lived in the seller’s small town of Bainbridge NY in the 1970s at an age when I was very aware of cars, but don’t remember seeing this one. Certainly plenty of barns though in Bainbridge!

    Like 1
  5. Martin Horrocks

    Do it once and do it right. This looks like a very good basis for full restoration. When done properly, DS Breaks sell for enough money to cover the costs (In Europe at any rate!).

    Like 4
  6. Troy

    I don’t know anything about these cars so I would not buy it, if it was given to me in this condition I may try to get it running but I would question why is was parked in the first place if it was a running and driving car.

    • Paul in Ma

      Keeping a French car like this on the road before the internet must have been near impossible. I owned many Italian cars in the 80s and it was very difficult and there were far more Italian cars in the US.

  7. Ken Nelson Member

    Troy, as with any car older than 10-15 yrs, I’ve found dealers won’t touch them when owners seek help. And when a brand has very few dealers, such as Citroen, Renault, Peugeot, Fiat and other European cars, which were roadblocked in many ways by US manufacturers and the US DOT, a minor problem can be escalated into parking the car and forgetting about it.

    Citroen and others were shut out of the US market in 1972, when the US DOT set new rules for bumpers, headlight positions, seatbelts and other little things, European co’s often sold so few cars here that it was cost prohibitive to mess up their designs with 5 mph bumpers that ruined the appearance of the product. Citroen was sited for having headlights that could change height position due to the fabulous hydropneumatic suspension – the best on the planet for comfort, so in spite of the automatic load-leveling of the car, and the best headlights – which in later models rotated to light the way around corners, the Feds ignored those features. So the DOT ignored the safety aspects of turning headlights, forced stationary poor US sealed beams on Citroen versus their yellow beam superior lamps, and caused them to shut down US importation.

    The many stupid US design changes forced on non-US co’s helped the US brands salvage part of their market, but for the small no. of imported cars they shut down, it was just not worth the hassle for brands to ruin their advanced (compared to US cars) cars. Who had 4 wheel disc brakes before anyone else? Renault! – on the ’63 Caravelles, R8 & R10, along with the ’64 Bristol 408 with Chrysler V8 engines. When did the US cars get 4 whl discs? Somewhere around late ’90s as i recall. Who forced the US co’s to improve their bodypanel fit and finish? – The Japanese. Who forced improved overall quality control and reliability on the US co’s? Again, the Japanese, as they understood what it would take to break into the US market since they listened to the two men who helped Japan immensely -McArthur after WWII, and W. Edwards Deming – the best efficiency expert in the world back then. Deming was rejected by Detroit, the Japanese listened and implemented his teachings, and the rest is history.

    So – small problems with Euro cars and lack of large dealer networks have always caused many of them to be parked and forgotten – just as with this car. BUT – the innovations in the DS are still so useful and amazing that they’re still being resuscitated whenever they see daylight again. This car has to be saved as we still haven’t gotten the ride quality and usefulness of this brand in today’s US cars, and we won’t get any more DSs. I worked in the worldwide car biz for 30 yrs and had to hide the fact that my personal cars were Citroens. Anyone inside the industry could write a very educational book about what goes on inside!

  8. Cadmanls Member

    Have to agree with Troy, it was parked in the barn for a reason and that is not a great looking barn by the way. Then you have the spring weather when that cooler steel is pulling moisture from the warmer air. Add it’s either in the dirt or so close rust could be a serious issue. Might just be a parts car, no doubt needs a closer inspection than those photos provide.

  9. Dik Stukkien

    Well guys, I had several cars of this type, 6 to say and always repaired and did maintenence myself. It is one of the most symple cars to work on. Doors can be removed by just unscrew one screw and the catch, fenders are locked with almost nothing. For the models after 1967, with the turning headlights, you need to untighten the one cable that turns that lights. remove the fenders and the hoods, remove the chairs and the carpets and you can start.
    One of mines was a ID 19, that was burned out under the hood and needed a new wiring loom. Due to the Fire extinguisher, the engine was stuck and had stood for over 1 year with that stuff in it. I removed the gear box, also not a big problem here, as it is in front of the engine and can be taken out right from the front. Then I screwed a big long bar on the flywheel and slowly started to get the engine round. Turn right, turn left and so on. Some good penetrating oil will help of course. After that, start slowly driving, the engine needs to turn in again. I had a small nocking, but I did almost 100 000 km with that engine, never had a problem.
    Some people think, the hydraulics is aproblem. This is talk of people who have no idea of cars. When you can repair hydraulic brakes, you also can repair this system. It is mostly rotten lines, replace them with copper ones, but always remeber, the pressure is around 150ato, so the connections need to be well. Another important item are the presure balls. They are rather cheap and very easely to replace. You never need to buy new shocksbsorbers.
    When you live in a humid climat, as I do (Netherlands) then good rustprevention is a must.

    Like 5
    • V8roller

      The (Citroen) hydraulics on the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow were certainly a problem and could eat your wallet. How do I know….

      • Ken Nelson Member

        The Rolls engineers were more a problem than the Citroen hydraulics V8roller – from what I’ve heard from owners, the Rolls system is double or triple redundant just to protect the reputation of the brand! It’s that greatly increased complexity that makes the RR system so much harder to deal with than Citroen’s original system design. And the owner is the one who pays for that so-called “extra” margin of reliability. It’s that extra margin which jacks up the price – whether or not it provides greater reliability. The reliability seems to work only to provide extra dealer income!

  10. Dennis Duesing

    Having been through a ’69 from top to bottom and all throughout I can say it was a thoroughly satisfying exercise, though I doubt I want to ever do that again. I will revel in the delight it brings to both experts and the general public when I am out and about in my car. I hope there are many more of them brought back to life for more to enjoy.

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