Restore or Parts Car?: 1965 Citroën DS19

When your neighbor on one side of you brought home a new Mustang and the neighbor on the other side bought a new Riviera, there was no question who the college professor was when you pulled into your driveway with this 1965 Citroën DS19. This almost-from-another-planet car is listed here on eBay in Riverton, New Jersey and the current no-reserve bid is just over $1,500.

I’m all about unusual vehicles and this one defines that term better than most cars do, or would, or ever did. The DS was made between 1955 and 1975 and let that 1955 part sink in a bit, at least in comparison to a 1955 Cadillac or a 1955 Mercury. I know, 1955 France wasn’t 1955 US, the economy was different, the roads were different, the cities were different. But at the same time, it was maybe more of a different philosophy between car owners in the respective countries as far as what sort of big, plush sedan does a person really need?

Having front-wheel-drive made the DS a bit more unusual for 1965 and especially for 1955. Most of us know about the famous hydropneumatic suspension and the seller says that it “Seems like the previous owner replaced most of the hydraulic lines and spheres are still operational and soft.” It appears to be raised a bit in the photo above. There also appears to be a lot of rust in and on this car, unfortunately. The trunk photo shows a scary amount and it’s also seen on the underside photo of that area.

That famous steering wheel is fantastic. I don’t know if I’ve seen one with AC added but there it is. Of course, it isn’t working and you can see that the whole interior will also need a thorough restoration. It’s original as they say that it “was never redone it still has its wool seat covers door panels are gone almost they are cardboard and didn’t last 54 years.”

This should be Citroën’s 1,911 cc four-cylinder with around 85 hp. The seller says that it “Was driven from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania in the early 2000’s and was stored since. Runs and drives on can fuel. I don’t know the condition of the gas tank most likely will need to be cleaned before use.” They go on to say that “car is not road worthy it has been sitting for may [sic] years, you can drive around the block” but that it should be shipped to the next owner’s garage. This would be too much of a restoration project for me but maybe one of you have restored a car in this condition? If so, what was it?

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  1. Fla finn

    I always sort of liked the styling of these, it really flows. Other than that I never liked vehicles made in France, too strange to me…They sometimes do have interesting features though, like on this the rear fender is mounted with one bolt…It has sort of a hook on the front side and bolt in the rear.

    Style wise even cooler or stranger is the STW version…Looks like a Klingon spaceship. Very rare, even in Europe nowadays.

    My favourite would be Citroen SM…But only if I don’t have to do the maintenance…Never driven one so not sure how it handles, the styling just is great in my eyes.

  2. Bob C.

    Body wise it looks much better than that hodgepodge Citroen posted earlier this month.

  3. Dirk

    These are really neat cars. The original bagged lo-rider. I’ve had 5 or 6 of them including two convertibles and one safari wagon. The French make some of the most interesting cars as well as the best food and the best wine.

  4. Ken Nelson

    The rust here isn’t impossible to fix if u have a cheap 110 v. Mig welder – don’t even need a gas bottle if u use fluxed wire. A great thing about these DS chassis is that it’s all simple box sections with flat walls, so tools as simple as metal hand shears and a big vise can be used to cut & bend pieces to repair the frame. They’ve even be repaired well with pop rivets. And by using slightly thicker steel you can make it stronger than new. You don’t have to duplicate the shapes exactly, just weld patches to make all the box sections “closed” again and the strength
    Will be restored. If all doors open & shut resaonably well the chassis is still straight. I’ve fixed many of them.

  5. KawiVulc

    Everyone has a vehicle they consider the homeliest ever produced… these things… well… if one of these had showed up on our driveway… remember the scene in Vacation when the family sees the Truckster for the first time and Audrey says something like “Is this really our car Dad?” That, only… more. I look at the ones featured from time to time thinking that, maybe, this will be the time I find something I like about them but so far, nothing. Sorry. They’re just uglier ‘n a blue mud fence.

    • Ken W Nelson

      Ah Kawivulc, If you’ve never ridden or driven a DS, you just don’t know what you’ve missed. As for appearance, do you like 911s?
      If you do, consider this: A Northwestern U. aerodynamics study using a wind tunnel around 1965 proved that the DS has lower drag than a 911, and that’s not too shabby – but that’s due to its blue mud fence “ugly” as you call it. My 1959 ID19, the cheap model – no power steering nor power brakes – but still inboard discs on the front and the totally amazing hydropneumatic suspension not to mention a dozen other innovative features, easily cruised at 90 mph all day long from Salt Lake to Riverside Ca. to get me to college back in the ’60s – 750 miles away – in 12-13 hrs in better comfort than a livingroom sofa. It did that on 70 hp while giving me 25 mpg – on a single barrel Solex carb. And recently a 1961 ID19 was allowed in the California Mille run, even tho newer than normally allowed, as they’d never had one entered before, and at various stops the owner had drivers of Ferraris, Astons and other makes remark that they were amazed that the ID stuck on their tails all the way on the twisties and they were pretty worn out vs the unfazed Citroen driver. The smoothness of the Cit vs the bonerattling conventional suspensions on all the fancy, expensive stuff surprised the hell out of them.
      Strongly suggest you check out a well-maintained DS/ID before you critique them – that design was recently voted the most beautiful styling in the world by a well-qualified group of auto writers, and most folks recognize them as “authorities” on design.
      I’ll never forget when I was on a 1971 road rally in Pa on narrow, very twisty backcountry roads, following a Vette, when he slammed on his brakes on seeing a dirt section coming up. I was in my ’67 DS21, whipped around him and never slowed as I shot past him onto the dirt – hardly felt a thing. The super long travel of the Cit suspension arms – ALL mounted NOT in cheap rubber bushings, but Tapered Rollerbearings – which never need replacing nor get sloppy with age, just ate that road up. Most people don’t have a clue about these cars – seems they’re scared of them – and never try to learn anything about them up close. There simply is no car that is close to being as innovative all around as the DS.

  6. Gay Car Nut

    As Citroen DSs go, this is a rare beast. This would make an awesome restoration project for the DS/ID enthusiast looking for a project to restore, or possibly upgrade.

  7. Xjerk

    One old pal used the frame and running gear from a DS19 and with a plywood buck fit a cobra fiberglass shell for DS cobra. He had some skill so it had some use. However it remained way odd.

  8. David Miraglia

    Nearby and next door in New Jersey… always wanted one of these.

  9. robbert

    I have owned 6 of these over the years. Loved everyone of them. This car is well worth the resto. Appreciating asset. The car pictured is sitting at its highest setting a sign the spheres and hydrolics are good. Make sure you always put the Citroen appointed hydrolic fluid in the system anything else will totally stuff it. Guards ,doors come of easy. Rear trunk lid is known for its rust mostly caused by the rubber compound strip that sits at the base of the trunk lid.

  10. James P Bandy

    Et al,
    Have had Citroens all my life…except for an occasional Talbot/Delahaye and now a Salmson…yes,yes, The comment “never liked french stuff” too strange for me….ha. Ah “c’est comme ca” Nelson is right about all he mentioned…my two DS now in my garage for over 30 years….and just sold two SM’s…but again…only for the informed and dare to be different from the flock….vive la difference…..jpb

  11. W9BAG Member

    I’ve always been fascinated by these engineering wonders. There is a video on ‘Jay Leno’s Garage’ that demonstrates all of the fascinating suspension and design features. I’ve watched it several times. Very unique brake “pedal”. They also had headlights that moved with the steering wheel ! Jay, as you all know, has quite a few cars (!), and he describes the DS as the smoothest car he’s ever been in.

  12. Ken Nelson

    You’re right W9BAG, the “brake pedal” on the DS is one of a kind – a large round button, which presses on two tiny hydraulic valves that are pushed down by a teeter-totter plate that bridges the valves, and is pushed by the button. That teeter-totter or trolley plate is moved by a very small hydraulic piston which is controlled by the rear suspension pressure. That piston moves the trolley plate to in effect balance the rear brake pressure vs the front brake pressure as determined by the position of the trolley fulcrum. This gives automatic brake proportioning vs load anywhere in the car – passengers and/or luggage. The button presses on the trolley, which splits the brake effort via the small piston reading the rear suspension (load) pressure, since the DSs suspension valves automatically keep the car at “driving height” regardless of load, front or rear. So – this button activates a totally automatic anti-skid brake system with zero electronics!
    Even better, the total travel of that button is less than 1/2 inch – from zero to full brake lockup, with very precise feedback thru your foot with very little effort. Not only that, but it has to be the safest pedal in the world, as the driver simply pivots his foot from accel. sideways & DOWN instead of LIFTING the foot.
    This is a much faster arrangement than any other car, and you can’t hang your foot up on the side of the pedal because there IS none. It’s a remarkable and ingenious yet extremely powerful brake system – you can practically throw yourself thru the windshield if you hammer that button! And those INBOARD front discs are shielded from road splash unless you’re fording a river, which you can do a lot better in a DS by jacking the car up for more ground clearance at the flip of a lever.
    I can’t think of any other car that had this fantastic brake system back in 1955 as standard equipment, nor does any other car today. I challenge anyone to name a car with more innovation in a single product than the DS – and it’s still as good or better in some ways than any modern car – after 63 years – these cars are a historic landmark in automotive technology.

  13. Urquiola

    This Citroën DS, early 1965 version, that reminds some ‘Muntz’ cars was sold in around $ 3999, not a bad end result for the buyer.
    There are many companies selling parts for these vintage Citroen cars, as example: and places where you can put a call looking for specific body parts, as leboncoin
    DS are not difficult to restore, and the most difficult part, the hydraulic suspension and gearbox shift, can have a repair as long as there was no hydraulic liquid mix, some mixes can literally corrode everything, with the need of a full replacement.

  14. Ken Nelson

    The hydraulics can sound scary, but it’s basically plumbing. If one thinks of it as house plumbing, just holding a different fluid, under very high pressure, the car is just a mobile home with a few different gadgets connected to its plumbing. It can be worked on safely as long as ALL the internal pressure is released, via opening the bleed screw on the pressure regulator, and cycling the height corrector valves with the engine off, to release the suspension pressure. Once the pressure is gone, rusted hydraulic pipes can be replaced with standard steel 3/16 in. dia. brake lines or 1/4 in. ones and steel high pressure compression couplers. All hydraulic seals & rubber leak-catching boots are available. It’s not rocket science – just plumbing. All anyone needs to do to learn about these cars is join a club BEFORE a car is bought, and ask questions.

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