Solid Driver: 1970 Citroen D Special

By 1970, the Citroen DS had been in production for 15 years but was still one of the most unique, if complicated, cars on the market. The main feature that set it apart from anything else on the road was its hydropneumatic system which powered the suspension, steering, brakes, and shifting (on semi-automatic equipped cars). For buyers looking for a slightly less complex and expensive version of the DS, Citroen offered the D Special that had previously been available as the ID19. Virtually identical in appearance to the DS, the D Special still retained its hydropneumatic system though with a simplified braking system and no semi-automatic transmission option. Available here on eBay in Sacramento, California is a well-preserved 1970 Citroen D Special that is ready for the road.

According to the seller, this D Special was recently revived after being off the road for 20 years, and is nearly rust-free aside from some bubbling in the trunk area on both the lid and the lip. There are shots of the underside in the middle and the trunk floors which look rock solid. These cars were made of thin sheet metal so it’s always good to find one with as little rust as possible, though patch panels are available from sources such as Citroen Classics in the UK. The paint is said to be original, and the body appears to be free of any major damage and all trim is present.

Being a North American market car, this D Special has quad sealed beam headlights and front turn signals in the lower valance with the original holes in the fenders blocked off by curved stainless steel plates. The turn signals in the rear “trumpets” are also the larger US units, though on the rear panel someone did fit rectangular European lenses in place of the twin round taillight/brake and reverse lights that would have originally been fitted to an American example. If a new owner could locate a set of glass-covered European headlights it would transform the look of the car, and the inner high beam lamps turn with the steering!

On the inside, the quickest way to identify an ID or a D Special is by the appearance of a conventional brake pedal instead of the mushroom-shaped “brake button” of the higher spec DS with its load-sensitive braking system. Like all other D Specials, this one has a more spartan interior with vinyl “targa” upholstery on the seats, less ornate door panels and headliner, and rubberized material covering the rocker panels and engine hump. At some point, someone swapped in a black leather rear seat from a top-of-the-line DS Pallas. The original carpet has been replaced by what looks to be indoor house carpet that was trimmed to fit. The dashboard, instrumentation, and single spoke steering wheel are all the same as a DS, and as with all D Specials of this era, this one has a column-mounted shifter for its four-speed transmission. There are three auxiliary gauges in the middle of the dash cubby where an optional radio could be fitted.

The D Special had a slightly smaller 1985 cc inline four with a single barrel Solex carburetor vs. the 2175 cc four with a two-barrel Weber carburetor of the DS. The seller states that this engine was rebuilt right before the car’s 20-year slumber, and that receipts of that work are included. The radiator has been re-cored and there is a new battery and a fresh oil change. The suspension goes up and down as it should and has been fitted with four new spheres of the single-piece, non-rebuildable type. A major advantage of these later cars is the use of the green mineral-based LHM fluid which did not absorb moisture like the red LHS fluid found in earlier cars. The owner says this car runs and shifts nicely and that the suspension is good and tight and was possibly rebuilt at one point. There are still a few things to address including a sticking starter solenoid, a bad ignition switch, and an inoperable horn. There is also no factory tool kit or spare tire, but these items should not be difficult to track down.

With just over three days left to go, bidding is just over $8,000 and continues to climb. The values of these old Citroens don’t appear to be going anywhere but up and it is sometimes difficult to find one that is not either a cheap basket case or an expensive fully restored example. This D Special like a nice driver that could keep its new owner busy with some small projects. What’s your take on this simplified version of the legendary Citroen DS?

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    This will make a good entry in Citroen ownership. Conventional braking, steering reduce the amount of complexity and repair needs. I will still hold out though for a DS.

    Like 3
  2. Paul

    This is possibly the ugliest car I have ever seen. And that steering wheel shaft looks like it needs some Viagra. 🤓

    Like 1
  3. Car Nut Tacoma

    Another nice Citroen. Assuming everything works and parts are available, I’d say it’s worth close to the $8,650 asking price.

    Like 1
  4. Ken Nelson Member

    Minor corrections Alfasud – the D Special has same brakes as all DSs – only the pedal is different and the pedal valving. The DS21s have the mushroom brake button, and a teeter-totter brake balancing beam underneath the buttom which automatically compensates for different loads front/rear to get best braking WAY before ABS came on the scene.

    The ID has a typical hanging pedal, actiing on a simpler brake valve – and I’m not sure if it has quite the load balancing capability of the DS. However all DS models & IDs have same inboard hydraulically powered disc brakes at front that can stand the car on its nose. There is no master cylinder on any DSs except for the original ID prior to around 1960. All since then are full hydraulic stored pressure systems, meaning you can make multiple full brake stops with a dead engine for a considerable time after the engine has been shut down for any reason.

    Further, all DSs and IDs after around 1960 had full power rack & pinion steering which resists any input from the road side – only from the driver’s side. So hitting a cinderblock at any speed will not deflect the steering – it’s a super safe system. 58 yrs of driving DSs has revealed this car to be the most innovative car ever put into production. If there are doubters out there, I haven’t heard from them – I’m still waiting.

    Like 3
    • MikeH

      The only car that could complete with you statement is “most innovative car ever put into production” would be the Citroen 2CV, albeit on a different level.

      Like 1
    • alphasud Member

      Thanks for clarifying the difference of the braking system. As for the steering I understood they both had the power assist but only the DS had Diravi but maybe I’m wrong on that point. Either way I welcome the education.

      • Ken Nelson Member

        Alfasud, only the CX had the Diravi system – the DS always had the standard power rack, both DS and IDs, after about 1960. My first one, a ’59 ID19, had manual rack, larger diameter steering wheel and an actual brake master cylinder. However, the master cyl had a safety valve at its front end. If the pedal ever hit the floor due to a leak, the valve connected the brake lines to the suspension cyllinders at front and used their pressure to activate the brakes. I had that happen once on that car. Can’t remember why, but my pedal hit the valve, and instantly locked the front wheels! It was quite a surprise as I didn’t know that about the system at the time. However, as that was probably the first time that had happened, internal corrosion made the valve stick and the brake wouldn’t release until I bled one of them! So the DOT 3 fluid cars always need to be exercised so moisture corrosion doesn’t cause brake parts to stick from disuse.

        Like 1
  5. Joe Conte

    Ken!
    How could you forget that the SM first had the DIRAVI steering? It was carried over to the CX, slightly tamed.

    • Ken Nelson Member

      Joe, I never knew the SM system was called Diravi, and having never looked closely at a CX system altho I’ve repaired a couple things on CXs, and having had 8 SMs together at one time, I just assumed the SMs system with the force control mechanism on the front of the trans was strictly SM. If the CX had it, where was the force control unit?
      And if I recall correctly, I thought I’d heard in the past that a diaphragm inside the SM control could fail, and was a real problem to repair, but I’ve never had one apart. Still have one potential driver SM and two parts cars.

      Like 1
      • Joe Conte

        Ken,
        Citroen used the name Diravi for both the SM and CX systems. Basically, it is just a term derived from the French for “Variable Steering Assist.” You are correct that the two were not exactly the same in operation, but the function was the same. The CX has the system enclosed in the steering column assembly. One difference is that the center position for the steering wheel is easily adjusted on the SM. I’m still trying to figure it out on my CX.

        Like 1
  6. Ken Nelson Member

    I had heard the cx was tricky in some respect –

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