Visionary spaceship that set standards - Citroën DS20 Break
You might think I was surrounded by Citroën DS when I was a child. There was the neighbor's DS, the one with the red seats. That's how it all started. And Citroën knew how to top it up. To reinforce the double angle effect, there was a DS20 break. A visionary spaceship with plenty of room for children. And a futuristic technology. The celebrated the DS at night. In the deepest darkness of the southern Bavarian Alps.
It must have been around the mid-1970s, at that time there was far from a street lamp on every milk can in southern Bavaria. Just as there is no internet on the few cans that are still available today, but the greatest street lighting in the smallest of places. Which could soon no longer exist, the way things develop.
Anyway, the night was dark, like nights used to be, and a DS20 Break laden with children made its way back to the holiday hotel. The Citroën belonged to a holiday acquaintance and was, due to its spaceship size, the first choice of transport for a pack of children.
Even the retractable seats in the trunk made an impression. Had you seen something like this before? You didn't. Our fathers' Fords, Mercedes and Opels couldn't keep up. So the DS glides through the deep dark Bavarian night, the streets are narrow, narrow, winding and not illuminated.
Sensation, the DS illuminates the curves! The driver turns the steering wheel, the beam of light follows, half a dozen children are flat. Silence in the car - and the "adaptive" cornering light is followed reverently in front of so much technology. The DS floats, it shines in corners, but it can do even more. The level crossing in front of the next village is tough. It is a crest that you fly over in a sporty BMW. The young locals do that. Or how our fathers carefully crossed in the family carriage.
The DS flies - but not like a BMW. She crosses over, with elegance and nonchalance, and the cone of light from the headlights does not bore up into the sky. The beams of light are stoically level. It is not clear why this is the case. Back then, we kids understood the thing about the steering headlights. That a DS naturally levitates because it can do so, too. But the headlight leveling, which is controlled by the hydropneumatic valves, was beyond any terminology at the time.
Probably for the driver who had a financial profession, just like for us children.
Driving through the night further strengthened my Citroën affinity and left traces to this day. When Saab, just 51 years after Citroën, introduced adaptive headlights in the 9-3, the memory revived driving through the night from the backup area of childhood.
I'm not sure anymore if it was a DS20 Break or a much rarer DS23. It doesn't matter either. It's about the DS Break, that Gallic spaceship itself.
A DS20 Break has now surfaced in Sweden that digs up those memories again. A DS with documented Kiruna and film history.
It has such an unbelievably fine patina, it was built in 1973 and is one of those cars that you have to say should never be completely restored. Keep it technically fit, defend it against the nasty rust, but otherwise please don't erase the traces of everyday life of almost 50 years. Because you would rob the DS of its soul and history.
It must be said that the DS has already been repainted once, has not driven through Sweden in winter in recent years and has otherwise been well treated. The owner sells with regret and the realization that nothing lasts forever. And that a 911 Porsche 1981 SC is at least acceptable as a good reason to sell.
The Auction the DS in Sweden starts on August 11th. There aren't many of these visionary spaceships left, time has sent many of them to the afterlife. Not only to work off childhood or youthful memories, this DS20 Break could be a good addition to the personal fleet. She still radiates the fascination of the past.
With images from Bilweb
8 thoughts on "Visionary spaceship that set standards - Citroën DS20 Break"
….my childhood….a yellow ds from matchbox.
I've never forgotten and that's why I bought an untreated d social for everyday life and travel (in winter the old 900s have to serve).
So, if Tom wants to test a 73 in real life.
That sounds tempting! Please test, yes! Maybe in the fall, I'll come back to that.
That's the Asterix & Obelix of European car manufacturing for me. Well written, Tom!
The DS Break is as practical as a menhir and as intelligent as his little friend. The hammer is that all the solutions described in the article were implemented using purely mechanical means and still look futuristic today.
The biaxial coupling of the light with an adaptive chassis and the steering is still a small technical marvel and a purely analogue masterpiece. Simply wonderful and still incomprehensible what happened as if by magic...
You have to remember. Back then, drivers of German or Swedish cars had to open the bonnet and adjust the headlights as they see fit every time they loaded or unloaded luggage. Many were too lazy or didn't know how to do it. Or they didn't even have the opportunity when they started the journey because it was still too bright to adjust the headlights.
This resulted in veritable blind duels on narrow, dark country roads, which probably also caused a few accidents. It was not uncommon to ask oncoming vehicles to dim their headlights by flashing their headlights. It was difficult to distinguish between incorrectly adjusted headlights and high beam. And many a driver, who met others brilliantly, was unwilling to take the headlight flasher as a friendly hint, as constructive criticism. They then switched on their high beams in response, even though they had already dazzled the car. I guess that means hey you idiot, that was just my low beam blinding you (because I don't reset it just because my trunk is full today). If you want it that way, I can blind you in a completely different way. Here you have my high beam...
That was sometimes really criminal and extremely dangerous. Luckily it's no longer an issue today. Citroën had already solved this a few decades earlier and without it being required by a legislator. It was only for xenon that regulations were issued that the headlights had to regulate themselves automatically and would otherwise pose a risk. But that was then solved with sensors and servomotors, cables and computers. Even today, very few cars have real cornering lights. Instead, they turn on a fog light, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right, which totally irritates me. Is a headlight broken, or why are there three lights instead of four?
If fog lights improve illumination without dazzling, why not just keep them both on at all times?
What the DS did back then, purely analogue and mechanical, is still a dream of the future. And it wasn't just constructed around 50 years ago. No, the construction is almost 70 years old. With all my fondness for Swedish cars, but a DS is simply awesome and always an icon - as a sedan, break or convertible ...
the auction house has more pictures online, the DS has a really nice patina. A complete restoration would really be a sacrilege here. Hopefully that won't happen.
I just looked at the prices for good DSs... They've gotten really expensive. There are also a few delicious DS in Germany. However, the break models are really rare.
The DS is still a visitor today, as if from another galaxy. It stands out positively on the street and is a design icon. I think it's brilliant that the blog editors dare to look at such special cars.
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