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1968 test of the CitroŽn 3-DS

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Made in South Africa/Vervaarding in Suid-Afrika

An intriguing car with some brilliant features, but in some respects over-complicated





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THE CitroŽn is a very different kind of car. So much so, that it is regarded almost with awe.

It is a complicated car: one glance under the bonnet is sufficient to prove that point: the four-cylinder motor (in full two-litre form on the new DS models) is dwarfed by a host of auxiliaries needed for the power brakes, power steering, Hydropneumatic suspension and heating system. Pumps, tanks, lines and hoses areeverywhere.

It is also a totally-different kind of car to drive. It floats along as no other car can, and its adjustable, self-levelling suspension plays the strangest up-and-down tricks, which are disconcerting until the driver becomes accustomed to them.

UP AND DOWN
Normal suspension position gives a ground clearance of 6.5 in. By lifting the lever (on the floor next to the driving seat) one notch, it rises easily to give 8-in. clearance, and at the top notch floats up to give another 3 in. of clearance for road obstacles. In this form, the suspension is pumped up and harsh-riding.

At the other end of the scale, the suspension can be lowered totally by dropping the lever to the floor, till the car rides on the stops. At this point there is no suspension at all and the ride becomes impossibly hard and bouncy.

These ups and downs, as a matter of interest, have no material effect on performance, as this is a car which is aerodynamic all over, even to smooth contours along its underbody, so frontal area is unaffected by gross height.

Do owners ever use this variable road clearance ability? In our view, it is an over-complication which is not really justified.

HOUSED HEADLAMPS
On the DS models, twin headlamps are used — 5-in. high beam, and 7-in. low beam. On the latest “Three” model — announced a few months ago in the Republic — these lamps are enclosed in sleek plastic housings, and this change is accompanied by a revision of frontal valance and bumper design to give an even more futuristic appearance.

While this jet-shaped nose has a good aesthetic and aerodynamic appearance, it is a sobering fact that the CitroŽn has a quite massive gross frontal area — 29.4 sq. ft.

INTERIOR FEATURES
The interior on the new model remains roomy and comfortable, with a particularly-gratifying amount of headroom and legroom, owing to the long passenger compartment housed inside the very long wheelbase.

Comparing the DS layout with that of the earlier ID models, the instrument panel has been made more involved by the addition of extra switches. There is a group of six unmarked switches at centre. Two operate wipers and washers, but we were unable to fathom the function of the other four!

While it has a heater and comfortable seats, the car does not have much in the way of luxury equipment: no cigar lighter, no reclining seats, and only a very small glove box.

MECHANICAL CHANGE
An important mechanical improvement on the “Three” is that the overall hydraulic system has been revised to enable Hydropneumatic suspension pressure to bleed back into the braking system, in the event of the main hydraulic pressure pump failing.

This means that even if the pressure pump should fail, the brakes remain pressurised. On previous models, a pump failure could lead to loss of brake boosting, leaving the driver with only physical pressure control for the brakes.

In other respects, the “Three” remains as for the DS model: 1,985 c.c. of efficient motor, producing 90 b.h.p. S.A.E. on a compression ratio of 8.75 to l.

DIFFERENT ENGINE
This is a bigger engine than that used in the ID models, and also quite different in specification. Where the 1,911-c.c. engine had a very long stroke (100 mm.) the DS motor is almost square, with a bigger bore. It uses hemispherical combustion chambers and pistons with recessed domes to give a high c.r., and suffers no problems at sea level on our indifferent “premium” fuel.

The engine has five main bearings and is a smooth-running unit. It is paired with such efficient transmission that it is all but impossible to guess that this is a front-wheel-drive car.

PERFORMANCE FACTORS
The new, bigger engine is more powerful, but the DS models are also considerably heavier than the IDI9, and actually have a slightly less-favourable weight-power ratio (35.7 lb./b.h.p. net, against 35.4 for the old model).

There has also been a substantial change in gearing, brought about by the higher revs. peak of the new engine (5,500, as against 4,500) and a change to a 4.375 to 1 final drive ratio in place of the 3.875 used in the ID models.

So where the ID was geared for 23.0 m.p.h./1,000 r.p.m. in the indirect-drive top, the DS turns at 20.5 m.p.h./1,000 in the same over-drive ratio.

The new model is still nominally overgeared (very much so) but this is based only on its increased engine range.


SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:

BRAKES:

SERVICE DATA:

Cylinders
Four in line
Front
Inboard discs
Sump capacity
8.0 pints
Carburettor
Weber twin-choke DDEA-2
Rear
Drums, with balance system
Change interval
3,000 miles
Bore 3.38 in. (86.0 mm.)
Total lining area
N/S
Oil filter capacity
1.0 pints
Stroke
3.37 in. (85.5 mm.)
Boosting
Hydraulic accumulator
Change interval
6,000 miles
Cubic capacity
121.3 cu. in. (1,985 c.c.)
Handbrake position
Under dash
Gearbox/diff. capacity
4.0 pints
Compression ratio
8.75 to 1


Change interval
8,000 miles
Valve gear
O.h.v., pushrods
STEERING:

Air filter clean
6,000 miles
Main bearings
Five
Type
Rack and pinion, power assisted
Greasing points
10
Alrcleaner
Dry element, oil-impregnated
Lock to lock
3.25turns
Greasing interval
3,000 miles
Fuel rating
Premium
Turning circle
36.1ft.
(These basic service recommendations are given for guidance only, and may vary according to operating conditions. Inquiries should be addressed to authorised dealerships.)
Cooling
Water, 19 pints


Electrics
12-volt AC
MEASUREMENTS:



Length overall
190.5 in.
TYRE FRESSURES:

ENGINE OUTPUT:

Width overall
70.5 in.
Radial ply: Front
26 to 30 lb.
Max. b.h.p. S.A.E.
90
Height overall
59.8 in.
Rear
24 to 30lb.
Max. b.h.p. net
78
Wheelbase
123.0 in.


Peak r.p.m.
5,500
Front track
N/S
WARRANTY:

Max. torque/r.p.m.
109/3,500
Rear track
N/S
Six months or 6,000 miles.


Ground clearance
6.5 – 11.0 in. (variable)


TRANSMISSION:

Licensinq weight
2,780 lb.
BASIC PRICES:

Forward speeds
Four


Coast
R2,895
Forward speeds Synchromesh
All
SUSPENSION:

Reef
R2,895
Gearshift
Steering column
Front
Independent


Low gear
3.26 to 1
Type
Hydropneumatic
PROVIDED TEST CAR:
2nd gear
1.84 to 1
Rear
Independent
Stanley Motors, Cape Town.
3rd gear
1.256 to 1
Type
Hydropneumatic


Top gear
0.854 to 1


STANDARD EQUIPMENT:

Reverse gear
3.15 to 1
CAPACITIES:

Heater/demister, folding centre armrest, two-speed windscreen wipers, electric clock, power disc brakes, radial-ply tyres, rubber bumperettes, wheel trims, power steering, variable road clearance.

Final drive
4.375 to 1
Seating
Five
Drive wheels
Front
Fuel tank
14.0 gal.
Tyre size
185 x 15 radial-ply
Luqqage trunk
17.5 cu.ft.













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PERFORMANCE
There is not much change in performance, compared with the IDl9. (CAR Road Test, March, 1966).

The heavier new model is a bit slower off the mark, and the full-power take-off from rest is marked by some front wheel thump not found in the IDl9. On the other hand, this model does not waltz on take-off, which the ID did.

Once it gets going, it picks up speed faster than the ID and records very respectable figures for a car with such a modest weight-power ratio.

In spite of the new bullet-like front end, maximum speed expectancy is not improved in comparison with the IDl9, probably owing to the changed gearing and engine characteristics. /

This is not a performance car, and while it has good cruising ability, the IDl9 was actually superior in cruising at lower revs. (3,040 r.p.m. at 70, for instance, against the 3,420 of the DS models). '

There is also a noticeable lack of pulling power on hills in the “over-drive” top, although this is counter-balanced by the very flexible 3rd gear, which pulls strongly right up to 80 m.p.h.

FUEL ECONOMY
With more weight and lower gearing, the new model cannot quite match the m.p.g. figures of the IDl9, particularly at low and middle speeds. But its 27.0 m.p.g. at 70 is a quite satisfactory figure, and promises overall economy in the region of 30 m.p.g.

STOPPING ABILITY
The brake button which is a most unusual feature of the CitroŽn models is pleasant to work with, once the driver has become accustomed to using it gently. In some ways it is not as satisfactory as a conventional brake pedal, in that control and brake “feel” are not the same, but it works through the power brakes (in-board discs at front, drums at rear) to give sterling stopping ability.

There is a brake-effort distribution system in the dual braking mechanism to inhibit rear-wheel locking, and the car proved capable of stopping very fast and true thanks also to the big radial-ply tyres.

VENTILATION AND NOISE
There is a good cool-air multiple-inlet system, which is just as well as, surprisingly, open windows create a lot of wind roar. Road noise is very low, while mechanical noise levels are fair - though perhaps a bit high for a quality car.

HANDLING AND RIDE
For all its self-levelling ability and exceptionally smooth ride (“float” would be a better word!) the CitroŽn is not a car with notably good handling. The body leans quite heavily, and the steering is very direct and decidedly twitchy: the slightest jerk on the wheel at speed sends the car off on a sheer which is difficult to correct.

High-speed swerving is out, except in very experienced hands.

The ride is unbelievable: the car glides over bad surfaces (corrugations, bumps, undulations — you name it) though with perhaps too much motion. It never seems to be still, and would affect people prone to motion-sickness. It also pitches on acceleration and deceleration.

LOAD AND TOWING
The car takes loads well, but does develop a bit of a tail-down attitude which affects headlight trim. It is not recommended as a towing car for this reason, and also the fact that the engine is well extended without adding to its load.

DRIVER CONTROLS
Everything is easy to reach on the CitroŽn, but one irritation is that the accelerator pedal is set too far back, too close to the driver in relation to other pedals. This is cramping over long distances.

There is also no clear space for the disengaged left foot.

The gearshift is fairly quick, but the synchromesh was easily beaten on 3rd gear, going upwards, on the test car.

Steering and other controls are light, but — as we have mentioned - there seem to be too many switches and odd bits, including two
pull handles (which both have to be released) for the bonnet.

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The massive engine compartment also houses spare wheel and auxiliary power and hydraulic units.
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The CitroŽn leans quite heavily in a corner, with initial oversteer, but holds the road well.
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Deep trunk is fully-lined, and has I7.5 cu. ft. of clear space.

SUMMARY
The CitroŽn 3-DS is something of a contradiction. It has spectacular looks and a fantastic ride, yet it is not really pleasant-riding or smooth-handling.

We would plead for some simplification and more ordinary features.

On the other hand, we must admit that there are some brilliant things about the car, and that it could conceivably be an acquired taste – like caviar — which, once gained, is never lost!



© 2017 CitroŽnŽt/1968 Car