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The birth of the Goddess

From 1951 onwards, prototypes were clandestinely tested on the deserted roads of the Midi. In April 1952, l'Auto Journal published photos of one of these cars. In the June edition, they published accurate technical specifications. Bercot was furious and called in the police but the journalists refused to divulge their sources. CitroŽn improved security and a veil of secrecy descended over the new car, only to be lifted slightly with a preview in 1953 of hydropneumatic suspension in the 15 CV H.

A "new" engine

Following the abandoning of the flat six , Georges Sainturat, the man responsible for designing the Traction's engine was given the task of redesigning that engine so it could be used in the new car. He reworked the cylinder head of the 1 911cc engine (the Traction six cylinder was too long) and with various modifications managed to extract 75 bhp from it. The "new" engine was too tall to fit in front of the gearbox so the Traction layout was employed even though this meant that the engine protruded into the passenger compartment. 

Above - DS engine - front of the car to the left

Below - ID engine - front of the car to the left

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Thursday 5th October 1955

At 9 o'clock, the new CitroŽn was unveiled at the Paris motor show.

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Little by little, the bugs were solved. The hydraulic fluid formulation was improved to reduce oxydisation caused by the intensely hygroscopic properties of the early fluid and eventually, the DS became as reliable as any of its conventional contemporaries - if maintained properly.

The futuristic interior with its plastic dashboard, single spoke steering wheel, hydraulic gearchange and rubber mushroom instead of a brake pedal was every bit as astonishing as the space age exterior.

In an attempt to ameliorate this problem, designs incorporating the differential inside the sump were worked on.  This meant that the engine/transmission assembly could be shortened but financial constraints meant that the project was abandoned.

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Above - DS engine - front of the car to the right

Below - ID engine - front of the car to the right

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Disc brakes

Following Jaguar's 1953 win at le Mans with car equipped with Dunlop disc brakes, it was decided to equip Projet D with front discs mounted inboard on either side of the differential. The DS was effectively a mid-engined front wheel drive car.

The body design was still undecided six months before the new car's launch. Bertoni eventually came up with the definitive shape - a dashboard moulded out of plastic, a single spoke wheel, air vents, rear indicators mounted above the C pillars were all realised at a very late stage as were the precise angles of front and rear screens. 

Minutes after the unveiling of the new car at the Paris salon, dozens of Projet D - now officially named DS 19 were driven out of the factory gates and into the Paris traffic. By 09:45 that morning, CitroŽn had taken 749 firm orders and by the end of the day, 12 000 orders had been placed, the vast majority by people who had never seen the car. The Traction effect had been repeated.

Unfortunately, so had the problems. No-one had the faintest idea how these cars worked. The workshops had no manuals. The salesmen had no publicity material. The obsessive need for secrecy had worked against the company. early cars were less than totally reliable. Many was the owner who found himself stranded with no steering, no brakes, no clutch, no gearchange , no suspension and a big pool of fluid under his car. The local garagiste had no idea what to do. The company quickly mobilised itself, providing the agents with the necessary workshop manuals and training to allow it to honour its guarantees. But when it was working, the DS was undoubtedly la Reine de la Route offering novelty and modernism in addition to unprecedented levels of comfort, road holding, braking and safety.

DS launch

Extensive use was made of plastics - the new wonder material in the nineteen fifties. The futuristic dashboard was entirely made out of plastic as was the cooling fan while the translucent roof was made out of fibreglass.

Above lightweight body panels were bolted (or in the case of the roof, screwed) to the welded "caisson" .

Right centre-point steering (where the pivot point passes through the centre of the point of contact between the tyre and road surface) had been introduced on the 2CV as had inboard brakes.