1967 Citroen DS
Year of manufacture1967
1967 Citroën DS21 Décapotable
Chassis no. 4600088
Just as it had done 21 years previously with the revolutionary 'Traction Avant', Citroën stunned the world again in 1955 with the launch of the strikingly styled 'DS'. Beneath the shark-like newcomer's aerodynamically efficient, low-drag bodyshell there was all-independent, self-levelling, hydro-pneumatic suspension; plus power-operated brakes, clutch, and steering. No European car would match the DS's ride quality for several years, the fundamental soundness of Citroën's ahead-of-its-time hydro-pneumatic suspension being demonstrated by its survival in top-of-the-range models until earlier this year. The DS's original 1,911cc, overhead-valve, long-stroke engine was replaced in 1966 by a short-stroke 1,985cc unit, also available in 2,175cc and 2,347cc versions, while other DS developments included swivelling headlights, fuel injection and a five-speed gearbox.
Other models offered alongside the original DS were the ID (a simplified, cheaper version), the cavernous Safari estate and the two-door Décapotable (convertible), the latter boasting coachwork by Henri Chapron. (Chapron's first convertibles had been produced independently of Citroën, but the factory eventually gave the project its blessing). Citroën's sanctioned Décapotables were built on the longer, stronger chassis of the ID Break (Estate) before being despatched to Chapron for completion.
Henri Chapron had started his career in the motor industry as an upholsterer's apprentice, working for various coachbuilders in the Paris area. In 1919 he started his own business in the well-to-do Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine where his main activity was re-bodying cars that had been requisitioned in wartime by the French Government. Chapron moved to larger premises in Levallois-Perret in 1923 and became the official builder of coach and convertible models for Delage and Delahaye, going on to body many of the most elegant French and European automobiles of the inter-war period.
Despite a much-reduced demand for bespoke coachwork after WW2, Chapron survived thanks to his exemplary creations for Delahaye, Talbot and Salmson, switching to offering bespoke versions of unitary construction models when motor manufacturers began to abandon the traditional separate chassis frame. The arrival of the Citroën DS in 1955 presented Chapron with a fresh opportunity that would result in his name being forever linked with this remarkable car. In total, 1,365 usine (factory) convertibles were made with either the DS19 or DS21 engine between 1960 and 1971, while Chapron built a further 389 of his own, the last in the mid-1970s.
This car is a 1968 model year DS21 Décapotable, chassis number '4600088', built by Citroën in November 1967 and delivered from Henri Chapron's workshop in December 1967. It was specified for Canadian export, with some special features such as cold-weather heating and a more powerful alternator. As a 1968 model it combines the later directional headlamps and green LHM fluid with the early style dashboard and this example also has the desirable Citroën semi-automatic hydraulic gearbox. The car was re-imported into Europe in 2009, and its then owner commissioned a complete restoration of the bodywork from a Citroën specialist in Amsterdam: DS Keyzer. The DS is finished in Bleu Antarctique, an original Chapron colour, while the interior has been re-upholstered in natural leather and a new black hood installed. We are advised by the owner that everything is still in excellent condition. The vendor bought the Citroën from a Dutch dealer, Alex von Mozer of VSOC, in 2014. He thought it would benefit from a complete mechanical restoration and consigned it to Citroën specialist Atelier 524 in Grenoble. Well documented photographically, the work included disassembly and rebuilding of the engine, gearbox, brakes, steering, hydraulic system and electrics, at a total cost of around 45,000 (bills available). Since then the car has been kept at the vendor's home in the South of France and has been used sparingly in the summer months. The DS is registered in France, with a Carte Grise normale. Serviced and issued with a current Contrôle Technique, it comes with attestations of authenticity from Noëlle-Eléonore Chapron and from Citroën Heritage.