Once in a while comes a product that’s so far ahead of its time that its almost impossible to believe. Now, I’m not talking about cool-looking electronic gimmickry, or improvements on existing principles, notable or not. I’m talking about radically new designs, new ideas, new concepts and new ways of doing things. In the automotive world, this is best exemplified by the 1955 Citroen DS. It had four wheels, an engine and the customary trappings of a car, but what was different was how it was applied. In one word: hydraulics. Its hydraulically-controlled, adjustable and self-leveling pneumatic suspension is a thing of beauty, giving the DS the smoothest magic-carpet ride you can imagine, in addition to endowing this relatively big car with uncanny handling. Even today, you would be hard-pressed to find a car with a suspension as comfortable and as advanced as that of a car introduced almost 60 years ago. To say that it was revolutionary at the time is a gross understatement.
What the otherwise awesome Citroen DS didn’t have was a good engine, and it never did, although things did get a lot better after the first few years. The original engine was a clunky 1934 vintage (and by ‘vintage’ I mean ‘obsolete’) 1.9-liter four-cylinder recycled from the Light 15, producing only 63 horsepower. The top of the line came in the mid-60s, when it was fitted with a 2.3-liter engine producing a more acceptable 130 horsepower. Top speed in this case was a 117 miles per hour, and boasted a 0-60 time of 10.5 seconds.
The DS was offered in a variety of models, including the up-market Prestige, the expensive and very desirable décapotable (convertible), the cavernous Safari station-wagon, and of course, stripped-down versions that appealed to thousands of taxi drivers in Paris and throughout Europe. The 1955 Citroen DS was a revolution in its time, and it’s no surprise that it is so fondly remembered.