There was a lot going on in 1955. Europe was still being rebuilt from the ashes of World War II, which had gone out with a bang just one decade before. Eisenhower was in the White House, the Soviet Union was on the rise, and American exceptionalism and excess were out in force. It was in these uncertain times that one of history’s most significant cars launched.
The Citroën DS must have shocked the car-buying public like no vehicle had before and few have since. It featured more innovations than the German V2 rocket that rained down just a few years past, not the least of which was its striking design.
The car’s sleek, aerodynamic styling was unprecedented. At the time it must have looked like it descended straight from heaven, an appropriate metaphor since the name, DS, is a bit of a pun. “Déesse” in French actually means goddess.
And her headline feature was a hydropneumatic suspension system. This innovation gave the car a number of advantages over its competition. It delivered an incredibly smooth ride, and as a result the DS was often referred to as a “magic carpet.” Drivers could also adjust the ride height, perfect for traversing rough terrain. Additionally, the suspension was load-leveling and would automatically keep things on an even keel, perfect if there was heavy cargo in the trunk.
Amazingly, the suspension had one other trick up its sleeve. Wheels and tires could be changed without a jack. It could adjust accordingly to keep the car supported on just three wheels!
Other innovations included inboard-mounted disk brakes, a feature that reduced unsprung mass greatly benefitting the ride and handling. Later models had swiveling headlamps that would turn with the steering wheel.
The innovative Citroën DS was introduced in 1955 and remained in production for 20 years.