1968 Citroen DS21 Chapron
4-cyl. 2175cc/109hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Introduced in 1965, the Citroen DS1 is the 2,175cc, 109-hp variant of the famous Citroen DS. Its predecessor was the DS19 and it was replaced by the DS23 in 1973. The DS21 was offered in four-door sedan, two-door convertible, wagon and “Pallas” luxury configurations. As before, the engine was up front and it drove the front wheels. The transmission was a 4-speed semi-automatic.
The first DS21s utilized the same dramatic shape penned by Italian industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni almost a decade before. In 1968, the DS got a major facelift by Robert Operon. The revised DS21 introduced glazed driving lights that turned with the steering wheel, although American legislation prohibited these. Four exposed, fixed lights were used here instead. The engine also got a bump in power, and in 1969 power was raised again to 139hp with optional Bosch fuel injection. In the early ‘70s, fully automatic 4-speed and 5-speed manual gearboxes became available.
The Citroen DS21 has a hydro-pneumatic suspension system that raises the car when it is started. The original oil used for this suffered from being hygroscopic (readily absorbing moisture from the air) and 1967 saw a change to a more stable fluid called “LHM”. The seals between the two systems react badly to the incorrect oil, so the LHM is dyed green and parts painted accordingly to avoid mistakes.
The DS21 was still primarily sold as a four-door sedan with the “Pallas” serving as the luxury model, but both a wagon and a convertible were available. The convertible model could be had with either factory “Cabriolet D’Usine” or privately-produced Chapron bodywork. The unique DS21 Presidential became the only car that Charles D’Gaulle would ride in after the car’s hydropneumatic suspension system played a large part in his escaping a 1962 assassination attempt.
As with the previous DS19, the DS21 had a less complex sibling in the ID21. This did away with the power steering and had conventional brakes in addition to a bit less power.
The Citroen DS does not reward hard driving driving but rather cossets with its sophisticated suspension to provide a comfy ride no matter what the state of the road surface. The only real let down is under the hood, where the engine is derived from the prewar Traction Avant. The brakes are also quite sensitive, but they just take some getting used to.
Rust is the big enemy of the DS, particularly around the boot area, rear chassis and sills. The engines and gearboxes are robust with many refurbished major components available. The earlier hydraulic fluid should be replaced every 18 months.
The general rule with a DS is the later the car the better. Injected models fetch more than their carburetted equivalents, although they are relatively rare. The estate in turn is worth more than the saloon, but it’s the convertibles that are most desirable.