Citroen - made famous by Maigret and still turning heads today

Paul Jolly sat behind the wheel of a car

Paul Jolly - Credit: Paul Jolly

Trawling the dealerships on any industrial estate will reveal acres of new cars much like one another, including Fiat, Peugeot, VW, and others, but one manufacturer has a history unlike any other of pioneering the future of design. 

Citroen advanced their designs in the 1930s with the Traction Avant, which literally meant Front Wheel Drive. There were many other features that put it well ahead of other designs. This is the car many will remember from the TV detective series Maigret and they were mostly all black. 

The design eliminated the need for a separate chassis, using a unitary one-piece welded body, thus reducing the ground clearance for better road holding and a greatly reduced weight, which helped performance and economy. Additionally, the engine/gearbox layout was reversed, putting the engine well back into the body and the gearbox out front between the driving wheels. This also helped balance and handling. 

Further advances included independent suspension all round, hydraulic brakes instead of cable/rod operated brakes, rack and pinion steering and telescopic shock absorbers, as are in use today. 

The futuristic DS (French for Goddess) took the world by storm in 1955 with self-levelling hydro pneumatic suspension and an aerodynamic shape that was unlike anything before or indeed after for many a year. The DS was conceived before WW2, and the launch was delayed but the wait was worth it. Over 12,000 orders were placed on the first day of the motor show, 743 of those in the first 15 minutes. 

The car and its incredible suspension system is accredited with saving General De Gaulle’s life after a machine gun assassination attempt blew out the tyres but the car was able to continue on three wheels to safety.   

The little grey corrugated 2CV was designed for farmers delivering eggs to market across ploughed fields and is quite legendary in its own right. 

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My ultimate Citroen design is the sensational SM from 1970, a Maserati powered Supercar coupe using the same suspension as the DS and a futuristic style that turns heads to this day.