Here is the 2nd part of the article of visit of the Citroën and DS Conservatory. After a 1st part devoted to productions from the creation in 1919 to the SM, here is the second part. It covers models after the 1970s, but especially competition, style and concept car studies, and other thematic aspects.
With nearly 300 cars, the Citroën and DS Conservatory presents production cars as well as prototypes, concepts and racing cars. Not to be missed (but it remains subjective) in this second part:
- The 1972 DS Groupe V and the 1973 SM Bandama, an era of improbable rally car
- The lineage of the WRC, which recalls a harvest of victories and titles for Citroën and Sébastien Loeb, when the domination of the discipline had earned the Citroën team the nickname “the Red Army”
- The island of concept cars, with several ideas that we would have loved to see come to reality
Other models post 1970 and Youngtimers
The subject matter of the Citroën and DS Conservatory being particularly rich, I have chosen to treat in this article the “classic” models, and not to present the more recent cars, basically from the 1970s/1980s, better known and that we still see regularly circulating in our streets. However, some cars presented deserve a little “spotlight”.
First of all, the 1970 M 35 could be seen as a 2+2 coupe derived from the AMI. The M 35 does use part of the front of the AMI 8, but the rest is specific even if we feel at the line that aesthetics has not been the primary concern of the engineers. Citroën is interested in the Wankel rotary engine and develops the small M 35 series equipped with a monorotor in order to have it tested on a large scale by drivers, Citroën customers driving at least 30,000 km per year. 500 copies are planned, a little more than half will actually be produced, the number in the series being inscribed on the front wing, but by regularly skipping numbers, which will lead to some confusion about the actual number produced.
At the end of the test period, Citroën wanted to recover all the models to destroy them. Fortunately, no doubt sniffing out the future collector, many owners or dealers will “forget” to return their car, which today makes it possible to find them regularly in museums and to recall this page of history. From this experience, Citroën will develop a GS Birotor presented in 1973 and which was to be the top version of the GS range, displaying a power of more than 100 hp, important for a medium sedan of the time. Reliability concerns and high consumption (up to 20 liters/100 km) will get the better of this version, less than 850 units being produced. Here again, Citroën will try to get back the cars sold to destroy them, but fortunately again, about fifty will escape the hammer and these cars are the delight of collectors and some museums, including of course the Citroën Conservatory.
Between the GS and CX, Project L foreshadows the CX that must succeed the aging DS. The aerodynamic and elegant line recalls several studies of cars designers in the 1970s, we find the logo and the air intake on the hood like the SM, but with a more conventional grille. 2 special series for Group B homologation stand out from the more conventional models.
2 special series for Group B homologation stand out from the more conventional models. The Visa 4×4 1000 Pistes from 1984 transforms the small Visa city car into a racing beast, especially for brittle terrain. The name comes from the victory won in 1983 on this gravel rally by the prototype that will be used to develop the model. If the production version (200 units) is “civilized”, the model presented here is stripped of its rear seat and equipped with a roll bar, ready to face the race.
The BX 4 TC (4WD, Turbo engine) is also produced in 200 units for homologation in Group B. Domed hood, very widened wings, the BX 4 TC does not hide its character, even if it presents itself as a sporty and comfortable sedan. The CX Gti Turbo2 is the ultimate version of the CX. If from the outside, nothing distinguishes it from a classic model, the model presented at the Conservatory is a version in Prestige finish, high protection armored developed to meet the demand of some customers.
Finally, let us mention the Xantia Activa V6 of 1996, top-of-the-range Xantia family, a nice high-performance and comfortable road car with its 194 hp V6 and active suspension.
The competition for Citroën is mainly rallying. If everyone probably remembers the victories and titles of Citroën and Sébastien Loeb (record holder of the number of victories and titles) in the World Rally Championship between 2002 and 2012, the presence of the brand in rallies is much older. I mentioned in 1st part of the article the Traction which raced in rallying in the 1930s and especially in the early 1950s, in the hands of private drivers, winning many events, especially winter when handling took precedence over power.
The DS took over in the late 1950s, winning the 1959 Monte Carlo Rally. The Citroën Competition team (now Citroën Racing) appeared in 1965 under the impetus of René Cotton, mainly participating in difficult rallies, on snow or on brittle tracks where suspension and handling were essential. At that time, the cars were very close to production cars, but in the 1970s, competition was tough, the regulations were quite open, and allowed to create spectacular transformations. At the Conservatory, it is mainly these largely modified cars, DS and SM that are on display.
Thus these 2 DS Coupé of 1972, homologated in Group V, the most permissive. One (the blue one) is shortened, with a deeply modified rear. Seen from the rear, difficult to recognize a DS! The engine is also pushed to nearly 200 hp. The other (orange) looks more like a DS whose quarter would have been cut at the rear doors. It bears the acronym DS 21, but is actually equipped with a V6 of SM increased to 250 hp. Bjorn Waldegarrd finished the 1972 Ronde de Chamonix on 3 tires, one of the front tires having exploded in a corner at 1/4 of the race, which did not prevent him from finishing 2nd.
The SM made its 1st race at the 1971 Rallye du Maroc. It is almost standard, simply reinforced and it will win the race with more than an hour ahead. At that time, African rallies – Morocco, Senegal, Bandama in Côte d’Ivoire or Safari in Kenya – were real marathon raids of 3,000 to 4,000 km, on brittle tracks, often open to traffic and without the service parks of modern rallies. It is precisely the Bandama Rally of 1973 in which participates the SM largely shortened with its truncated rear (sometimes nicknamed van) presented at the Conservatory. With its engine pushed to 250 hp and hydraulic suspension, it could swallow the special stages on dusty and ground roads at more than 200 km / h, a unique performance at that time.
Last car presented in this period, the CX took over. The car on display finished 2nd in Senegal in 1977. 30 cars at the start, only 7 at the finish, including 5 CX. This shows the toughness of the event and the performance of the Citroën team. An identical model will win the following year.
In the same decade, the 2 CV is also playing in other types of sporting challenges. The 2 CV is also an explorer, and Citroën organized several raids and expeditions, such as the Paris-Kabul-Paris in 1970, the Paris-Persepolis-Paris in 1971 or the Raid Africa in 1973, represented by 3 cars that participated in these exceptional events. Alongside these long-distance travelers, a 2 CV Cross, participant in this “speed” competition on cross-country tracks, shows the extent of the car’s talents. For several years, a championship will pit the 2 CV stripped and lightened, offering what was then certainly the cheapest motor racing formula! The 2 CV has also participated in many road races in the hands of private drivers, it is regularly seen in historic racing events, on the road or on ice events! In the mid-1980s, Citroën entered the World Rally Championship, first with the Visa 100 Pistes (see above), then with the BX 4 TC Group B in 1986 derived from the small series model presented above. But against the formidable Audi Quattro, Lancia 037 and Delta S4 or Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, the BX 4 TC was not competitive, and the discontinuation of Group B by the FISA (International Federation) put an end to the operation.
Au milieu des années 1980, Citroën s’engage en Championnat du monde des rallyes, avec la Visa 100 Pistes d’abord (voir plus haut), puis avec la BX 4 TC Groupe B en 1986 dérivée du modèle de petite série présenté plus haut. Mais face aux redoutables Audi Quattro, Lancia 037 et Delta S4 ou Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, la BX 4 TC n’était pas compétitive, et l’arrêt du Groupe B par la FISA (Fédération Internationale) mit fin à l’opération.
In the 1990s, Citroën entered raid rallies with the ZX. These are in fact pure prototypes, whose line is reminiscent of the ZX series, and which actually reuse many elements of the Peugeot 405 T16 that skimmed these events in previous years. Between 1990 and 1997, Citroën won 36 victories, including 4 times the “Dakar” and 5 FIA Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Cups. There are 3 models of ZX Rallye Raid, with the victorious car of the Dakar 1991, an EVO 3 winner of the Dakar 1995, then the last EVO 5 which raced the Dakar 1996. Very wide, very high to pass the dunes and tracks, large suspension travel, large rear wings, central engine … we are far from the quiet production ZX!
Change of discipline and scale in 1998, with the Xsara Kit Car. Light and powerful, the Xsara Kit Car is a 2WD at ease on asphalt rallies where it wins its first victories. To aim for the world championship, Citroën had to move to the higher WRC category. After a limited campaign in 2002 to break in, the Xsara WRC won its first constructors’ title in 2003. The car on display is the one that won the Monte Carlo Rally that year in the hands of Sébastien Loeb.
The C4 WRC replaced the Xsara in 2007, and continued its harvest of victories and titles, as evidenced by the cars struck with the Number 1 on display, including a 2010 version, the last year of the C4. In 2011, the DS3 WRC replaced the C4, following the change in regulations and the brand’s desire to promote this new model. The model on display is a 2016, which was driven by the Brit Chris Meeke, hence the presence of the Union Jack on the roof air intake. In 2017, Citroën Racing entered then the C3 WRC, but the result was mixed, despite the return of multiple world champion Sébastien Ogier in 2019, the end of his career for the C3 and Citroën’s withdrawal from the WRC. Another rally car, the C2 Super 1600 from 2008, with which Sébastien Ogier won his first world championship title, in the Junior category, antechamber of the WRC.
In parallel with the WRC rally activity, Citroën entered the WTCC (World Touring Car Championship) from 2014 to 2016 with a car derived from the C-Élysée, a model little known in Europe. The C-Élysée is a 4-door three-body version of the ZX assembled in China. Citroën won the constructors’ and drivers’ titles (with Argentine driver José María López) every season. In this section, the cars are presented in a single row, which makes it possible to see them well from all angles.
Finally, let’s mention a car a little apart, a single-seater MEP with Citroën GS engine from the early 1970s. It bears the initials of its designer (Maurice Émile Pezoux, Citroën dealer in Albi), who had developed a line of very thin and light single-seaters, used mainly in racing schools for apprentice drivers. In this version with GS engine, it will be used for the “Formula Blue”, an initiation racing formula, on racetracks and hill climbing, from 1969 to 1975.
Concept Cars, style studies
The other original and quite spectacular island of the Citroën & DS Conservatory is that of concept cars and style studies. It brings together nearly thirty cars, unique by nature, and corresponding to more or less realistic proposals. These concepts were used to announce a new model, to present style ideas that will then be taken up, to indicate the direction of the design, to test ideas, to illustrate a technological evolution…
These concept cars are often exhibited at 1 or 2 car shows, presented in magazines and then disappear from circulation to be stored in reserves or even too often destroyed. Fortunately, Citroën has kept these studies, and it is therefore quite exceptional to be able to (re)discover them in this space, especially since Citroën designers have been particularly prolix. Some are just studies, while others are rolling and functional prototypes. The oldest concept is the C10 from 1956, a very aerodynamic concept in the shape of a drop of water of a small 4-seater sedan, equipped with a 2 CV engine (model exhibited at Rétromobile 2023).
If the themes addressed by these concepts are varied, there are several recreational vehicles, sports and futuristic cars, alternative mobility studies. The appreciation of lines and style remains very subjective, but among the most attractive of these concepts, I will place DS-Spirit, the series of “C” C-Airdream, C-SportLounge and C-Métisse. Special mention also to the C5-Airscape, which could have been a beautiful convertible taking up the tradition of DS convertibles.
One of the objectives of these concepts is also to prepare customers for technological developments. Citroën proposed Revolte and Survolt in 2009 and 2010, to give fun and sporty images to the transition to hybrid and electric.
A series of shelves against the wall presents many scaled-down models in different concept materials or models produced.
The brand is young and therefore cannot claim to exhibit a long history, but a space is dedicated to it, to present some specific models, such as the DS9 concept that preceded the production model. In the racing island, DS Automobiles is also represented by a Formula-E, a 100% electric single-seater world championship in which DS Automobile is one of the main competitors, having won several drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.
Citroën is the brand that has almost always had in its catalog the most luxurious model of French car production, and it is therefore quite logical that we find the Citroën, and now the DS, in the park of the Presidency of the Republic. Some models have been specifically adapted to the needs of the Presidency, especially for parades such as the DS 21 Presidential, a 6.53m long ceremonial limousine or the famous SM Presidential, lengthened and discoverable, which will serve under 4 French Presidents, from Georges Pompidou to Jacques Chirac, and will often parade at receptions of foreign heads of state or distinguished guests.
The Conservatory also presents a C6, which has also known 4 Presidents, from Jacques Chirac to Emmanuel Macron, as well as the DS 5 and DS 7 Crossback prepared for the investitures of Presidents Hollande and Macron. The DS 7 Crossback Presidential was delivered in 2017 to the Presidency, in preview since the first production models were delivered in 2018, an ideal exhibition for a high-end car.
Citroën also has a long tradition of utility vehicles, and several are on display. We have already mentioned the 2 CV vans, we find the famous Type H, better known by its nickname TUB, as well as the generations that preceded it. The overall style of this utility truck remains very iconic, as shown by the Tubik concept of 2011, with a line directly inspired by the Type H, but features of a large luxurious sedan.
There are also agricultural tractors although production has been limited, a 1947 coach built on a Citroën chassis-engine assembly, fire engines, one from the 1920s, and the other more imposing, derived from the Belphegor range of trucks, was used by many fire brigades in France, since the years 1960 up to years 2000 for some. More unusual, a helicopter that was equipped with a Citroën engine.
In a corner of the building, André Citroën’s office has been reproduced, with a model of the Eiffel Tower recalling the famous advertising campaign for which the Eiffel Tower was illuminated in Citroën’s colours. Models recall Citroën cruises, those great expeditions that opened paths and promoted the brand around the world.
Above the designer models, a series of pedal cars featuring the style of several models make the link with the Citroënnette exhibited in the collection. The latter was an electric car for children from the 1920-1930s that took the look of the production model. It is said that André Citroën dreamed that Citroën would be the 3rd word pronounced by a child, after mom and dad!
In conclusion of this series of 2 articles, the Citroën and DS Conservatory is a place to visit absolutely in the Paris region for all car lovers. Easily accessible, it offers an exciting visit, whether you are oldtimers or youngtimers, racing or production, design or unusual, or a little of all that!
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Museums are living places, and therefore the content or layout may have changed between the publication of this article and your visit. The layout may be different, cars may be absent (overhaul, maintenance, loan…) and new ones may have joined the exhibition.