1963 Citroën DS Décapotable
Just as it had done 21 years previously with the revolutionary ‘Traction Avant’, Citroën stunned the world again in 1955 with the launch of the strikingly styled ‘DS’. Beneath the shark-like newcomer’s aerodynamically efficient, low-drag bodyshell there was all-independent, self-levelling, hydro-pneumatic suspension; plus power-operated brakes, clutch and steering. No European car would match the DS’s ride quality for several years, the fundamental soundness of Citroën’s ahead-of-its-time hydro-pneumatic suspension being demonstrated by its survival in present-day top-of-the-range models. The DS’s original 1,911cc, overhead-valve, long-stroke engine was replaced in 1966 by a short-stroke 1,985cc unit, also available in 2,175cc and 2,347cc versions, while other DS developments included swivelling headlights, fuel injection and a five-speed gearbox.
Other models offered alongside the original DS were the ID (a simplified, cheaper version), the cavernous Safari estate and the two-door Décapotable (convertible), the latter boasting coachwork by Henri Chapron. (Chapron’s first convertibles had been produced independently of Citroën, but the factory eventually gave the project its blessing). Henri Chapron started his career in the motor industry as an upholsterer’s apprentice, working for various coachbuilders in the Paris area. In 1919 he started his own business in the well-to-do Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine where his main activity was re-bodying cars that had been requisitioned in wartime by the French Government. Chapron moved to larger premises in Levallois-Perret in 1923 and became the official builder of coach and convertible models for Delage and Delahaye, going on to body many of the most elegant French and European automobiles of the inter-war period.
Despite a much-reduced demand for bespoke coachwork after WW2, Chapron survived thanks to his exemplary creations for Delahaye, Talbot and Salmson, switching to offering bespoke versions of unitary construction models when motor manufacturers began to abandon the traditional separate chassis frame. The arrival of the Citroën DS in 1955 presented Chapron with a fresh opportunity that would result in his name being forever linked with this remarkable car.
Citroën’s own Décapotables were built on the longer, stronger chassis of the ID Break (Estate) but the model was never produced in England, where Citroën’s right-hand drive cars were assembled at its Slough factory up to 1966. In total, 1,365 usine (factory) convertibles were made with either the DS19 or DS21 engine between 1960 and 1971, while Chapron built a further 389 of his own, the last in 1973.
One of only 50-or-so right-hand drive examples made, this Citroën DS Décapotable was purchased from its first owner in Edinburgh in 1986 (see original documentation on file) and has remained in the same family’s possession for the past 25 years. In the late 1980s/early 1990s the car was treated to a full professional rebuild on a rust-free donor platform sourced by the current owner. All fabrication including strengthening the standard chassis and making new rear wing sections was undertaken by marque specialist Erwin Spiekers of Isselburg, Germany, faithfully reproducing Chapron’s original internal and external bodywork.
Finished in dark blue with biscuit Connolly leather interior, the car is described by the vendor as in generally very good condition and offered with sundry restoration invoices, current road fund licence and Swansea V5 registration document.