100 years of Citroen 1919-2019

By: Unique Cars magazine

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citroen citroen

Happy centenary Citroen

Founded in 1919 by French industrialist André-Gustave Citroën (1878–1935), the car maker gained a reputation for innovative technology and automotive quirkiness over the past 100 years.

Building armaments for France during WW1 Citroen went back to what he was doing before the outbreak of war, car manufacturing with the Mors company.  Armed with a new factory, he went it alone and in May 1919 his first car, the Type A emerged from the factory, just six months after the end of the war. The same year saw Citroen negotiate with General Motors for the sale of his company but GM declined citing that it would overstretch capital and management.

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Between 1921 and 1937 Citroen produced half-track vehicles with the U.S military buying over 41,000 between 1940 and 1944. The Germans also used the Citroen half tracks after seizing them and covering them in armour following their occupation of France in 1940.

A 1923 Citroen 5CV Type C was driven around Australia in 1925 travelling 48,000 kms in the hands of evangalist Nevill Westwood from Perth. That car, now restored lives in the National Museum in Canberra.

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Innovation was synonymous with Citroen and the Traction Avant was the world’s first mass-produced front-wheel drive car, the first to employ independent suspension and one of the first to feature a unitary type body, with no separate chassis supporting the mechanical components.

Two of its most recognisable models are the Deux Chevaux (2CV) of the 1940s and the DS introduced in 1954.

Designed to give rural French people a motorised alternative to the horse, the cheap to buy and run 12hp 2CV debuted at the Paris Auto show in 1948. Its soft interconnected suspension provided a gentle ride and a rolling body through turns. The 2CV remained in production until 1990 with in excess of 8.8 million sold.

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In 1954 Citroen launched its space age and aerodynamic DS Goddess that featured the world-first self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension. Capable of comfortably cruising at 160km/h all-day, the DS was fitted with disc brakes in 1955, the first mass-produced car to do so. In 1967 the DS introduced swivelling headlights that allowed for greater visibility when cornering.

Citroen also has a rich motorsport heritage with countless World Rally Championships to its name along with a World Touring Car Championship crown.

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Australian Citroen enthusiasts will get a chance to join in on the celebrations with an extensive display to celebrate the marque’s centenary at this year’s Motorclassica at Melbourne’s Exhibition Buildings in October.

A carefully selected centenary display of 17 iconic Citroens from that first Type A two-door cabriolet of 1920s through to the Maserati-engined SM will be on display.

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The highlight will be the 1923 5CV that circumnavigated mainland Australia that is being borrowed from the National Museum for one of its rare off-site appearances.

A century later and the quirkiness continues with the Citroen C4 Cactus and its odd looking side protection ‘airbump’ panels that resemble a mattress.

 

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