Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When the world was wonderful

This publicity photo for the Citroën model DS was taken in Italy in 1961. What a nice clean image! It's hard to believe that we're looking at a scene that's almost half a century old. The heroine of the idyll is, of course, the shiny automobile, with a Milano license plate. Its chocolate gleam echoes the tones of the windows of the contemporary office block in the background, while the three elegant gentlemen on the sidewalk wear suits of the same hue... at a time when males in the English-speaking business world (I was employed by IBM in Sydney at that time) were clothed in gray or navy blue. Then there's the presence in the background of a slim blond secretary, clothed in a pale shade of reinforced concrete. Notice how she's positioned on the outskirts of the man's world, ready to dash off a letter in shorthand if ever one of the males were to call upon her services. But the men aren't really interested in this poor female outsider. Their true goddess is parked alongside, waiting to be caressed. [The letters DS are pronounced déesse in French, which means goddess.]

Apparently Citroën plans to bring out a new version of the DS. I wonder how they'll update their publicity photo...


  1. Ha! You are perfectly right.

    I just posted an article about the "new DS" on my blog. I was hesitating between two photos: the one you have chosen and another one.

    Finally, I took the other one (which fits much better my article): a DS does not need any kind of rubbish support or decoration to be enhanced (like most of today's cars) - she is majestic when on her own!

  2. Yes, I am just old enough to remember the sensation when the Citroen was announced.

    Mind you I also recall a cartoon in Autocar: it showed a DS with the capot open revealing an engine compartment crammed with a nightmareish installation of tubes, wires etc. The caption read "The Citroen DS - do it yourself?"

    Best to concentrate on the handsome lines I think!

  3. The lines of the DS have always reminded me of a fish, maybe a shark (not unexpected in the case of an Australian). I was amused by the fact that the automobile's pneumatic suspension had to be pumped up, as it were, before you could get going. Even today, whenever I happen to see a black DS gliding by, I inevitably imagine the silhouette of General de Gaulle on the rear seat... which immediately leads me to fear that there might be an OAS gunman hiding on the next street corner.

    It's funny that Citroën was so successful in building myth-provoking vehicles. Look at the Traction Avant. Everybody knows that such an automobile is necessarily full of members of the ugly Militia, on the lookout for a Résistance fellow on a bike with a baguette stuck above the rear wheel. As for young folk in a 2CV ("basic car" as a friend once described it), we know that they're almost certainly about to set out on an expedition across the steppes of Russia and China...

    When I settled on my old farm at Choranche, a fellow engineer told me that it would be appropriate if I were to purchase a "rural" automobile: a square-angled Citroën (I forget the model name) that had totally invaded the Dauphiné countryside. Even my old Citroën ZX is mythical. It lets you drive around zigzag bends on Alpine roads without having to take your foot off the accelerator.